Crankiness. Bloating. Achy breast tenderness. Feeling like your world is pretty much collapsing. Sound familiar? Then you’re one of the 90% of women who experience PMS.

These symptoms may be occasional, monthly, mild, or severe – they vary woman by woman, can change with each cycle, and often increase at around 40. 

Here are some of the reasons why PMS happens:

  • Hormone changes: The symptoms of PMS change with hormone fluctuations and disappear with both pregnancy and menopause.
  • Brain chemical changes: Fluctuations among serotonin levels can also trigger PMS symptoms. Insufficient levels may lead to premenstrual depression, fatigue, sleep issues, and food cravings.
  • Depression: Some women experiencing significant PMS have undiagnosed depression which can exacerbate symptoms.
  • Chronic conditions: Chronic conditions like endometriosis can lead to significantly more painful menstrual cramps and other symptoms. 

Clinical treatment can involve hormonal medicine or antidepressants, but for those opting for a more natural alternative, taking CBD for PMS has yielded promising relief. Here’s a breakdown of how CBD may help:

  • Reduce cramps
  • Balance mood
  • Ease pain
  • Reduce inflammation

What is the menstrual cycle?

Do you know exactly what happens during your menstrual cycle? If that’s a “no”, you’re not alone. Despite this happening to most women most months, a huge number of us don’t know what’s actually going on inside our bodies.

So let’s lay it all out. The menstrual cycle isn’t just about the period. This all-encompassing phase covers the whole month, and when we say “month”, we’re putting in those inverted commas. Because everyone’s “monthly” cycle is different. You might be a 24-dayer, or your cycle might be 38 days. Generally, most of us have a cycle between those timespans, but in reality, each of us is a unique snowflake.

The period is the first part of your cycle, and the first day of your period marks day one of that cycle. That cycle ends when the next period begins. So far, so good? But here’s another little fact for you, actually, because our bodies are wonderfully complicated things, each menstrual cycle consists of two cycles that overlap and kind of talk to one another. One of those is going on in our uterus, and the other is getting busy in our ovaries.

All the while, these two parts of our bodies are communicating with one another. Seriously! Through the power of hormones, they harmonize and talk to our brain, and this all gets the wheels of our menstrual cycle in motion.

Phases of the Menstrual Cycle

If you’re wondering why you feel differently at each part of your cycle, the answer all comes down to the stuff going on inside your body. At some points, you’ll probably feel like a goddess with a high sex drive, good hair days, glowing skin, and a pepped-up vibe. Others you’ll experience headaches, low moods, a sore tummy, or diarrhea. It can also affect things like chronic disease symptoms throughout your cycle.

While it’s crazy to think that our menstrual cycles can do all this and more, it really comes down to the levels of hormones in our systems, and the work that’s going on behind the scenes to keep the cycle ticking over. To understand this better, we need to know what is going on with each phase, so here it is, in the order it happens, from day one of your cycle.

  • Menstruation: AKA your period, which is when your body sheds the uterine lining if no baby is present. Hormone-wise, your estrogen, and progesterone are at an all-time low here, and combined with the cramps needed to rid the uterine lining, it can all leave you feeling sluggish, bloated, and blue. 
  • Follicular phase: From the lows to the highs, now you get your happy spike of estrogen as your body prepares to release an egg. It’s no coincidence that mother nature also makes us feel energetic and ready to roll (under the covers) at this time. Also note, estrogen is linked to plumper skin and thicker hair, so this is exactly why you’re feeling good and looking great at this stage of your cycle.  
  • Proliferative phase: As your uterine lining is built back up, you’ll continue enjoying good moods and feeling engaged with those around you. Testosterone levels are at their peak around now too, and this is the hormone that regulates your sex drive. 
  • Ovulation: Around mid-way through your cycle your ovaries release an egg and estrogen levels peak making it the best time to get pregnant, then dip. This gives you a bit of a see-saw effect of feeling super-good and sexual and then potentially experiencing a low point straight after. You might also get a few cramps as the egg is released. We know, this thing is a rollercoaster! 
  • Luteal phase: Say hello to the luteal phase, the bit between ovulation and the start of your next cycle. Many women feel moodier as progesterone ups and the body stands ready for a potential pregnancy. If you’re wondering how this affects your mood, progesterone helps to make cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, and this can make us feel strung out. 
  • Secretory phase: While your body figures out whether you’re pregnant or not, the uterine lining works up the chemicals needed to either support early pregnancy or start the process again, from the breaking down of your uterine lining (which of course, leads to your period) onwards. Expect moodiness and even some cramps as progesterone drops.

When you lay it all out, it makes you realize two big things. First, how amazing and busy are our bodies? Second, it’s no wonder we have a rollercoaster of physical and mental health symptoms across our cycle. 

It’s important to support yourself throughout your month, and give yourself a bit of a break on the low points. Remember, all this stuff is physiological. It’s not a choice we make, but rather the consequences of big things going on in our bodies. Now you know why you feel supercharged at some points, and flat at others, you have the knowledge to a) let yourself off when you’re having a bad day and b) embrace the good bits. Because even when you’re at an all-time low, the good parts will be on their way.  

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