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It is my belief that those who suffer with bouts of anxiety or stress, or those who experience many of the symptoms related to premenstrual stress or tension (PMS) may notice that they experience heightened symptoms due to consuming dairy—particularly cows’ milk.
I have found that dairy consumption, particularly when premenstrual, can have a volatile effect on our moods due to the varying amounts of progesterone and estrogen contained in milk, especially when the milk is from pregnant cows.
Estrogen levels in cows during their third trimester of pregnancy are around 27 times higher than they are during the first trimester. This is partly due to cows being milked until 60 days before their expected calving date.
Considering cows spend much of their existence pregnant to ensure that they are constantly producing milk, there is a high chance that, if we consume dairy, it will have come from a pregnant cow.
Hormone levels fluctuate when women are premenstrual, and this can result in a chemical imbalance in the brain. However, the changes in hormone levels are currently not believed to be the cause of PMS but are thought to be the result of physiological changes we go through during our menstrual cycle.
However, it is my personal belief that fluctuating hormone levels are directly related to, and are often the main cause of PMS, especially when linked to other emotional and physiological processes we go through.
The reason for this is that during our menstrual cycle both estrogen and progesterone are released from the ovaries. When our hormones are out of balance, the hormone estrogen can increase while the hormone progesterone may decrease.
Estrogen is a stimulant. High levels of estrogen can cause anxiety, agitation, tension, nervousness, and cell division. It can also cause us to feel shivery and have cold hands or feet, as high estrogen levels limits the flow of blood to our extremities.
Progesterone, on the other hand, has the opposite effect and is a soothing, rest-promoting hormone, which calms and pacifies. Therefore, it balances the stimulating effects of estrogen. Our body requires a healthy supply of both of these hormones so that we remain calm and harmonic throughout our menstrual cycle and so that the progesterone release neutralizes the effects of high estrogen.
Estrogen rises in the second half of our menstrual cycle, and this is when our progesterone level should also heighten. During the last two weeks of our cycle, if these hormones do not find a healthy balance, we can experience the symptoms of high estrogen, as well as the depressive signs of low progesterone. This is known as estrogen dominance (ED), and I believe it can dramatically increase the symptoms of PMS.
Estrogen can be high due to physiological changes, our environment, lifestyle, and dietary choices. Estrogen dominance can lead to mood swings, pain, irritability, headaches, sweet or salty food cravings, poor concentration, insomnia, sluggish metabolism, weight gain, and lethargy.
Unknowingly, before I became vegan, I was consuming and absorbing a high dose of estrogen, primarily from milk, as well as from cosmetics and plastics. Previously, I experienced all of the symptoms related to estrogen dominance, which were heightened whenever I was premenstrual, or feeling anxiety or stress.
I was vegetarian for many years before I became vegan, and my diet was high in estrogen. At the time, I was unaware of the barbaric abuse that the majority of dairy animals endure, and I was consuming dairy in large amounts to replace the lack of meat in my diet.
As soon as I adopted a vegan diet and lifestyle, I immediately noticed that I was less bloated, I slept better, I had higher concentration levels, and I no longer suffered from abdominal aches and pains or headaches. I felt more energized, and I had clearer skin.
It was clear to me that when I chose to reduce my estrogen intake, mainly through eliminating dairy, my estrogen levels lowered, and I felt better emotionally and mentally—as well as benefiting from enhanced health and general well-being.
Estrogen dominance can also be caused by consuming high levels of xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are chemicals that mimic estrogen, and may be fed to livestock and poultry in the dairy and meat industry. When we consume the associated meat or dairy, we also take in xenoestrogens, which our body can easily mistake for estrogen (adding to high estrogen levels).
Xenoestrogens are also found in plastic wrapping and containers. When we microwave food in plastic dishes, our food absorbs xenoestrogens. They are also found in many of our personal products such as shampoos and deodorants. Click here for a list of common sources of xenoestrogens.
When we consume dairy, or any animal product, it is worth remembering that we also consume the energetic effects of the animal’s life. For example, if we consume products from a cow, we will also absorb the hormones that it has released due to stress, which the majority of cows suffer from due to the constant cycle of being forcibly impregnated, having their calves stolen from them, rarely (if ever) seeing the outdoors, being fed stimulants so they produce more milk than is natural for them, and being hooked up to machines for most of their lives.
The same concept goes for meat, as when meat has been marinated in hormones, due to an animal experiencing negative emotions during their life or at the time of death, we ingest those hormones when eating the meat. If an animal has experienced fear or anxiety, we may also feel fearful or anxious if we consume any food or liquid that has been produced from the animal. Unfortunately, there are certain cultures that deliberately terrorize animals before killing them, as they believe that the adrenaline hormone that the animal releases when it feels fear adds to the flavor of the meat.
We can balance our lifestyles by taking care of ourselves emotionally, mentally, and physically, and by feeding our bodies nutritious foods while consciously eliminating anything from our diet or lifestyle that may cause us high levels of anxiety or stress.
If we can balance our estrogen or progesterone when we are premenstrual, we will likely notice that we have less mood irregularities, irrational fears, restlessness, general fatigue, and many other signs and symptoms related to PMS, anxiety, or stress.
Our lifestyles can be demanding on our bodies, so if we feel out of sync, the first step is to get our hormone levels checked out to see if we are in balance or need to to work on adjusting our levels.
Author: Alex Myles
Image: Flickr/Daniel Lamb
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Callie Rushton
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