It happens every month exactly 7-10 days before your period. The week from hell.

You start to brace yourself because you know it so well. Your boobs are swollen and getting bigger by the minute. Your muffin top seems to have taken on a life of it’s own. You’ve got a case of “the bloat” which means nothing fits, not even your “fat” clothes.” You’re more impatient than ever and you’re quickly morphing into someone you don’t recognize! Even worse, you’re practically craving chocolate in your sleep. WTF?

As if the symptoms are not bad enough, it seems that every month they continue to get worse and worse. You know something is wrong but you don’t know what it is, much less how to actually start dealing with it. You’ve decided that there is no running or hiding from this monthly madness. You’ve just come to expect it and accept it for what it is. It seems to you that this is just one of the pitfalls of being a woman in the 21st century.

Or you might be doing something about it. Maybe you’re taking the birth control pill for your issues. Nearly 25% of women take the birth control pill for reasons other than birth control. You might even have been prescribed other drugs – diuretics, anti-depressants or maybe ovulation-suppressing drugs. The problem is that most women don’t want to treat the symptoms with drugs, they want to know what the heck is going on in their bodies and they want to fix the root cause.

You might be the girl who craves sugar like it’s going to disappear off the face of the planet tomorrow. I was that girl. Every month for years on end I’d become a crazy sugar crack head. I’ve always been a notorious cake lover, something I can keep in check during every other part of the month. But come PMS-time, my friends would start telling me things like “restrain yo’self Nicole!” Thankfully my girls have my back.

You’re probably wondering why this is? What could possibly be going on in your body to cause this carbohydrate massacre? Well, keep reading my pretty…

Or maybe you’re this girl. I know you can soooo relate! Poor Anxiety Girl. She’s stressin’ like crazy, she’s got heart palpitations, she can’t sleep and worst of all she has random outbursts usually directed at the easiest target – the man in her life. Oh yes, the poor unsuspecting dude.

Here’s how women describe their emotions to me the week before their period:

“I feel like I want to take a running jump off a cliff Nicole! I’m cursed!”

“I become such a hot mess, I get so anxious I bite all my nails (I’m not even a nail biter!) and then of course I totally freak out on my poor boyfriend.”

“I just seem to spiral into a mini depression for one week every month.”

“Nothing makes me feel better during this time of the month. I just have to wait until I get my period to feel any relief.”

This is just not cool. For some reason many women feel they have to suffer – that it’s somehow preordained. This photo was too good to resist – can you tell I’m trying to add a little humor to this very serious convo? There really is a battle being waged within so many women’s bodies and it’s time to make peace yes?

I think you’re getting the point here right? You’re either suffering from one or all (maybe even more) of the issues I’ve described above and I’m gonna bet that you’re over it!

Are your period problems a result of a hormonal imbalance?

Here’s the deal. All of these issues and symptoms are related to a hormonal imbalance called Estrogen Dominance. This means that your estrogen levels increase relative to your progesterone levels. So your estrogen levels either rise and your progesterone stays the same or your estrogen stays the same and your progesterone drops. Estrogen is a pro-growth hormone, and as we know, too much of anything is never a good thing. That’s where progesterone comes in – it offsets the growth effects of estrogen. The goal is to keep these two hormones balanced in relation to each other.

Estrogen Dominance can be caused by a number of factors:

  1. The food we eat.
  2. Environmental toxins.
  3. And the stress. Oh the stress.

Estrogen dominance is also linked to the following conditions:

  1. Fibroids
  2. Endometriosis 
  3. Fibrocystic breasts
  4. Blood clots
  5. Menstrual migraines
  6. Ovarian cysts
  7. Fertility issues

I’ll tell you about a client of mine. Let’s call her Leila. Leila came to me because she had severe PMS – what the doctors like to call PMDD – a fancy way of saying “majorly whacked out hormones.”  She was a huge coffee drinker, and started each day with a bagel or some other carb-heavy breakfast. Lunch was a salad with grilled chicken and afternoon snack was coffee or chocolate “but just a little bit Nicole!” Dinner was healthy but then there was always a big dessert. Oh and she was working 60 hours a week and not doing anything that resembled exercise!

I see this over and over. The good news is that once Leila, and so many other women I’ve worked with, start to make small changes, their lives literally transform. That’s because these women are treating their underlying hormonal imbalance, not the symptoms caused by the hormonal imbalance.

How can you find out if you’re estrogen dominant?

