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

Marie Claire (South Africa) - - HEALTH REPORT - mc

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?


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.


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.

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