Oh PMS…Each month, there was some combination of mood swings, binge eating, lots of crying, acne galore, and intense sugar cravings.
Turns out, you and I are not alone.
So… PMS is no fun
I bet you knew that, right?
I’ve dealt with PMS in one form or another since I was eleven years old. (Yeah, I wish I was kidding, too.)
About 85% of menstruating women can relate. PMS is so common, we almost don’t question it anymore.
But a few years ago, I started following a balanced, low-stress approach to my health (outlined in my book), and over time, it completely changed my hormonal health.
My PMS symptoms drastically improved. I felt a 70-80% improvement most months. I went from two weeks of severe symptoms every month to a week of mild (and occasionally moderate) symptoms.
No, my PMS didn’t magically disappear, but the difference was obvious (just ask my family!).
And it freed up a lot of my time and energy to devote to other areas of my life — like my marriage, my kids, my business, and my own personal growth — instead of just trying to barely hold on and survive through two weeks of misery every month.
But hormones? They keep on changin’
But there’s this thing about hormones. They fluctuate. There are daily changes, monthly changes, and you can bet as the years go by, your hormones can do a lot of crazy things.
When I started this journey, I was in my early twenties and a mom to two young children. Now my kids are preteens and I’m officially in the over-30 club (which seriously rocks, by the way).
Plus, I’m one of those weird people who’s always looking to improve. If it’s good, why not make it better?
So I’m always looking for the next “tweak” since I’m a big fan of small changes that add up to big results.
Hormone testing: just do it
My first experience with hormone testing was in early 2014. At the time, I was going through some intense stress and it showed. My cortisol was a little low, my progesterone was way low, my estrogen was somewhat low, and my testosterone was on the high end of normal (which is probably fine – except when everything else is so low!).
I used a natural progesterone at the time, but the doctor I consulted with was concerned that it wasn’t doing enough. He recommended I take 30mg of pregnenolone every day and see if that helped. Well, it actually made a huge difference. I barely noticed my PMS that month, and I was really surprised.
The trouble is, your mind plays tricks on you. I think somewhere along the way, I forgot the pregnenolone supplements were helping and I started to think I was taking too much, and maybe didn’t need it anymore.
Who knows? The human mind is weird. I have yet to fully understand it.
I tried hormone replacement creams
I tested my reproductive hormone levels again this spring through another at-home saliva test. My results were similar to the previous test.
Slightly higher progesterone, but still low. Testosterone on the high-but-normal side, slightly lower than last time. Normal, I think, considering I was two years older, and testosterone levels naturally drop as you age. Estrogen was extremely low this time, however, and it was already pretty low before.
I did a lot of research (because, frankly, we hear so much about high estrogen, I was terrified to try to raise my levels at all). Finally, I felt comfortable trying a very low dose of estrogen cream in addition to the progesterone cream I’d started using.
I never felt like I was getting anywhere with the hormone cream approach. Some months I felt better, other months felt like I took two (no, more like ten) steps backward.
And then my periods started getting wacky. My cycles, which have been on-the-nose regular for years, started swinging around. Sometimes 26 days long. Sometimes 34. Sometimes my periods were heavy and painful, sometimes strangely light and prolonged. It’s like my body had no idea what was going on.
My body was clearly saying something needed to change. I decided I’d better listen (since, after all, I should practice what I preach).
The problem with hormone creams
Theoretically, I don’t have a problem with natural hormone replacement creams. They can be extremely helpful when paired with supportive lifestyle changes (and can make some of those lifestyle changes — like getting better sleep — more doable).
However, I struggled to find balance with progesterone and estrogen cream. Sometimes it would feel like I had it down, but other times my PMS would be worse than ever.
The potential issues with hormone creams are:
- It’s hard to measure. Even pre-measured pumps aren’t always accurate, especially when you need a small dose like a 1/2 pump. It’s very easy to have too little or too much. And that’s assuming you know how much you need in the first place.
- It’s hard to know how much you absorb. Plus, creams can react with other products you use on your skin, and those can affect absorption as well. So even if you are putting the “right” amount of cream on your skin, you don’t really know how much you’re absorbing.
- Sometimes you just forget. I typically would remember my morning dose, but often at night, I would completely forget to apply my creams again (or, to be honest, I’d be tired and wouldn’t feel like it).
Although these are mostly user-error issues, let’s face it: we’re all very human and it’s easy to make mistakes. At least, it is for me!
I’m definitely not saying hormone replacement creams are useless. I think they can be very helpful. But for me, they just weren’t hitting the spot and I needed to find something else that worked for my body.
Enter pregnenolone supplements (again)
I was a little scared to just quit hormone creams cold turkey. I thought my body would freak out and rebel even more than it already was. But at the same time, I was feeling strongly that the creams might be doing more harm than good for my hormonal balance, and I was eager to find something more effective.
Then I remembered pregnenolone. Here’s why it was the key to getting off the hormone creams:
What does pregnenolone do?
Pregnenolone is a hormone naturally present in our bodies with a hugely important function: it’s a precursor to all steroid hormones — which including progesterone, estrogen, androgens like testosterone, and cortisol.
So essentially, pregnenolone is a building block the body uses to maintain healthy hormone levels across the board. It’s sort of the “mother” of all hormones, you could say.
Now, pregnenolone also declines as we age, which is why it’s gotten a reputation as a sort of “fountain of youth” supplement.
And this is a big one: pregnenolone levels can also decrease when you’re under stress.
So between getting older (which we all are) and being under stress (who isn’t?), our pregnenolone levels may be less than ideal.
Because it can impact so many different hormones, pregnenolone’s benefits can be seen in many areas of your health, such as:
- Improved brain function and memory
- Anxiety and depression relief
- Deeper sleep
- Reduce stress and fatigue
- Improved energy and mood
- Reduce PMS symptoms
And it’s because of that last one that I wanted to give pregnenolone another try. I consider the other benefits a bonus. 🙂
My biggest hope with pregnenolone was that it would bring balance back to my hormones.
Since the body uses pregnenolone to make various hormones, my logic is that the body gets a little more control over how the pregnenolone is used. Instead of me trying to take complete control over specific hormones, I’m letting my body have a little more say in this department (mainly because I didn’t seem to be doing a very good job!).
How I use pregnenolone
I started taking pregnenolone a couple months ago, and once again, the effects are undeniable. My PMS is barely detectable and my cycles immediately returned to their previous, predictable 28-day length.
I started with this 30 mg capsule once every morning. That seemed to help me get back on track, but now I’m noticing the subtle signs of taking too much — a slight increase in irritability and a sort of wired feeling (kind of like drinking a little too much coffee.) I’m going to switch over to the 10mg capsules for maintenance and adjust as necessary. (You can take them every other day as a way to regulate the dosage as well.)
I take mine in the morning because pregnenolone does promote energy levels and might interfere with sleep if you take it too close to bedtime.
I personally like this brand because of its commitment to quality ingredients and the fact that it’s NSF/GMP registered (which at least provides some vague degree of quality control).
I still need to retest my hormone levels to see how my numbers look. I try to twice a year, but to be honest, it doesn’t always work out that way. An at-home saliva hormone test is pretty affordable considering typical medical care costs these days, but I have an admitted procrastination problem. Working on that, though. 🙂
But until then, I’m very happy with the way I feel right now, which is more than I could say before I started taking my pregnenolone supplements again.
Note: don’t forget the lifestyle stuff, okay?
I can’t leave without saying that any targeted therapy needs to be used with healthy lifestyle habits, too. Supplements and other specific therapies are meant to support the body and promote balance — but it’s not a magic fix.
Taking care of yourself in a basic way is still an absolute necessity if you want to feel well. I’m talking about eating a balance of good food, getting plenty of sleep, learning to manage stress, getting outside, having a support system you can depend on, etc.
Things like pregnenolone? They help you fill in the gaps. They aren’t a replacement for good, old-fashioned self-care. So keep that in mind. 🙂
More Women’s Health Articles:
- Attention Women: Controlling Anxiety with Simple Lifestyle Changes
- Get Rid of PMS for Good: 5 Root Causes
- Body Bashing: When “Normal” is Just Wrong
- Do You Know Your Type of Beauty?
- How to Prevent Binge Eating
- How to Relieve Period Cramps
Elizabeth is the founder and creative director at The Nourished Life. Her mission is to help people find a more balanced (less stressful!) approach to living a happy, healthy life. Read more about Elizabeth here.