Why Are PMS Symptoms Worse During the Holidays?
Morgane Leten - Nutrition & Fertility Coach
At Guud Woman, we love the holidays! But we know that Christmas and everything that goes along with it can also be a huge source of stress for many people. You’re probably already coordinating gifts, decorating, baking, hosting and negotiating splitting time between different sides of the family. When you add in mood swings, irritability, low energy, fatigue and cramps, it can make for a pretty brutal combination.
But did you know that the holidays can actually make PMS symptoms worse? You may want to monitor your cycle over the holidays and if your premenstrual or menstrual phase aligns with Christmas, take note.
In this post, we’ll tell you why your PMS symptoms might be worse during the holidays and what you can do about it.
What Makes Your PMS Symptoms Worse During the Holidays?
When your period overlaps with the most wonderful time of the year, it can really put a damper on the merry-making! And even if your period is often very predictable and manageable, the holidays can sometimes cause your usual PMS symptoms to hit with a vengeance. But the guud news is that it is possible to feel better and enjoy yourself even if you are enduring a rough menstrual cycle. The first thing to know are the things that make your PMS symptoms worse.
‘Tis the season, right? But with so many parties and social occasions where drinking is involved, it’s important to remember what alcohol does to your menstrual cycle. Alcohol and our hormones don’t mix all that well. That’s because alcohol is broken down by the liver, but the liver is also really important in processing hormones. If your liver spends too much time processing last night’s Christmas party, then your estrogen ends up at the back of the queue and won’t be able to leave your body. This is also why you may have noticed that your hangovers change in severity throughout your cycle. It has to do with hormones.
For more information on your cycle and alcohol, read our post, Cheers to Being a Woman
The holidays are full of opportunities to party. Whether it’s work events, family gatherings or nights out with friends, there are so many invitations to stay up late or dance the night away. But don’t underestimate the role that sleep plays in your menstrual cycle. Even if your symptoms are pretty mild, your body probably needs more rest if you’re in your premenstrual or menstrual phase. So if you push it too far too often, you will notice that your PMS symptoms may increase in length and severity!
It can be very tempting to give into all your junk food cravings over the holidays. Every gathering seems to centre around food and none of it is particularly healthy! But all those beautiful fried appetizers and delicious desserts can contribute to inflammation which can make PMS symptoms like cramps and fatigue even worse.
Stress and Burnout
As joyful as the holiday season can be, it can also be a major source of stress for people. Stress can wreck havoc on your menstrual cycle and if you’re already struggling with mood swings, irritability, depression or low mood, adding some external stressors into the mix can be tough. Studies have found links between stress and changes in length and pain during periods. When you’re stressed, the levels of cortisol in your body increase. This can trigger a fight or flight reaction - an instinctive reaction which is usually a good thing as it helps protect us from danger. However, it can be harmful to your physical and mental health if you stay in this state for prolonged periods of time (like the entire month of December!)
What to Do to Alleviate PMS Symptoms During the Holidays
Take time for yourself
With the chaos of the season and all those parties going on, it’s important to also take some time for yourself! You need to wind down and give yourself time to relax. Try to develop a self-care ritual. Think of it as a Christmas gift for yourself. It could be things like a hot bath with scented candles or eating a nourishing meal and watching a Christmas film. Whatever it is, remember that self care is something you should practice year round - not just at Christmas. You must listen to your body. Rest and recovery is critically important for your mental and physical health, especially during your period!
We’re not saying to avoid alcohol altogether. But you can do things that help reduce the impact of alcohol on your hormones and your cycle. For example, choose drinks with low glycemic index like wine or champagne. Always eat food when you drink. Never drink on an empty stomach! Also, try to drink water or a mocktail in between each glass of alcohol.
We’d be a pretty major Grinch if we told you to avoid all holiday food in order to keep your PMS symptoms at bay! We love a treat or two, but like most things, it is about balance. While you’re indulging in a sweet treat or two, try to also increase your intake of fruit, vegetables and healthy fats so that you have more antioxidants and antiinflammatory foods in your diet.
For more information on How to Hack Your Cycle with Food, click here.
If you find yourself wanting to party into the wee hours of the night, try to plan so that you can sleep in and recover in the morning. If you repeatedly disrupt your normal sleep patterns, it will catch up with you!
If you can’t sleep in and wake up feeling groggy, it can be easy to reach for a giant cup of coffee to help wake you up. But beware of having too much caffeine because it can also impact your hormones.
Want to learn more about how sleep impacts your cycle? Read our post called Sleep and Your Cycle: How They are Connected.
Consider A SupplementAt Guud Woman, we believe in the power of vitamins, minerals and herbs. With a balanced diet, you'll be fine. Supplement your diet as needed to make sure you get everything you could possibly need! See where you could use some extra with our quiz and find the perfect supplement for you!