As women, our hormones are constantly in flux throughout the month, and don’t we know it!? Whether it’s an unexpected outpouring of tears at a KFC advert, unbridled rage at crumbs left on the kitchen side, or the unwavering feeling that one must have chocolate (all from personal experience), Hormones can play havoc in what is otherwise a fairly well-balanced individual.
But why do these hormones affect us so, and what is the point?
A Breakdown Of The Main Hormones
There are fifty hormones in the human body, but three, in particular, are involved in the physical and emotional peaks and troughs women experience throughout their menstrual cycle.
Produced by the ovary, progesterone plays an important role in maintaining the early stages of pregnancy. Most of us will never have a need to think twice about progesterone, as its effects are predominantly internal. However, women who don’t produce enough progesterone are likely to have heavy and irregular periods.
A hormone found in much higher quantities in men than in women, testosterone is produced by the reproductive and adrenal glands. High levels of testosterone can lead to irregular or absent periods, acne and increased body hair. Low levels of testosterone will often result in low libido.
Oestrogen actually consists of a group of hormones: estriol, estradiol, and estrone, and is produced predominantly in the ovaries. It is one of the most important hormones in the female body, responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle and controlling the growth of the uterine lining. High levels of oestrogen can result in weight gain and irregular periods, while low levels can cause absent periods, mood swings, headaches and depression.
Oh the female reproductive system, what a joy!
The Four Menstrual Phases
The 28 day menstrual cycle can be split into four different phases: menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation, the luteal phase. Each phase has a different ratio of hormones circulation, and as such, different effects on the mind and body.
Stage 1: Menstruation
The only phase of the menstrual cycle that most of us pay any attention to, menstruation represents the beginning and end of the cycle. Every month, unless an egg has been fertilized, the body sheds its uterine lining. Over an average duration of 3-7 days, a combination of blood, mucus and uterine lining is expelled from the body, and the cycle begins again.
Stage 2: Follicular Phase
The follicular phase lasts 15 days, beginning during menstruation and ending at ovulation. During the follicular phase, the ovary produces 5-20 nodules onto its surface. These nodules, or follicles, are precursors to eggs, only one of which will mature. As these nodules grow, the uterus is stimulated into thickening its lining ready for the potential of pregnancy.
Stage 3: Ovulation
The Ovulation Phase is incredibly important if you wish to increase your chances of falling pregnant, as it’s when you are at your most fertile. The ovulation window lasts approximately 24 hours and is when the mature egg is released from the surface of the ovary, usually around two weeks before the next menstrual cycle is due to start.
Stage 4: Luteal Phase
There’s a lot of chemistry that happens during the luteal phase (most of which is thoroughly uninteresting unless you have a specific interest in the subject), but essentially, this is the stage in which the follicular lining which once surrounded a mature egg attached to the uterine wall.
This residual cluster of cells, called a corpus luteum, releases an increasing amount of progesterone, encouraging the uterus to make itself a hospitable accommodation in case of pregnancy. If a fertilised egg implants into the uterine wall, the progesterone will continue to circulate at a high level, if not, the progesterone levels drop and the lining is expelled as menstruation.
Dealing With Hormonal Flux
As you can see from the above graph, the hormonal changes that a woman’s body goes through over 28 days is dramatic. While some women have barely perceptible symptoms, others are not so lucky. If you have problem periods, allbeauty may be able to offer some relief.
Period cramps are caused by the uterus contracting in order to shed it’s lining. While this a rather clever self-cleaning method, most of us would rather do without the accompanying muscle spasms and dagger-like pain. While over-the-counter painkillers such as ibuprofen can go a long way, nothing is quite as relaxing as a hot soak in the tub. We recommend using a bath oil, such as Cowshed’s Calming Bath and Body Oil. Not only will the heat soothe your aches and pains, but the oil is nourishing for your skin and the scent of lavender and eucalyptus calm the mind. If you prefer to avoid baths during your period, this can also be used as a body oil pre or post-shower.
If your skin erupts at the same time every month without fail, preventative action is the best course of action. Soothe hormonal skin with a product designed to target breakouts on adult skin. Murad Anti-Aging Blemish Control does just this, and thanks to its clever formulation, can be used without the risk of drying out your skin in between flares.
PMS and Mood Swings
Scientists aren’t certain what causes PMS (Premenstrual syndrome), but it’s believed to be linked to the changing levels of oestrogen, progesterone and mood-regulating hormone, serotonin. While we can’t provide you with a cure for PMS or monthly mood swings, we can recommend Aromatherapy Associates De-Stress Mind Roller Ball for relaxation on the go. Containing bitter orange, rosemary and wild chamomile essential oils, this pocket-sized roller can be applied to your pressure points when you feel stress building for a mini-moment of mindfulness.
Many women experience fatigue or extreme tiredness while menstruating. This is thought to be caused by the decrease in oestrogen levels at this point in the cycle. The best way to take care of yourself during this phase is by unapologetically allowing yourself to rest and recharge. Forgo evening screentime, head to bed early, and increase the chances of deep sleep by using a relaxing fragrance in your bedroom. Award-winning Deep Sleep Pillow Spray by This Works is a customer favourite, with notes of lavender, patchouli and camphor.
The 28 day hormonal cycle is something that most of us deal with month in, month out, without stopping to consider what a great job we’re doing. The world doesn’t stop turning, and we push on to fulfil our responsibilities, regardless of the disturbance raging inside. If ever there was a reason to treat yourself to something special, whether it be scented bath oil or a bar of chocolate, this is it.
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P.S. Take a look below at our top picked products to help our hormones…