What is PMS?
PMS, also known as premenstrual syndrome, is the physical and emotional symptoms that typically start two weeks before menstruation. Up to 80% of women are PMS can look like cramping, mood swings, acne/skin issues, appetite changes, and an array of other symptoms.
What Causes PMS?
There are numerous possible causes of PMS, and because every person is unique, treatment is more successful once the underlying causes are determined. Nutritional deficiencies and high stress can contribute to the PMS symptoms experienced. Other underlying conditions can be hormonal imbalances, such as high levels of oestrogen, low levels of progesterone, or lack of neurotransmitter responses to female hormones. PMS often shows up when there is an imbalance of hormones; this is where consulting with your naturopathic doctor about testing can be very helpful to pinpoint exactly what the root cause might be. Hormone testing can be costly, and take time to get the results back. So until then, there are a few things you can do right now to support your cycle and minimize the chance of PMS.
Blood Sugar Balancing
Small, regular, balanced meals are a great way to keep your blood sugar balanced throughout the day. What does a balanced meal look like?
Each meal should contain a serving of protein (animal or plant proteins), a healthy fat (avocado, extra virgin olive oil, nuts/seeds, or a wild-caught fatty fish), and about half your plate is vegetables.
Avoid Naked Carbs! When referring to naked carbs, we mean simple carbohydrates that are consumed alone. These can be things such as pasta, bread, and pastries, essentially all processed carbohydrates that contain no protein and no fiber. Alone, these can cause sharp spikes in your blood sugar and, when consistently consumed over long periods, can lead to insulin resistance. When the body has difficulty regulating blood sugar, it often produces hormone imbalances. One way to avoid spikes in blood sugar is to pair your carb with fiber or protein!
Address Nutrient Deficiencies
Ensure you are getting a wide variety of fruits and vegetables each week to prevent nutrient deficiencies. Plus, the variety of fruits and vegetables helps support a healthy microbiome. An easy way to do this is to choose 2-3 new fruits or vegetables to add to your weekly routine.
Limit Caffeine and Alcohol
Both contribute to inflammation in the body and are best avoided, especially if experiencing severe PMS symptoms.
Adequate omega-3 fatty acids can reduce inflammation and effectively combat pain-related symptoms of PMS. Including high-quality fat in every meal is a great way to ensure you get enough. Foods such as wild-caught tuna & salmon, walnuts, flaxseeds, other nuts/seeds, and seaweed are all high-quality sources of fats.
Keeping your gut healthy and microbiome balanced is essential for immune health, and neurotransmitter production, and ensuring toxins are eliminated properly from the body. Eat fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi, miso and sauerkraut. Also consume prebiotic foods (that feed the good bacteria) stewed apples with cinnamon, flaxseeds, oats and legumes.
Stress has a tremendous impact on hormone balance and, when experienced in excess, can increase the length and severity of PMS-related symptoms. