Primal Eating and Female Hormones
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 ...