PMS (Pass My Sweatpants) and Exercise

Do you suffer from PMS (Pass My Sweatpants) each month?  Does the phrase, “mild PMS” sound like an oxymoron to you?  Join the PMS Club, a group of us who feel like bloated nanny goats for about half the month.  We weather a storm of irritability, puffiness, bloating, sore boobs, and the occasional face plant into the cake.  Read on, my friend.  I’d like to induct you into the PMS Recovery club this evening.

Did you know that 75% of us suffer from PMS every month?  About 14% of us have symptoms that are severe enough to interfere with our lives (missing work or school, etc.).  Each month, women in their reproductive years endure a hormonal roller coaster that can rock our world.  The hormonal fluctuations aren’t necessarily the problem as much as our individual sensitivities to those changes are.

At ovulation, our estrogen levels rise to 10 times the normal level and begin to bounce around like a ping pong ball for the remaining two weeks.  During that last week, progesterone levels fall to 10 times the lowest level.  High estrogen can cause depression while low progesterone is associated with anxiety.  You can probably read between the lines here-anxious irritability.

These hormones interact with serotonin and dopamine levels (mood related neurotransmitters).  In one study, women with PMS symptoms had difficulty holding tryptophan (precursor for serotonin) in areas of the brain related to mood and temper control. Those who didn’t have PMS symptoms didn’t have this problem.

Another more recent theory says that hormonal changes disrupt the neurotransmitter that calms us down (GABA).  We don’t make enough of it, so we feel more excitable and irritable.

Here’s the thing:  exercise creates a surge of tryptophan to replace the deficit AND turns on the gene that manufactures GABA. There is no medication that can do this for you.  Throw in the fact that exercise reduces tension and fatigue while increasing energy and mental clarity, and you have yourself a cure for PMS.

OK, so how much and how often?  It’s really best to exercise each day.  During your PMS week, however, it’s imperative to exercise more intensely every day. If you’ve heard of the Insanity workouts, this is the type of intensity level I’m talking about here.  I know that some of you hate me right now for saying this, but if you do it, you’ll LOVE the results.

Hormonal shifts don’t have to run your life.  You can steer your own mood with exercise.  Remember that excess weight magnifies these hormonal effects, too, since fat cells can be little estrogen factories.  Yuck.

That’s all for today, folks.  Information is your best weapon.  Build your artillery and live better.