52. Dr. Azab's Hormones Highlights

Posted on June 24th, 2013

In May 2013, Wise Wives Orange County was lucky to have Dr. Marwa Azab come talk to us about the topic of hormones in a 3 week workshop. We covered so many useful facts that I’d like to share here; topics include how the brain works, herbs, PMS, cycle changes, emotions, intimacy, medications, sleep…

Here are some highlights:

  1. Hormones exist in your brain.
  2. Psychiatry is not separate than biology, they must be studied simultaneously.
  3. If you’re taking pills for anything brain-related (memory, etc.), it has to be “fat-soluble.”
  4. Keep in mind that steroids actually take months to create a balance/effect.
  5. You can’t ask, “What does estrogen do?” Hormones are a very complex part of our bodies.
  6. The hormone oxytocin is responsible for: Reproduction, Parenting-breastfeeding, Need to socialize—“do you ever crave going out with a friend over coffee?”
  7. If you’re stressed, the hormone oxytocin can send a message to your brain telling your body not to create milk, the negative stress hormone can be bad for the infant.
  8. Do you know anyone who completely can’t have kids? This is because of our FSH and LH hormones. There can be nothing wrong with the parents’ physiology.
  9. The hormone progesterone prepares the uterus to keep a baby. This is the hormone tested in pregnancy test during the 2nd half of the cycle.
  10. There is an actual anatomical difference in men and women’s brains.
  11. Long-term exposition of birth control can lead to hormone imbalance.
  12. “Don’t take pills of estrogen,” she says. “It’s fighting nature.” 
  13. PMS is usually one or two days before menstruating but can start as early as after ovulation.
  14. PMS has to go and come. The symptoms can’t be consistent throughout the cycle or else its not PMS.
  15. During PMS you become irritable and moody.
  16. If you become depressed during PMS you will crave carbs, it is controlled by the same hormone.
  17. During PMS you have a low sex drive.
  18. Extraneous exercise can cause skipped periods; “physical stress” is just like mental stress.
  19. Traveling can cause period/cycle changes.
  20. The hormone that deals with stress is in the kidney.
  21. “Doctors are very behind when it comes to hormones,” she says.
  22. Pharmaceuticals play an economical game to make money. “Can’t patent something natural.” They make synthetic man made pills that resemble something in nature (Vitamin B for example).
  23. “Don’t heat food in plastic!” she says. Plastics, (Ziplocs and plastic bottles, etc) have estrogen-like components.
  24. Organic milk and dairy is necessary for your kids if you have girls; some dairy have estrogen like components in them.
  25. Imbalance of estrogen can cause cancer, cysts, constipation, low sex drive, stress, infertility…
  26. It is good to breastfeed for two years, because of higher fat content for brain development.
  27. Vitamin B can help with PMS when taken for prolonged time.
  28. Getting your vitamins from food is always better because supplements get absorbed differently.
  29. Probiotics that are forced in yogurt can be easily lost because of improper storage. Once its heated it looses the probiotic agent.
  30. Vitex is an herb that can really help with PMS.
  31. Always let your doctor know what herbs and vitamins you are using because they can interact negatively with the meds you are taking like birth control.
  32. Black Cohosh herb is a natural sedative, anti-inflammatory, good for PMS, temperature changes, menopause… but it cannot be taken with iron.
  33. Dandelion herb is an antioxidant, good for water retention from PMS, do not use with meds for blood clots.
  34. Licorice is “really good for you,” she says. But it raises blood pressure, good for anti- ulcer, hepatitis, antioxidant, do not use if pregnant.
  1. The week before your period is called PMS.
  2. PMS: bloating, weight gain, headaches, fatigue, insomnia, depression, hopelessness, irritably, anger, crying, self-deprecating (putting yourself down)…
  3. “Can interrupt parenting.”
  4. “Turn it around and make it work for you,” she says.
  5. “Choose who you go out with,” “Write,” “Go to yoga, get a message, you are sick.”
  6. It’s not spoiling, you deserve it.
  7. One of the disorders in the DSM-IV is PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder) (extreme PMS): Must have four of the above symptoms, has to be affecting your work and day-to-day life, has to happen twice in a row.
  8. PMS symptoms must end by second day of period or else its something else.
  9. PMS is made worse if you already have: migraines, depression, ADHD, anxiety, asthma, epilepsy.
