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Thread: Primal Eating and Female Hormones page

  1. #1
    Kelda's Avatar
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    Primal Eating and Female Hormones

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    I had hoped to add this to a thread I'm sure I spotted about PMS but I can't find it anywhere so here is my comment anyway!

    I was over at Art's site and posed the question 'what are the effects on the female hormonal cycle of eating Paleo/Primal/EF because if our eating and exercising has such a dramatic effect on our insulin activity it must affect other hormones'. In my case I know it has affected the dopamine/seratonin pathways as I no longer suffer with bipolar so it seems to me likely that it will affect my other hormones too.

    I posted this further on in the discussion after some more research on my part ...

    "As I think this is an important aspect of EF/PB/Paleo/Cavepeople stuff (!) I've added more of what I've discovered below - I hope that's OK, it is quite lengthy. I feel there is a tendency for the whole 'caveman' experience to overlook the differences between the genders.

    I'm 44 (in April) 5' 5.5" tall and weigh just under 130 lbs. I'm probably currently around 19% bf, have been down to 16% (which is where I feel my best) during the summertime and was up in the mid 20s% when I was practically a full time endurance Iron-distance triathlete on a high carb vegetarian diet! Go figure - LOL!

    My cycles reduce down to 25 days for several months then switch back up to 28 but have always otherwise been regular. I do have a notable day or three of soreness mid-cycle (left or right side depending on which ovary is actively releasing ova I guess) which appears on occasion to trigger slight constipation (or occasionally the reverse!).

    My periods have become heavier I think over the last six months or so (I've been PB/EF eating for a year now) having appeared to have lightened when I originally switched my diet and training. At my age I'm probably also into a period of perimenopause very likely and have noticed that the two nights before my period starts I have very disturbed sleep and often wake up having drenched the bed sheets in sweat (this is new since PB but could be coincidental).

    The luteal phase is from the day after ova release and is when the site of the release on the ovary surface produces corpus luteum (hence luteal). This chemical triggers the release of mainly progesterone which raises the basal body temperature and prepares the lining of the womb for imminent implantation.

    The phase from the beginning of the period to the point of ovulation is the follicular phase and is dominated by rising oestrogen levels to the point of ova release when progesterone then becomes dominant although there is some oestrogen activity a day or two after ovulation which may cause a slight drop in temperature.

    The luteal phase is averaged at 14 days but the normal range is usually between 10 - 16 ending with the beginning of the new cycle and is fairly constant in individuals. The length of the phase prior to ovulation can alter and is particularly sensitive to stress (whether psychological or physical - so I guess here the effects of cortisol etc) so late arriving periods are actually delayed ovulation as the time from ovulation to period is usually constant.

    Given how obvious it's now becoming that we are so completely 'driven' by hormones (and I mean everyone here, not just females!) we must be affecting our systems differently now we eat and exercise in a way that so drastically alters our insulin (a hormone of course) profile.

    I'm beginning to see the system as a form of hormone super-highway with only so much traffic capacity! If it's completely jammed with insulin vehicles whizzing up and down, with the traffic cop (the brain) giving priority to insulin because the fuel supply to the brain is essential it's little wonder that so many other hormonal systems are being shunted to side streets and back alleys and getting lost!

    So back to the impact on females who of course have an extra hormone system running and competing for that space on the super-highway!

    In my researching I've come across some interesting information regarding Pre Menstrual Symptoms and the advice given to alleviate them ...

    Progesterone Deficiency is noted in PMS - progesterone is apparently associated with the relief of anxiety, headaches, sleep disruption, water retention and breast tenderness (the major PMS symptoms).

    Progesterone (a steroid hormone) - formed including ketones and oxidized cholesterol (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progesterone) and is produced in the adrenal, ovaries (corpus luteum) and by placenta and can break down to cortisol as part of the stress response.

    The fact it's synthesized using ketones makes me wonder about the affect of a more ketone orientated fuelling system which EF/PB etc certainly are especially if you go very low carbohydrate.

    Could females benefit perhaps from less focus on ketone fuelling (ie slightly higher carbohydrate levels) during the luteal phase to support progesterone levels?

    I also note that yams (Dioscorea family) contain bioavailable precursors for progesterone synthesis, they are a more carby food (and hail from the areas of the world from where we originate), perhaps this could be an appropriate small addition to the diet in the luteal phase? They are also quite fiberous so may also aid the constipation effect?

    If you also consider the fact that progesterone provides a pool of hormone that can be converted to cortisol as part of the stress response perhaps it might also be worth reducing stress (perhaps through reduced physical exercise) through that luteal phase?

    Stress also depletes serontonin and dopamine which clearly have an affect on mood. The production of cortisol from progesterone produces more aldosterone which is known to contribute to water retention and hence swollen breast.

    There is also a suggestion that oestrogen can become dominant (through birth control and medications) and when this is raised during the luteal phase it may cause irritability and aggression and other physcial PMS symptoms. Of course soy products are thought to cause oestrogen rises in both genders.

    The dietary advice that is given ... "reduce excess sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, caffeine, or alcohol and increase protein, healthy fats, fiber and complex carbohydrates as an improper diet results in hormonal imbalance, inflammation, weight gain and nutrient deficiencies that may cause PMS".

    So everything I've found so far in terms of dealing with PMS points to PB as being a good way of keeping the hormone system running smoothly! No surprise there. But I think the take away point may well be that for those females who do notice differences through their cycle it is well worth considering adapting your eating and exercising routines through your cycle.

    I've just had the least good 4 week spell (it's relative of course I still feel 1,000% better than pre-PB - but you do find yourself striving for better once you know what it feels like) and when I look at my training records it's coincided with a two week period of increasing physical activity during my luteal phase so perhaps the increase has prompted some progesterone imbalance due to more cortisol demands? An interesting hypothesis I shall now away to test.

    Of course it's also been the dead of winter here at 57 north so chances are there may also be an element of vitamin D deficiency going on ... just so many potential confounds but all the more reason to think these issues through from all angles."
    Seeking the natural way in a modern world ...

  2. #2
    LessofMimi's Avatar
    LessofMimi is offline Senior Member
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    Awesome information. This is exactly what I've been dealing with and I appreciate you sharing all of this. I have an appointment with a gyn in a couple of weeks. Really would like to find a way around this that doesn't involve an IUD or creams. Eager to see what you come up with regards to this issue.
    Melissa Fritcher - 330/252/150
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    Shelli's Avatar
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    This is good info. We have a daughter who lives on bread and fast food and she has downright scary PMS. I wish I could influence her eating decisions but husband and I are "the enemy" right now and she's not open to discussion.

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    wow....as someone working to gaining back her fertility, i better find me some yams right???

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    Dragonfly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MalPaz View Post
    wow....as someone working to gaining back her fertility, i better find me some yams right???
    Yams won't do it---our bodies can't extract the Diosgenin from the yams. Best to take an over-the-counter bio-identical Progesterone cream like Pro-gest. I've been using it for over a year, pre-Primal. 48, clockwork-regular periods, no perimenopausal symptoms anymore! Have stopped taking it since going Primal to see how my cycle balances out naturally.

    Will respond more as I have time--have lots of Progesterone/Estrogen dominance links and info to share!

    Thanks for starting the discussion, Kelda.

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    Meadow's Avatar
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    I am doing a bit of experimenting with this....jury is still out, but I have seen improvement. Your thoughts are intriguing and line up to what I was considering in a lot of ways.

    Long time ago my monthlies were horrible, long cycles, major pain and side effects (along with a laundry list of other medical issues)

    Low carb then primal for several years = better cycles, but still not great but at least I can survive each cycle

    Back in the summer I was working out a lot more, being consistently primal had me bouncing off the walls with energy (crossfit 2-3 days a week, hiking 2 plus days, trail running, etc), lots of IF'ing, so on. I have never worked out to that level.

    I started to fall apart....gained weight (not muscle), my cycles crashed, I was having all sorts of crazy pains and side effects mid cycle, and I started to get days of major lethargy (been years since I had that issue). I had my thyroid checked (normal), had an ultrasound...no issues.

    I think I stressed out my adrenals which messed with my hormones big time...my guess anyways.

    I slowed down, reduced and then eliminated crossfit (sad face), went to just walks and staying moving instead of trail running or 6 mile hikes, I stopped fasting, and in general I tried to keep my carbs low but not super low.

    Fast forward four plus months later, and I am doing TONS better. All the mid month issues have disappeared, and my cycles are getting shorter which they needed to. Lost weight and have actually toned up a bit....while working out a fraction of what I was before.

    So I am currently going with adrenal stress as the cause at this point, and I am going to keep up what I am doing now. I also dropped dairy on Jan 1 to test if that helps as well. We are in the early stages of trying to start a family, so hopefully this improvement bodes well for the future

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    Dragonfly's Avatar
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    Here's one excerpt from an article (for Mal):

    Progesterone and Amenorrhea

    Often the cause of amenorrhea is that the ovaries do not release eggs (ovulate). Your ovaries may be releasing the hormone estrogen but not producing progesterone, a hormone necessary for periods to occur. In this case, the usual treatment is physiologic doses of progesterone cream of between 20-30 mgs progesterone per day from day 12 to day 26 to mimic what the body would produce naturally.

    Continued exposure to estrogen without the presence of progesterone the last two weeks of our menstrual cycle to ‘trigger’ a shedding of the uterine lining, places us at risk.

    In more advanced cases [of PCOS], high doses of progesterone may be required. Your GP may prescribe a high dose progesterone cream (10% ~ 100mg per 1 gram application) to ‘kick start’ your period. Your physician, in raising your progesterone levels as quickly as possible with a relatively high dose, is in fact using progesterone’s natural anti-estrogen properties to protect you.

    To prevent amenorrhea from recurring, examine your lifestyle. Make changes in your diet or activities to maintain your ideal weight, consider herbal support like Vitex (chaste tree), Dong Quai, Maca and/or Tribulus; incorporate vitamin & mineral supplements; avoid cigarette smoking, excessive use of alcohol and mood-altering stimulants or sedative drugs; try to resolve areas of emotional stress and conflict in your life; be moderate in all your activities; try to balance your work, recreation, and rest; and above all maintain a positive outlook.

    Given that amenorrhea may also result from potentially serious disorders of the ovaries, the hypothalamus, or the pituitary gland, I strongly suggest you seek out a competent healthcare professional to evaluate your menstrual cycles in relation to your hormone levels, and guide you back to optimal health.

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    Dragonfly's Avatar
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    Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance
    from:
    http://www.johnleemd.com/store/estrogen_dom.html
    * Acceleration of the aging process
    * Allergies, including asthma, hives, rashes, sinus congestion
    * Autoimmune disorders such as lupus erythematosis and thyroiditis, and possibly Sjoegren's disease
    * Breast cancer
    * Breast tenderness
    * Cervical dysplasia
    * Cold hands and feet as a symptom of thyroid dysfunction
    * Copper excess
    * Decreased sex drive
    * Depression with anxiety or agitation
    * Dry eyes
    * Early onset of menstruation
    * Endometrial (uterine) cancer
    * Fat gain, especially around the abdomen, hips and thighs
    * Fatigue
    * Fibrocystic breasts
    * Foggy thinking
    * Gallbladder disease
    * Hair Loss
    * Headaches
    * Hypoglycemia
    * Increased blood clotting (increasing risk of strokes)
    * Infertility
    * Irregular menstrual periods
    * Irritability
    * Insomnia
    * Magnesium deficiency
    * Memory loss
    * Mood swings
    * Osteoporosis
    * Polycystic ovaries
    * Premenopausal bone loss
    * PMS
    * Prostate cancer (men only)
    * Sluggish metabolism
    * Thyroid dysfunction mimicking hypothyroidism
    * Uterine cancer
    * Uterine fibroids
    * Water retention, bloating
    * Zinc deficiency

  9. #9
    Dragonfly's Avatar
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    Could females benefit perhaps from less focus on ketone fuelling (ie slightly higher carbohydrate levels) during the luteal phase to support progesterone levels?
    In a word, yes--and I think we do this instinctually.

    I have noticed that many women crave carbs premenstrually, right when their progesterone levels drop if there is no implantation of an fertilized egg.
    Many of my pregnant clients feel the need to eat a lot of carbs in their first trimester, prior to the placenta ramping up to full progesterone production.
    While eating vlc this cycle, I tracked my carbs and noticed almost a bell-shaped curve of increasing carbs beginning 2 days prior to my period, dropping 2 days after it started.

  10. #10
    marcadav's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragonfly View Post
    Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance
    from:
    http://www.johnleemd.com/store/estrogen_dom.html
    * Acceleration of the aging process
    * Allergies, including asthma, hives, rashes, sinus congestion
    * Autoimmune disorders such as lupus erythematosis and thyroiditis, and possibly Sjoegren's disease +
    * Breast cancer
    * Breast tenderness
    * Cervical dysplasia
    * Cold hands and feet as a symptom of thyroid dysfunction +
    * Copper excess
    * Decreased sex drive +
    * Depression with anxiety or agitation
    * Dry eyes +
    * Early onset of menstruation
    * Endometrial (uterine) cancer
    * Fat gain, especially around the abdomen, hips and thighs +
    * Fatigue +
    * Fibrocystic breasts
    * Foggy thinking +
    * Gallbladder disease +
    * Hair Loss +
    * Headaches
    * Hypoglycemia
    * Increased blood clotting (increasing risk of strokes)
    * Infertility
    * Irregular menstrual periods
    * Irritability +
    * Insomnia +
    * Magnesium deficiency
    * Memory loss +
    * Mood swings
    * Osteoporosis + (osteopenia)
    * Polycystic ovaries
    * Premenopausal bone loss
    * PMS +
    * Prostate cancer (men only)
    * Sluggish metabolism +
    * Thyroid dysfunction mimicking hypothyroidism +
    * Uterine cancer
    * Uterine fibroids
    * Water retention, bloating
    * Zinc deficiency
    Dragonfly, I had all symptoms marked with a (+). However, testing showed undetectable levels of estradiol and normal levels of progesterone.

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