PMS (Pre-menstrual syndrome) sucks! According to NAPS (National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome) it is a chronic condition which as many as 800,000 women can experience in the UK! Once a month, over 35% women experience physical or emotional discomfort or pain which can last up to 14 days. Yikes! Out of over 150 symptoms identified , the most common are:
Altered sex drive
Muscle aches and lower back pain
Do any of the above sound familiar? If it is any consolation, you are not alone. But what causes this Jekyll and Hyde transformation? It’s not simply too much or too little of a hormone that leads to PMS symptoms. It’s most likely a combination of hormones, neurotransmitters and environment that triggers PMS. Balancing these diverse symptoms will give you the most relief and often it takes time to determine which treatment is right for you. An experienced therapist or a practitioner will be able to support and create an individualized plan to give you the best chance of success.
Here are my ten tips to treat PMS naturally:
- Move it woman!
Exercise is not just for overall health, but can also decrease your PMS symptoms. Studies have shown that women who exercise regularly, experience fewer PMS symptoms than those who do not. I don’t mean HIIT – just regular exercise at least 3 times a week. Exercising reduces estrogen levels, improves glucose tolerance and raises those endorphins. Find a program and routine that you enjoy-it can be swimming, walking, yoga or tai chi.
- Ditch the sugar!
Refined sugars rob our magnesium, increase sodium and water retention and imbalance our insulin levels. This is enough to fuel the PMS symptoms. Eliminate refined sugars and swap the simple carbs with complex carbs, high in fiber to lower estrogen and improve the vital magnesium levels. What does this mean? Cut out the cookies, cakes, pastries, sweets, breads and pasta in favour of quinoa, brown rice and greens.
- Ditch the caffeine!
Caffeine is associated with the worse PMS symptoms. It is linked to breast tenderness, irritability and insomnia. Combine it with sugar and you have a volcano ready to erupt. Women have greater sensitivity to caffeine and their bodies take much longer to detoxify caffeine and recover from its stimulating effects.
Caffeine directly affects women’s hormonal levels by increasing estrogen , while decreasing available testosterone.
- Take a probiotic.
It not only aids digestion but healthy gut flora can decrease PMS symptoms and promote estrogen excretion. Taken with food, probiotics are extremely safe and have no side effects- taking too much can result in bloating! Try eating cultured vegetables such as sauerkraut for healthy bacteria.
- Take a calcium and magnesium supplement
Clinical trials have shown that both mood and physical symptoms of PMS are improved with daily calcium intake. Magnesium deficiency, common in most women with PMS causes fatigue, irritability, brain fog, insomnia and pains. Include dark leafy vegetables, almonds, yoghurt , legumes, nuts and seeds in your diet.
- Take B Vitamins
These are so essential for hundreds of functions in our bodies. The liver uses various B vitamins to detoxify and eliminate estrogen from our bodies. Vitamin B6 increases the production of neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine. Low levels of these two can lead to lack of energy and mood swings. And without B6, the so important magnesium would not enter the cells.
Chasteberry (Vitex Agnus Castus) is not only known for treatment of menopause but also PMS. It normalizes the estrogen progesterone ratio and is best taken daily throughout the menstrual cycle. It is very useful to reduce symptoms of irritability, mood swings, anger, anxiety, headaches and breast tenderness.
Licorice lowers estrogen levels while simultaneously increasing progesterone levels. It also decreases water retention. It is not to be taken if you suffer from kidney problems or high blood pressure.
Maca, known as Peruvian Ginseng is known to balance hormones, and help normalize the menstrual cycle, both in terms of number of days in a cycle, the amount of blood flow, and the cramps. This power packed adaptogen is rich in magnesium, calcium, zinc and amino acids. It increases energy, boosts fertility and can be taken in smoothies or juices.
- See a holistic nutrition practitioner
This is the best thing you can too to balance those out of whack hormones and manage your PMS symptoms. There is no one treatment or herb that works for all. The symptoms may be common but they are unique to your body and a trained, experienced practitioner should be able to individualize a treatment plan just for you.
Women have been accepting the presence of the PMS monster as “normal” time of the month! It doesn’t have to be this way! Follow the above tips to maximise your emotional, physical and mental energy and claim your lives back.
Image Credit: Shutterstock/Jason Stitt