March 19, 2021
Have you ever been to the doctors seeking some relief to your debilitating symptoms, just to hear “PMS is normal, all women have it.”Then, you felt resigned to the fact that you were doomed to experience pain, cramping, heavy bleeding, and not feeling quite yourself for about a week each month?
Trust me, you are not alone. I’ve been there too!
Until I started learning everything I could about the menstrual cycles, about the beautiful web and flow of our reproductive hormones, which makes us so unique and special.
Instead of dreading my periods, I started to cherish it. Knowing it was giving me an indication of my emotional and physical state.
Even better, I learned how to support my health so I could experience pain-free cycles and beautiful skin.
So, just read on to know exactly what Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is, and how to reduce its symptoms naturally.
PMS refers to the symptoms we experience in the lead up to, and during, our period. Symptoms can include bloating, acne, anxiety, fatigue, irritability, food cravings, an increased appetite and many more. Often caused by alterations or imbalances of the circulating oestrogen and progesterone during our monthly cycle, mostly in the luteal phase (after ovulation).
But since the body works as an orchestra where the endocrine system is the maestro, there are other factors involved in the development of symptoms: stress, nutritional deficiency, mood, physical activity, etc.
To better understand which hormones may be contributing to these symptoms, PMS is subdivided in four classes:
Mostly caused by an excess of oestrogen and/or progesterone insufficiency, often due to poor liver function, excess endogenous or exogenous hormones (OCP), imbalance diet, chronic stress.
Typical symptoms include: insomnia, irritability, heart palpitations, stress-induced sweating
PMS-C (Carbohydrate craving)
Mostly caused by blood sugar dysregulation and low thyroid function.
Symptoms include: sugar cravings especially before menses, increased appetite, headache, hypoglycemia, palpitations, intolerance to heat
Often caused by an imbalance in oestrogen/progesterone ratios or low progesterone. Symptoms include: low mood, depression, crying, feelings of hopelessness, fatigue,insomnia, apathy, low libido
Once again, oestrogen may play a part, leading to increased aldosterone in the late luteal phase of the cycle. If stress is present, this may contribute to aggravated symptoms due to increased cortisol.
Symptoms: water retention, weight gain, bloating, breast tenderness and/or swelling, nipple sensitivity.
You may be thinking “what if I experience all of those symptoms?”.
That seems to be the case for many of us, nonetheless, trying to understand which symptoms are more predominant can assist in balancing your cycles sooner.
And there are many things you can do to balance your hormones and reduce your PMS naturally:
- Adopt a low GI/GL diet and encourage regular small meals to stabilise blood sugar levels while eliminating sugar and refined carbohydrates, especially if you crave sugar leading up to your menses. This can be challenging at first, that is why adding nuts and seeds to your diet can help as they reduce cravings
- Eliminate all stimulants: caffeine: coffee, tea (black, oolong, green), chocolate and other caffeine-containing beverages) as they increase cortisol production and deplete your adrenal glands
- Increase your intake of protein as they are required for neurotransmitter production and hormone-signalling
- Increase fibre and vegetable consumption, especially brassica family to assist with clearance of endogenous oestrogen
- Include some restorative exercise to your weekly routine. Multiple studies have now confirmed that yoga is more effective at relieving the symptoms of PMS and period pain than painkillers!
- Aim to have 8 hours of deep, restorative sleep as during your sleep your liver is at work to clear excess hormones and other toxins from your body
Although those suggestions may be simple, adopting them for at least three consecutive cycles may help reduce your symptoms significantly.
And if you have taken the oral contraceptive pill for a long period or have a poor diet, it is also important to address these possible nutrient deficiencies:
- B Vitamins
These water-soluble vitamins are directly involved in energy production, carbohydrate metabolims, liver detoxification processes and more.
- Vit B6 has been found to improve PMS symptoms, modulate neurotransmitter production.
studies showed an improvement in feelings of depression associated with PMS, particularly that associated with high oestrogen/progesterone oral contraceptive pill use.
Vitamin B6 is a fantastic mood-booster, supporting the production of serotonin, a hormone which helps to improve some of the symptoms of PMS. Vitamin B6 also plays an important role in detoxifying excess amounts of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
- Vitamin B9 and B12: folate and B12 work synergistically in all chemical reactions.
They are involved in growth, development, energy release from food and in the activity of serotonin and other neurotransmitters and cell membrane stability, thus they may influence PMS via these pathways.
- Calcium - research has shown calcium helps reduce early fatigability, changes in appetite, and depression in women with PMS compared with the placebo group.
- Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs): due to their anti-inflammatory action, EFAs can assist in reducing pain associated with PMS when taken consistently for at least three months.
- Iron: required for energy, deficiency in this important nutrient may compound symptoms such as fatigue or depression associated with PMS.
- Magnesium: research has shown that a combination of magnesium and vitamin B6 can useful for reducing anxiety-related premenstrual symptoms (nervous tension, mood swings, irritability or anxiety).
- Zinc: an essential cofactor for more than 200 enzymes, Zinc is important for the metabolism of neurotransmitters like dopamine, and prostaglandins, which are involved in inflammatory processes. Acne and skin disturbances associated with the menstrual period may also improve with zinc.
Remember, although experiencing a mild discomfort before your menses is normal, if your PMS is affecting your well being or impacting the quality of your life, seek help from a qualified healthcare professional.
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