Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a set of symptoms accompanying the luteal, or the second phase of a woman’s reproductive cycle. For some women, this inhibits their sleep, social schedule, and productivity for up to half of the days in the month.
If you think that hormones have something to do with PMS, you’re right! PMS symptoms are essentially hormone aberrations and the resulting inflammation. From a naturopathic perspective, these symptoms are a sign of a physiological imbalance and can be treated.
By asking detailed questions about cycle length, fertile signs, and bleeding patterns, we help uncover which gland or hormone cascade is the weakest link. This is often the trigger for pain, mood, and metabolic disturbance.
Hormones are proteins secreted by one gland and designed to travel to another gland/tissue where it arouses a state of activity. By running some laboratory studies, the first step is making sure that all the glands are functioning well. Optimizing the function of the thyroid, the adrenals, and the pituitary is key, and a well targeted herbal prescription is often made to address them holistically. Botanical medicine and acupuncture alone have a deep and eclectic history of treating this set of symptoms. After a few cycles, many women are surprised to find more freedom in their monthly routine.
Painkillers and pills offer solutions for some situations, but lifelong hormone balance is essential for overall health. In addition to using herbs, acupuncture and correcting nutrient status, I often find myself with more suggestions than I can choose from.
Here are some of my favorite tips for relieving PMS symptoms:
The sex hormones are made from fats, so having enough Omega 3 from flax or fish is a good first step. To use fats properly, you’ll also need a full complement of B vitamins. Women that have been on the pill have an increased risk for a Vitamin B6 deficiency and other nutrients.
Specifically, the liver, and this is not a small task. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), smooth functioning of the liver is required for painless, effective menstruation. Since the industrial revolution, our livers have been exposed to a toxic load we were previously unprepared for and helps explain why so many women around us are experiencing PMS.
Everything from household cleaners, transportation exhausts, and lipsticks are filtered through this robust organ and its efficiency wanes over time. This is where a naturopathic doctor is especially helpful. Cleaning the liver requires a patient, planned approach. A great first step is to drink lemon water each morning before breakfast.
Easier said than done, right? Maybe not. Some of the pain associated with cramping and back pain is caused by spasms occurring in the pelvic muscles. Calcium or Magnesium (sometimes both) can reduce the spasticity and create a more optimal water balance around the nerves in the area. By relaxing the muscles, magnesium can also relax the nervous system and mildly decrease anxiety. This is especially important since according to TCM, stress harms the liver.
Go to the source! Sugar is a very common source of inflammation, so be ready for carb cravings by switching to roasted veggies and dried fruit before you are tempted with candy. Decrease caffeine, as it will disrupt blood sugar balance for hours after consumption.
Get Some Sun
Or at least take vitamin D with dinner. This is important for those of us who live in northern climates.
Not surprisingly, all the advice above will increase mood over time, which might also increase your sex drive. Luckily, many women in history have also noticed that sex will alleviate cramping and bloating – so get some of that too!
Some PMS symptoms are subtle, while others inhibit a woman’s routines and take too much of a woman’s schedule. I inform many patients that although PMS is common, they don’t have to live with it. A Naturopathic Doctor can help you discern what is in need of nutritional therapy, an herbal prescription, or a referral to someone else on your healthcare team.
From basic nutrition to women’s health, ask me how I can help you move towards balance in your life. If you have any questions and would like to discuss an individualized health plan, please book an appointment, and we’ll get you on track! First-time patients get a free, 15-minute consultation.