Whoever knew the mentioning of a pineapple could cause so much controversy at Christmas. My husband and I were visiting a grand old house in Wales, on our way to a Christmas getaway. In the house was a dining room, set out as it would have been in the Victorian era. It was a cold and blustery day. Upon this table were the usual luxuries for the era, golden candelabras with nature inspired motifs and golden pineapples.
“Wouldn’t it be nice to have some of these decorations for our own Christmas?”, my husband remarked.
“Why would I want a symbol of white men raping and pillaging foreign lands on my table at Christmas?!”, I replied.
It was a tad negative, I admit, and when my husband pointed out that if we were to impose a ban on all fruits from sunnier climates from Christmas we would be missing a large portion of our Christmas pudding... I soon backed down.
We’ve all over-reacted at some point in our lives. Some are more emotional while others, quite physical. Take for instance, your inbox at work.
I have received emails from my boss marked “urgent” which instantly make my heart race, my breathe quicken and my palms sweat. That uncontrollable panic is a little something called the flight or fight response. It was designed for use against the pursuit of lions and yet here we are, using it for digital messages shone at us from a computer screen.
This response is fuelled by a hormone called cortisol and its production has another helpful yet harmful side-effect. It can stop you from conceiving. You see, we have this amazing in-built protection against babies in times of stress. The body can either make progesterone (which helps you ovulate and maintain a pregnancy) or it can make lots of cortisol. The more cortisol made, the less progesterone we have. This is called the progesterone steal and it’s how something so simple as an email (or more precisely, a barrage of high-stress emails over a long period of time in a job you absolutely hate) could make you miss a period!
But this isn’t the case for all women. Some will have periods but not ovulate, others will have irregular cycles and some might have longer bleeds. For some, it contributes to or causes a condition called Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) where the body has too little progesterone and a relative excess of androgen. It often creates insulin resistance, acne, male hair patterns and sometimes weight problems. So it’s important they try to manage their stress as well as their nutrition and blood sugar levels. If you are concerned about stress and how it may be affecting your cycle here are my essential tips for improving the situation.
How to correct a progesterone steal.
Consume adaptogens. This is a group of herbs which help us adapt to stress. They include; Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) [not to be taken if you have hypertension], Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea), Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), Nettle seed (Urtica dioica semen), Rosemary (Rosmarianus officinalis) and Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). They should be taken 2-3 times a day. If you were taking them as a tea you'd use a couple teaspoons each time. If you were taking them as tinctures you'd take 5ml each time. Always check with your healthcare provider before trying any new herbs. (Winston, 2007)
Eat a vegetable-rich diet because this helps even out blood sugar, balance the stress response, and provides you with the vital nutrients that stress strips you of. (Marsh, K. et.al., 2010)
Add Cinnamon. Just add the powder to your food, Ashwagandha or Turmeric late's. It helps to balance blood sugar levels and abate the effects of stress. (Ziegenfuss, T. et.al., 2006)
Identify stressors and cut them down/out (easier said than done, you will probably need 1:1 guidance to do this).
Crockett, L., 2018. Healing Our Hormones, Healing Our Lives. John Hunt Publishing.
Winston, D., 2007. Adaptogens. Inner Traditions / Bear & Co.
Marsh, K. Et.al. (2010) Effect of a low glycemic index compared with a conventional healthy diet on polycystic ovary syndrome. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol.92:1 p. 83-92, 1 July 2010 [available online] https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.2010.29261
Ziegenfuss, T. et.al. (2006) Effects of a Water-Soluble Cinnamon Extract on Body Composition and Features of the Metabolic Syndrome in Pre-Diabetic Men and Women. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2006, vol.3:45. [available online] https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-3-2-45