Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is the range of physical and emotional symptoms many women experience in the lead-up to a period. Symptoms start about 4-10 days before a period and usually stop after bleeding begins.
Here are the symptoms many women experience:
•Bloating around the abdomen
•Breast swelling and tenderness
•Skin problems like acne
•Headaches and/or migraines
•Poor coordination or clumsiness
•Increase in weight
•Constipation and/or diarrhoea
•Aches and pains
Mental & Emotional Symptoms
•Poor coping ability
•Wanting to be alone
•Reduced interest in work and social life
Whilst PMS is very common in women, it is in fact, not normal to experience PMS. Society and the media have normalized PMS and all the terrible symptoms that come with it. And while it is a very real thing to experience, your period should arrive with no preceding clues.
PMS gives us clues into what is happening in your post-ovulation phase, which is the phase following ovulation until your next period. The hormones produced in this phase, namely oestrogen and progesterone, are not as such to blame for PMS symptoms, but how much or how little of them there are definitely contributing factors to PMS. Common hormonal problems include oestrogen that drops too quickly, too much oestrogen or not enough progesterone.
Another cause of PMS is inflammation in the body. Inflammation disrupts hormonal communication, the production of important neurotransmitters and the way that hormones are eliminated in the body.
Luckily, PMS is something that responds incredibly well to natural treatment. It’s one of the first things to improve in your cycle. Now if you’re someone who has lived with PMS for most of their menstrual life, you’re probably thinking this is impossible! But it’s true! And here are just some of the ways you can help to reduce your PMS:
Physical activity increases endorphins ('feel-good' hormones), which can reduce PMS symptoms. Endorphins also act as natural painkillers and help you feel more relaxed and in control.
Choose a form, or variety, of physical activity you enjoy, and aim for at least 20 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most, if not all, days, especially when symptoms are at their worst.
A high level of perceived stress doubles the risk of severe PMS according to research because stress interferes with the brain and ovary communication and therefore can disrupt hormone levels. One way to do this is to put yourself first! I want you to allow yourself to say no to things you don’t want to and think that to balance your hormones and reduce PMS, I need to go for a walk, read a book, get a massage, do some mediation or whatever it is that helps you to reduce your stress levels.
Get enough sleep
This one is pretty self-explanatory so aim to get around 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
Maintain a healthy diet
-Ensuring every meal has protein. Protein helps to anchor your blood sugar levels and provide steady energy release from each meal. It is also important as it provides amino acids needed for neurotransmitter synthesis for a stable mood.
-Ensure every meal has good fats to aid satiety. Enough good fats in a woman’s diet it important for hormone balance.
-Ensure each meal is rich in veggies and fruit (50-75%): to provide an array of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for optimal health. Plants are also where you get fibre from so this is important to ensure bowel regularity and elimination of metabolized hormones.
-Removing inflammatory foods such as gluten, dairy, refined grains, alcohol and sugar
-Adequate water intake of around 2L per day
-Eat plenty of antioxidant rich foods (fruit, veggies, herbs, spices, olive oil, nuts and seeds)
-Limited added salt to reduce fluid retention
-Avoid most food out of a packet (processed or junk food)
Reduce your coffee intake
We love a good cup of coffee just as much as the next person but when it comes to PMS, coffee is often not your friend! Whilst there was a study released in 2016 which found that caffeine intake is not associated with PMS, clinically I see a very different picture. When patients cut out or reduce their coffee intake, they experience a significant reduction in PMS symptoms like breast tenderness and fluid retention. There are other studies that have indeed found associations with caffeine and increased severity of PMS! Many women rely on coffee for “energy” at various times of their cycle but the truth is that coffee doesn’t give you energy. Instead, it increases release of stress hormones cortisol & adrenaline giving a false sense of alertness and energy! Both of which are not ideal if you experience stress or anxiety! Both of which, also aren’t ideal for hormones and a smooth sailing menstrual cycle
Ensure daily bowel motions
Many of our hormones are detoxified out of the body via the liver and bile, which ends up in our digestive tract to be excreted via bowel motions. However, if you are constipated or have poor composition of gut bacteria, then this can result in reabsorption of the hormones back into the body, a process known as entero-hepatic recycling and can negatively add to our hormone load and exacerbate PMS.
If you aren’t going at least once a day this is a problem and it needs to be sorted.
Herbal & Nutritional Medicine
There is a huge array of herbs and specific nutrients that are very powerful at reducing PMS symptoms. My advice is to make sure you have all the fundamentals in this article in place and then if things still haven’t improved, seek help from a naturopath to help investigate exactly what I going on with your hormones, nutrient status and other markers so that they can give you a tailored prescription to what will work for YOU!
If you are in Perth and would like to see a naturopath that has experience with helping many women overcome hormonal problems like PMS, I would love to help you. You can book in here.