Q:Hi Aisling, are there any supplements you would recommend to take during our menstrual cycle to help balance hormones and fight fatigue. Would Krill or Evening Primrose be best for that?
Answer: A number of factors tend to contribute to PMS and to an imbalance in hormonal status. Without knowing your personal case history and what exactly is contributing to your hormonal issues I will try to be general. Our hormones need a diet that contains beneficial oils and fats as these are the building blocks of our hormones. Most of the fat in our own body is made from saturated fats and the remaining 3% is from polyunsaturated fats such as omega 3 and omega 6. For healthy hormones we need healthy fats. Good quality saturated fats can be found in coconut fat, grass fed butter, and avocados.
Our bodies are able to synthesise most of the fat it needs from our diet but essential fatty acids such as omega 3 and omega 6 cannot which is why we need to find a good source of them in our diet or as supplements. EFAs are needed for optimal hormone production. The problem today is that people consume may more omega 6 fats than omega 3. Omega 6 fatty acids tend to be oversupplied and omega 3 fatty acids are undersupplied in modern western diets due to industrial oil production and increased use of grains as food for domestic livestock.
The best source of omega 3 is krill oil which has omega 3s in the form of phospholipids rather than the triglyceride form of other fish oils. This means that the omega 3s are absorbed more easily than those in the triglyceride form. Krill oil also has the benefit of having an antioxidant (astaxanthin) that protects the integrity of the oil.
Evening Primrose oil is a rich source of omega 6 fatty acids called Gamma Linolenic Acid. Evening Primrose oil tends to help with individual symptoms of PMS such as bloating and breast tenderness. Krill Oil helps to provide relief from menstrual cramps and also from mood swings associated with the menstrual cycle. Krill oil can also help by lowering systemic inflammation in the body as this can help the adrenal glands to recover from fatigue.
The more omega 3s we have the better mood, energy and motivation as they help to raise our dopamine levels by 40%. Dopamine is one of our feel good chemicals. Another advantage of the omega 3s is they also help with an addiction to fatty foods.
According to Chinese medicine some of the symptoms of PMS such as flying off the handle and feeling touchy and angry are linked to liver stagnation. Krill oil encourages healthy liver function. Where there is a lot of stagnation I would supporting the liver with detox techniques such as castor packing the liver. This is a wonderful technique that brings energy to the liver.
Excess saturated fat, stress, alcohol, trans fats and inadequate levels of magnesium, zinc, B vitamins and vitamin C inhibit the conversion of Essential Fatty Acids to eicosanoid hormones needed for optimal hormonal health. Our liver also needs magnesium and B vitamins to help metabolise oestrogen.
A deficiency of magnesium has been linked to the chocolate cravings women experience during their menstrual cycle. Magnesium is natures chill pill and it is a mineral that so many people are deficient in today. Magnesium is very important to help balance blood sugars which leads to less cravings and weight loss. It also is the most important mineral to help fight fatigue. Magnesium helps to regulate cortisol which when excreted in excess encourages fat deposits on the stomach.
Around the mid 30’s a woman’s ovaries begin to wind down with a decrease in both oestrogen and progesterone. They decrease at a different rate, making some women more oestrogen dominant. If oestrogen is unopposed by progesterone it tends to irritate the nervous system. Progesterone, on the other hand, is more associated with feeling relaxed and tranquil.
If you have a hormonal imbalance where you are oestrogen dominant and lack progesterone copper levels automatically rise. Symptoms of high copper mimic the symptoms of PMS. Taking extra zinc and vitamin B 6 at this time can help bring copper levels down enough to reduce the symptoms of PMT.
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