How to cure PMS The naturopathic way
PMS, those three little letters that make you want to drown in chocolate, hide under a mound of covers and make those around you run for the hills. You are not alone …
Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, affects millions of women each year. 90% of women experience at least one symptom most months and about 50% of women get several symptoms each month.
The onset, duration, intensity and symptoms of PMS vary from one woman to the next and usually resolve once the woman’s period begins.
Do you feel?
Lonely and at the same want to withdraw
Do you experience?
Breast tenderness and soreness as well as an increase in size
A heightened sensitivity to sounds, light and touch
Changes in libido
Food cravings especially carbohydrates or sugar
An increased appetite
Hot sweats and flushes
Brain fog or can’t focus, concentrate or remember what you just did
Headaches and migraines
Constipation or diarrhoea
Insomnia or excessive sleepiness
Pelvic discomfort and pain
Lower back pain
Worsening of existing symptoms or disease state
Sometimes PMS can feel a lot worse for a small number of women. A condition called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder or PMDD is a debilitating kind of PMS that affects a woman’s mental health state so severely that they are unable to carry out normal activities. If you feel this way please see your general health practitioner or gynaecologist immediately.
Why do you feel this way?
There isn’t one specific, underlying cause of PMS. The following may create a hormonal imbalance that leads to PMS and exacerbate your symptoms.
- Nutritional deficiencies eg Zinc, B6, Iron, D, Iodine
- Too many processed vegetable oils, margarine, high temperature cooked oils and trans fats as these displace good healthy fats in the body that make our hormones.
- Exogenous hormones or hormones we take. A history of taking the pill or other hormone replacement medication is an obvious example.
- Endocrine disruptors are mostly man-made, found in various materials such as pesticides, metals, additives or contaminants in food as well as personal care products. As the name suggests they disrupt our endocrine or hormone system.
- A high intake of soy products. These are rich phytoestrogens also known as plant oestrogens which may disrupt our normal hormonal balance.
- Physical, emotional, and mental stresses. An increase in cortisol creates an imbalance in hormones.
- A poorly functioning and congested liver due to drugs, alcohol, sugar, caffeine and smoking. Our liver metabolizes our hormones.
- Obesity, hyperinsulinaemia and insulin resistance. Basically is a consequence of too much sugar.
- Malnutrition, eating disorders, fasting and excessive exercise.
- Lack of exercise, poor lymphatic flow, and circulation to our pelvic organs.
- Thyroid imbalance or disease.
- Chronic infections such as thrush or dysbiosis in the gut.
- Chronic constipation. Irregular bowel movements cause a reabsorption of toxins, affecting liver metabolism of hormones and the reabsorption of metabolized hormones.
- Traveling regularly or changing time zones.
- An existing reproductive disorder such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis and fibroids.
- A high intake of salt, processed foods, alcohol and caffeine can exacerbate symptoms such as water retention and bloating.
Enough for you?
What can I do about it?
The number one thing to do is to figure out why it’s happening.
Your health care practitioner can examine and review your medical history and description of symptoms.
Reproductive hormones, such as Oestrogen Progesterone, FSH, LH, Testosterone, FAI, and Sex Hormone Binding Globulin, are usually assessed via blood test from your GP or salivary hormone test, which reflects the non-protein, bound ‘free’ fraction of hormones at a given point of time. It is these ‘free’ hormones that best reflect a patient’s hormonally-related symptoms, rather than total or bound hormone levels. Your health care practitioner or GP can request this. Consider a blood or saliva sample to be requested for on day 21 of your cycle or mid luteal phase. This is the phase leading up to your period or premenstrual phase.
Not enough progesterone and too much oestrogen in this phase can contribute to PMS.
Other hormones could also be tested via a blood test. These include thyroid and adrenal hormones, insulin and prolactin. An imbalance in these can cause an imbalance in your reproductive hormones.
Nutrients could also be tested such as folate, B6 (Pyridoxal 5-Phosphate) B12, vitamin D, iodine, zinc and iron. Nutrient deficiencies can cause hormonal imbalances.
Keep a menstrual cycle symptom diary to help identify your symptoms. Record the day of your cycle with the first day of your period being the first day of your cycle. Keep this diary for at least 3 menstrual cycles. Records the symptoms mentioned
Simple solutions to alleviate your premenstrual symptoms
- Eliminate all processed and packaged foods, sugar, refined salt, gluten, caffeine, alcohol, and recreational drugs.
- Replace with whole fresh, nutrient dense, organic foods: vegetables, fruit, pastured – beef, lamb, chicken and eggs, wild seafood and fish, cultured or fermented foods and bones stock broths, some full fat additive free dairy, some gluten free pseudocereals such as amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat and some activated nuts and seeds.
- Move your body to encourage pelvic flow through yoga or Pilates.
- Learn about your menstrual cycle. This will empower you to best take care, have greater awareness and respect for your cycle which in turn will allow you to ride these changes with ease and appreciate your inherent womanly wisdom.
- Go to bed early to help regulate your circadian rhythm and the hormones that govern this – cortisol and melatonin. An imbalance in these hormones can cause an imbalance in your reproductive hormones.
- Cleanse or detox your body by taking herbs to tone digestion and absorption and cleanse your bowels and liver.
- Dandelion root and St Mary’s Thistle are two common cleansing herbs. They can be taken as a tea or prescribed by your naturopath or herbalist.
- Manage your stress in whatever way works for you – for example, be creative, counselling, tai chi or meditation, walking or gardening.
- Your health practitioner may also prescribe the following herbs, supplements and lifestyle recommendations:
– B6, Evening Primrose oil, Magnesium and Zinc and Chaste tree berry to help regulate progesterone deficiency.
– Herbs such as Valerian, Passionflower, Lavender, St John’s wort, Skullcap, Chamomile and Magnesium to help calm and nourish the nervous system.
– The herb Withania and an iron tonic to help overcome exhaustion.
– Herbs such as Lavender, Passionflower and Rosemary and Magnesium to relieve tension headaches
– Herbs such as Fenugreek, Cinnamon, Fennel and Globe artichoke with Zinc and B vitamins to help curb sugar cravings and balance blood sugar levels.
– Herbs such as Dandelion leaf, Celery, Corn silk and Chaste tree berry to reduce fluid retention.
– For mild depression and flatness, herbs such as St John’s wort, Skullcap, Schisandra, Withania, Rosemary and Lavender may help.
-To help clear the skin herbs such as Chaste tree and Echinacea with Zinc.
-Herbs to help relieve premenstrual constipation, herbs such as Dandelion root and Yellow dock will help.
Note: Herbal tinctures are only available with a prescription from your naturopath or herbalist. A qualified practitioner will ensure your medication, supplements or disease state does not interact with the herbs. When a herbalist prescribes herbal medicine they consider one’s constitution: age, allergies, sensitiveness, robustness, size, temperature, current status of health and personality.
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