It's a longstanding (and let's be honest ladies, somewhat accurate) joke that women's periods can bring out our, shall we say, unpleasant sides; however, a September 2015 study suggests that women actually tend to be more cooperative and generous during and shortly after their times of the month.
To see how hormones affect women's willingness to share, researchers from Goethe University in Frankfurt asked more than 400 German and American women to divide a pile of fake money with complete strangers. The women were asked to do this at two specific times during their menstrual cycles: once during or shortly after menstruation, when the levels of hormones estrogen and progesterone are low, and again a few days after ovulation, when estrogen and progesterone levels are higher. The women were more likely to share their wealth during and shortly after their periods than after ovulation.
It's worth noting that the hormone levels of the women were determined based on the women's self-reported menstrual cycles, not by blood tests. But these results still may not be entirely out of whack, according to Sara Gottfried, MD, gynecologist and author of The Hormone Reset Diet.
"These findings make sense to me if you think about how women have a clean slate when their period starts and immediately afterward," she says. "Their estrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels are at an all-time low. In many ways, it's a time when women feel most like themselves — without the rage, blame and emotional roller coaster. We remember to 'tend and befriend,' and that this is the best way to handle stress — to be cooperative and collaborative."
It's around day 21 in the cycle when things may start to go a little haywire. "Many women have estrogen dominance (highest estrogen levels, which may or may not be matched by progesterone), which can make women more moody and individualistic," Dr. Gottfried adds. "It's harder to cooperate and think of the greater good when you feel cranky, achy and like you want to be left alone."
As for females who insist their periods bring out the worst in them, Gottfried says that a temporary hormonal imbalance may be the culprit. "For some women, it can take a while for estrogen to be cleared from their system," she explains. "It's almost like an 'estrogen hangover' that takes a few days or even a week to clear."
If you're one of the many women who feels your period brings out your evil twin, Gottfried advises following these lifestyle habits, which have been shown to lower estrogen levels:
- Eat more low-carb vegetables, such as leafy greens or broccoli. "I suggest eating one pound per day, raw in shakes and steamed at meals."
- Cut down on the caffeine, alcohol and red meat
- Increase fiber (about 35 to 50 grams per day)
- Get extra shut-eye