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Reaching puberty is a significant milestone for all humans, as it begins a cascade of irreversible changes, both mental and physical. However, for women, it also means a monthly experience of menstruation, those 3-5 days of physical discomfort, low energy, and unstable emotions.
Of course, not all women experience all these at all times; however, 80% of women report that they experience at least one symptom of PMS before or during their periods, says Divya Kanchibhotla in this article, who is an international meditation trainer and Director, Sri Sri Institute for Advanced Research.
Monthly onset of the period and the period itself can be a challenging time for women and for the men who are in their lives. Sometimes, women have a hard time understanding their own mind and emotions during this time.
I myself have often wondered about certain moods, thoughts, cravings I have at different points in my menstrual cycle.
This is also for everyone to be read and develop an understanding of the changes that happen in the body-mind complex of their loved ones
Let's take a deeper look at what happens in the body during a woman's menstrual cycle.
The average age at which a girl gets her first period is between 12-15 years; however, this age is decreasing due to various factors like lifestyle and diet.
The menstrual cycle which lasts 4-6 weeks (though average is considered to be 28 days) is a well-orchestrated dance between 3 main characters, the 3 Musketeers: Oestrogen, Progesterone, and Testosterone.
These 3 musketeers not only regulate our menstrual cycle but also have an impact on our body, mind, thoughts, and behaviour - even how we feel about ourselves and our shopping choices!
Ever wondered why you crave for chocolates, carb-heavy and fat-rich diets just a few days before periods? For many of us, these cravings are also a signal that the periods are approaching.
During the first phase of the cycle (pre-ovulation), high levels of oestrogen have an appetite-suppressing effect (so it's easy to stick to a diet) while towards the second part of your cycle (after ovulation) progesterone levels are high and they create cravings for foods high in fats and calories.
High levels of progesterone also increase appetite. Just a few days before your periods, oestrogen levels fall, dragging the levels of serotonin (mood moderating neurochemical) down with them. Eating a carbohydrate-rich diet helps replenish the levels of serotonin in the brain, and so many end up cheating on diets while close to periods.
Serotonin levels moderate our moods and are also involved in getting good sleep.
What we shop for and how much we spend is also impacted by the 3 musketeers.
One study that tracked the spending habits of women over 35 days showed that women spend more money on clothes and wanted to buy things that make them feel and look attractive in the first phase of menstrual cycle, while during the second phase of the cycle women chose to spend more money on food.
The pain women experience due to menstrual cramps has been shown to reduce their performance and impair attention given to tasks. Chronic pain during periods can create some long-term impact on brain health.
Pain management by natural techniques like Yoga, Breathing Exercises, and Ayurveda can help women overcome this reduction in performance.
Some women experience a lot of physical discomfort and pain during periods; this is called dysmenorrhea. Stress has been linked to a high incidence of dysmenorrhoea. In a study done on Chinese women, it was found that high perceived stress in the pre-ovulation phase of cycle can increase the risk of dysmenorrhea by twice as much.
If women can manage the stress levels by techniques like Sudarshan Kriya and Yoga, it can help with reducing the instance of dysmenorrhea.
The fog women feel in their minds during PMS and during periods is due to low levels of oestrogen. Studies show that high levels of oestrogen increase synaptic connectivity in the hippocampus by 25%.
Another study has linked oestrogen to impulsive behaviour, where high levels of oestrogen were linked to less impulsive behaviour. Numerous studies have linked high oestrogen levels to positive impact on cognition. Low levels of oestrogen are also connected to PMS symptoms.
High levels of oestrogen right after periods until ovulation make women more energetic, social, and positive. This is a great time to take on challenges, learn new things, and expand your comfort zone.
These natural rhythms of chemicals in a female human body don't have the same impact on each one. If one takes care of their health by exercise, meditation, and proper nutrition, the impact of changing hormones can be mitigated.