Do you feel like you could snap at anyone who looks at you some days? Or some days do you feel like you could burst into tears at any moment? I get it…I’ve been there! You aren't crazy. These emotions might seem out of the blue, however if you are tracking your menstrual cycle they may actually happen at the same time every month. You’ve got it…this is the dreaded premenstrual syndrome or PMS.
I see this often in practice and believe it is important to note that even though symptoms of PMS are incredibly common this is not a normal response. There is usually a reason behind these feelings and symptoms and things that can be done to mitigate them, besides jump to the birth control pill.
Common symptoms of PMS:
- Very emotional - angry, teary, irritable
- Breast tenderness
- Food cravings
- Back pain
What is causing PMS:
Throughout the month your hormones have a cycle and rhythm (See the graph to the right). There is a monthly increase and decrease of both estrogen and progesterone, but they happen at different times. We need proper nutrients, a low stress level, proper blood sugar balance and healthy liver detoxification for these cycles to happen properly. If your body, especially your liver, is not able to metabolism estrogen well an imbalance in the estrogen-progesterone occurs and the above PMS symptoms occur. If you pituitary gland, one of the control centres for your hormones, is not stimulated properly signals to your ovaries aren’t regular, again causing an imbalance in hormones.
Natural Approaches to PMS:
There are many interventions to decrease PMS symptoms however these are some of my favourites to start with.
Going with the Flow
By tracking your menstrual cycle you become aware of how your body is responding to these hormone cycles and what symptoms or emotions can be contributed to your cycle. Recognizing this may help you get through it more easily and understand why you may be feeling a little crazy at times. Take time for yourself before your period, take a nice bath, go for a massage or get a good sweat on.
Magnesium and B6
The birth control pill actually depletes our body of both magnesium and B6. Both of these are vital to hormone regularity, therefore both helpful to decrease symptoms of PMS. Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor about the proper dose for you.
In chinese medicine it is believed that PMS is due to “liver qi stagnation.” This means there is stagnation, or a lack of movement, in the liver. Broccoli sprouts, or in particular sulporophane, up regulates an enzyme in phase II liver detoxification important in excreting excess estrogen. Basically, it gets things moving. Adding broccoli sprouts to a salad, smoothie or as a snack is a good addition to your diet. More liver support may be necessary, including turmeric, I-3-C or DIM depending on the severity of symptoms.
Seed & Oil Cycling
Since there is natural ebb and flow to our hormones throughout the month, creating a similar cycle in our food helps to produce the proper hormones at the proper time. The seeds and oils carry certain oils, vitamins, and nutrients that can help support the body’s production, release, and metabolism of hormones. Some of the seeds used in seed rotation are flax and pumpkin for the first half of your cycle and sesame and sunflower in the second half. We also add omega 3 and evening primrose oil to the rotation. Adding seeds to smoothies, oatmeal or roll them into energy balls are some ideas to eat them daily. There is the most evidence on the benefits of flax to balance hormones and omega 3s to decrease inflammation.
Acupuncture is able to address "liver qi stagnation" specifically with certain acupuncture points. There are several studies supporting the use of acupuncture for improving menstrual function and reducing symptoms of PMS. "One study found that acupuncture was as effective as NSAID therapy for dysmenorrhea, a cycle with severe PMS symptoms, especially cramping."(1) I find this a very helpful adjunctive treatment for both myself and my patients.
Again, these are some interventions I like to to start with for PMS. If your symptoms are causing you a lot of distress, please reach out to myself or your local ND for further support. Testing may be necessary to assess hormone levels, or look for any concurrent issues such as PCOS, endometriosis or fibroids.
In health & happiness,