WOULD YOU LET A HORMONE HOROSCOPE RUN YOUR LIFE?
When BEVERLEY TURNER stumbled across a website about hormone cycles, she didn’t expect to become hooked… or that it would change her life in a month
WHEN I DISCOVERED US journalist Gabrielle Lichterman’s Hormone Horoscope website ( Hormonehoroscope.com), I was immediately intrigued. She had set out to track the female hormonal cycle – the ebb and flow of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. At 40, with three children, I thought I knew my body, but I quickly became obsessed with the site’s daily emails. What would happen if I lived by my hormones for a month?
WEEK 1: DAY 1 TO DAY 7 (YOUR PERIOD)
A typical hormone cycle is divided into four weeks, with day one being the first day of your period. Advertisers
depict us as moody, sitting on the sofa with a hot-water bottle. But many women will tell you that their period is often a relief (unless you have painful cramps), signalling a lift in mood. Now I know why. Levels of oestrogen and serotonin rise steeply over days one to seven of our cycle, making our senses sharper, as well as making us feel good and sleep deeper. We may, however, get tired during the day due to falling progesterone and a lack of iron. Knowing this I take multivitamins and get an early night.
WEEK 2: DAY 8 TO DAY 14 (OVULATION)
Ever noticed that you feel a bit flirty once you’ve put your tampons away? Here’s why: oestrogen levels peak in week two and when we release an egg for fertilisation, it gives us a rocket-boost of energy. Mother Nature is trying to get us pregnant. We become less inhibited and more impulsive. I use this knowledge to my advantage and turn on the charm. The guy in the coffee shop gives me a free muffin and my husband thinks I’m fabulous. Sex is never better than during week two. It’s also the best week to have a job interview because we smile more and are more confident. I manage to schedule one for this week and feel on top of my game. Beforehand, I feel unusually jittery, but Hormone Horoscope explains that high oestrogen levels can trigger anxiety. I make myself breathe deeply and accept these butterflies as a hormonal side-effect. The interview goes well and I’m offered the job – but I have reservations, so I ask for time to consider. I know that if I feel the same way in week three, it’s probably the right opportunity for me. If not, it may have been the hormones talking. Mid-cycle – when we ovulate – many women notice a cramping that defies explanation. Gabrielle says it’s mittelschmerz, adding that ‘at least one in five women experience pain in the abdominal/pelvic area right before or during ovulation.’ For women trying to get pregnant, this knowledge could be gold.
WEEK 3: DAY 15 TO DAY 22
Week three feels like hormonal limbo, but there’s actually a lot going on. I’ve often been caught out by an unexpected dip in mood mid-cycle and have blamed my husband or kids. Now I know it will only last two days and I ride out the blues without snapping at my loved ones. At the same time, progesterone (a sedating hormone) is rising. This makes us risk averse (in case we fell pregnant in week two and have an embryo to protect) and forgetful. I also discover that progesterone gives us the ‘hunger crankies’ by increasing our sensitivity to blood-sugar dips. So I make an effort to snack. It works and I feel genuinely calmer. Bizarrely, the rise in progesterone signals water retention and constipation, which can last until our periods start. Adding natural fibre-boosters to my diet works and my jeans soon stop pinching my bloated waist. I reconsider that job offer, too. Gabrielle says this is the week in which we are good at ‘carefully weighing the pros and cons’. I celebrate this decision by having a night in with my husband. During week three, we feel more committed to our partners, as the rise in progesterone tricks our body into thinking we might be pregnant, so we subconsciously form a closer bond with our mate in case we need their support.
WEEK 4: DAY 23 TO 31
Although not every woman suffers from PMS, it’s probably still the time we’re most aware of hormonal changes – especially spots. The spike in testosterone mid-cycle sparks a higher output of oil and, armed with this knowledge, I exfoliate diligently. For the first time in years, I get my period without spots. Being premenstrual also affects our relationship with alcohol. I know that I’m more likely to guzzle and enjoy its effects this week more than any other and it’s less likely to impair my decision-making skills. But plunging oestrogen will make me more sensitive to its effects. Women often report having their worst-quality sleep during their premenstrual week. This is because of that drop in oestrogen, which brings down levels of sleep-regulating serotonin in the brain, while making us sensitive to external factors. Instead of struggling through another disrupted night, I kiss my snoring husband and escape to the spare room.
After a month, I’m convinced: our hormones impact everything we do. My health, energy, career and relationships have all improved. As a control freak, I want to be the one in charge of my moods, not my sneaky endocrine system, and now I am.