If you want to test your hormones to determine if there is an imbalance, I recommend the at home testing kits from Lets Get Checked. They are my go-to provider for hormone testing kits for myself and clients. You just order them online, have the kit shipped to you, then do the tests at home and send the kit back in the mail.

One and done.

And after processing, their team of physicians will review your results and a member of the nursing team will call you to deliver the results and discuss treatment options.

I recommend taking this Female Hormone Panel and the dedicated Progesterone Test.

So what should you do if you’re estrogen dominant?

Here are three simple steps/practices to help balance your estrogen levels:

1. Fix up your diet. What does this mean exactly? Here’s an idea:

  • Incorporate yummy cruciferous and leafy green vegetables into at least one meal a day. Kale, collard greens, spinach, bok choy, arugula, swiss chard, brussels sprouts, beet greens, dandelion greens. They have special magical powers that work to cleanse the liver of excess estrogen.
  • Eat some fat! Yup, your body holds on to fat if you’re not getting enough of the right fats in the food you eat. The reason it does this is that we’re evolutionarily (that’s a word?) programmed to store fat if our diets are lacking in fat. Blame it on our cavemen ancestors. And, we need fat in order to make hormones. No fat = hormone imbalance. Incorporate avocados, coconut butter, coconut oil (good for cooking at high temps), wild-caught Alaskan salmon, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds into your meals daily.
  • Have whole grains – this does not mean whole grain Chex darling – instead of refined grains. Think about what a grain must go through to get from what it looks like when it’s growing to what it looks like as a strand of spaghetti. All that pulverizing beats the grain to death and you’re left with a very depleted version of that grain. Instead try to eat the grain as close to it’s original version as possible. My absolute faves are quinoa and brown rice.
  • Eat as many organic foods as possible. There are a lot of estrogen-mimicking chemicals in the many pesticides used to spray our food. The less exposure, the better our ovaries and boobies will feel. And, there are also lots of hormones in meat and milk that come from animals who are injected with growth hormones. Organic, grass-fed, locally-sourced is the sure way to go.

2. Incorporate some supplements:

  • I think a B-complex vitamin is a must for all women. Vitamin B-6 is partly responsible for making serotonin – if we are deficient in it then we’re gonna have mood problems. Low levels of vitamins B1 and B2 have also been associated with emotional symptoms of PMS in a recent study.  I recommend the Designs for Health B Supreme or the Seeking Health B Complex Plus.
  • Magnesium is amazing for anxiety. It literally calms us down. Unfortunately something like 75% of us are deficient in this vital mineral. It also helps relax muscles, including our uterine muscles – this reduces and/or eliminates menstrual cramps in many women. I LOVE the magnesium citrate supplement from Natural Calm. Just mix 1-2 teaspoons in water each night and your constipation (and your PMS & cramps) will likely disappear! If you take more than 350mg of citrate you may experience diarrhea, so just experiment and see what works for you.
  • Get your hands on a Vitamin D supplement, which works synergistically with magnesium.  I recommend the Seeking Health Vitamin D3 + K2 Liquid or Capsules.

3. Anxiety girl no more! Stress strategies for you:

  • Focus on your morning routine. If you are jolted awake every morning by an alarm and the first thing you reach for is your phone to check email then this is for you! Checking email first thing every day depletes you. This week do not check your email before 9am each day. Instead wake up to something empowering, like these questions: “What can I do to be of service today?”, or “How can I have more fun today?” So much better than stressin’ over your inbox!
  • Hang out with your girlfriends. Seriously? Seriously! Do you know that women live longer than men by an average of six years? Part of the reason for this is our stress response. We go into what is known as “tend and befriend” whereas men are much more apt to go into “fight or flight” mode. Time with our friends actually boosts our oxytocin levels, the hormone of love, bonding and compassion. This leads to more happiness and fulfillment and less stress!

There are many more things you can do on your journey to balanced hormones but this will get you started. One of the first things I ask every woman I talk to is “How do you want to feel physically and emotionally?” and “What is most important to you in your life?”

Almost 100% of the time, women feel their hormonal symptoms hinder every area of their lives in some way or another. Do you feel this way? If you want to feel and live differently then you should check out my Fix Your Period E-Course. You have a choice of two tracks, depending on your symptoms.

I believe we should be engaged in an ongoing conversation with our bodies on a daily basis. This creates an awareness of what is truly going on in there and gives us the ability to recognize the issue and effectively deal with it. Together we will do this! We will address every area of your life and come up with practical solutions for you to finally fix your period and take back control of your beautiful body! 🙂