Holy Hormones Journal:This is a very important article. Dr. Diamond was very kind to answer my questions when I contacted her the day I read about her study. My initial question was about xenoestrogens (synthetic estrogen-mimicking hormones in the environment) and their influence on her study. The reply – was it is impossible to know. But is it?
Generally – and maybe very generally – these days, estrogen peaks with ovulation and then subsides post-ovulation. At least that is what the older ovulation models are showing.
According to Dr. Diamond, that peak in estrogen is too fleeting to measure and for her study she is using another model that shows an extended “mid-luteal” hump in estrogen.
Where did this mid-luteal estrogen hump come from? Is this why so many women are struggling with PMDD, and PMS? Even though progesterone is still higher in the luteal post-ovulatory phase… it appears that estrogen dominance is skewing the ratio between these two hormones at a very crucial part of women’s cycles.
Add in the dopamine factor, when at the estrogen-height of the menstruation cycle, the mechanism to get rid of dopamine decreases substantially, and add in a good stress – and no wonder, some women are prone to hormone rages and mental/emotional breakdowns.
Inside the brain, dopamine plays important roles in motor control, motivation, arousal, cognitive control, reinforcement, and reward, as well as a number of basic lower-level functions including lactation, sexual gratification, and nausea.
And then women head off to their doctors and low and behold they come away with a prescription for a Dopaminergic drug – (A variety of drugs that increase dopamine levels are intrinsically and increase the effects of other types of reward) and the entire system is way laid because a woman cannot break down the dopamine. Not to mention dopamine enhancing foods.
Is this what is driving women over the edge during the paramenstrum?
There are many more charts showing a rebound of estrogen in the luteal phase. Dr. Diamond’s study will be interesting and may shed light on many of the discomforts women experience including bloating, anxiety, depression, rage during the paramenstrum.
Why genders experience stress differently: Vancouver study
24 Hours Vancouver
By Michael Mui,
A Vancouver researcher is delving into how women and men are affected by stress differently, with a specific look at why some women feel particularly overwhelmed during the menstrual cycle.
Dr. Adele Diamond, a neuroscientist out of the University of B.C., is examining an area of the brain called the pre-frontal cortex that controls executive functions — such as thinking and self-control. When someone experiences stress, this area of the brain experiences an increase in the chemical dopamine.
For men, she said on Thursday, adding a bit of mild stress usually means they get more focused, and their brains could perform even better than when they’re calm.
In simple terms, the science works like this: men, when calm, aren’t often at their cognitive peak, because their pre-frontal dopamine levels are lower than optimal. It’s thought that this is why men usually appear more immature, less focused, and it’s also why men are more likely to be diagnosed with disorders such as ADHD.
But add in a little stress — which appears in the form of more dopamine within that area of the brain — and that moves many men to “optimal” levels. In other words, many men need to feel a little stress to be at the peak cognitive levels women normally have.
For women, the reverse is true — particularly at the estrogen-height of the menstruation cycle, when their mechanism to get rid of dopamine in the pre-frontal is 33% slower than men — they won’t be able to think as clearly, or have as much self control.
The problem for women, being already in perfect balance because of how estrogen allows a higher level of dopamine in the brain, is that the addition of stress can push their levels right over.
It’s typically week two of the ovulation cycle, when estrogen levels are sky high, those dopamine levels will — relatively speaking — far exceed what’s optimal while under stress, resulting in someone who’s going to look like they’re really affected by stress.
Diamond is currently in the middle of a multi-year study examining hundreds of people in the region with a series of tests that measure how fast, and how accurate, their brains respond when under mild stress.