  10. In a study it showed that 82.81% of women with PMS had trouble in their marriage.
  11. “Before getting married, men and women should be educated about this stuff.” Men should know the science behind PMS in order to better understand women.
  12. It’s very rare to find a women who does not PMS and have adverse reactions/behaviors.
  13. Coach your teenage children through PMS because they are hit with it during a time when they are in a phase of “identity vs. non-identity” where they go through peer pressure, etc.
  14. Just because you’re religious, doesn’t mean you can’t be depressed. It's a chemical imbalance. Sometimes we need outside help (meds, psychology).
  15. “Never give an adolescent anti-depressants.”
  16. Serotonin levels decrease PMS symptoms and depression.
  17. Exercise can release serotonin and therefore combat symptoms.
  18. During the latent phase of your cycle you become more easily startled.
  19. Women with PMDD and women in general eat more calories during PMS.
  20. Carbs and fat are the most things craved (chocolate—not complex carbs) during PMS.
  21. If  you have low serotonin during PMS you will crave carbs, you need carbs to make serotonin in the body.
  22. If you have high cortisol levels your body will crave carbs and fat.
  23. If low blood sugar then you will crave simple sugars (cupcakes, etc).
  24. These are chemicals in your body, you can’t control the cravings.
  25. Better to eat something that slows down carbs like salmon, mayonnaise, oils (on an empty stomach).
  26. Plan ahead to eat certain foods.
  27. “Allow yourself the pasta, the burger once a month” and don’t feel guilty about it. Allow yourself an extra 300 calories a day.
  28. “PMS is like when a man is really hungry and very irritated and aggressive…but for a whole week.”
  29. “Just because your libido is low, it doesn’t mean detach from your husband.”
  30. However, your sensuality increases (holding hands, massages).
  31. Explain this to your husband and plan ahead—tell him to do the sensual acts and maybe it will lead to the sexual acts.
  1. Estrogen affects the brain, memory, attention, etc.
  2. During severe PMS women perform poorly on working memory activities, ex: solving a math problem, conversing with someone and repeating yourself because you don't remember what you said.
  3. During the ovulation phase you can become disgusted and sad easily.
  4. During your period you spatial skills (ex: parallel parking) improve (like the masculine brain because estrogen, the female hormone, is low), verbal and manual skills decline.
  5. During PMS you become clumsy.
  6. During PMS you make the same mistakes over and over, poor frontal lobe function—calling the wrong person on the phone repeatedly.
  7. Reactions are slow during ovulation.
  8. PMS causes selective attention-don’t learn something new or learn a new skill during that time.
  9. Studies show that people who sleep less than six hours a day die earlier.
  10. Sleep affects memory.
  11. Brain continues working while you’re sleeping. Ex: you can go to bed after studying very hard for an exam, then when you sleep it gets organized and consolidated and you wake up from a good nights sleep ready for an exam.
  12. Studies show that going to bed at 10 pm gives you better quality of sleep and eight hours is best.
  13. Sleeping from 1 am to 10 pm will not give you good quality of sleep.
  14. Daytime naps improve subjective alertness.
  15. During PMS you get sleep attacks, your body makes you sleepy, just like when you have a cold. “Body is telling you to take care of yourself.”
  16. Naps are like restarting your computer.
  17. Men also have fluctuating hormones and are just as irregular.
You spend 2,400 days in a lifetime during PMS. You should not take it lightly and you should find effective ways to make it better (allow yourself that burger or bowl of pasta, take those naps, explain to your husband you need sensuality, etc.).

  • Calcium
  • Vitamin B6
  • Regular aerobic exercise/yoga
  • Good nutrition
  • Counseling or antidepressants if necessary
  • Herbs
  • Add oxytocin to your life (book club with women, coffee with best friend).
  • Keep a diary (calendar to track your cycle and act accordingly).
  • Find patterns in your life—are you having fights with your partner at the same time each month? Decide when to buy that house or put your child in a certain school?
  • Tell your partner/close ones about this. They can help you cope with this reality.
Choose three of the above and implement them in your life consistently to improve your PMS symptoms

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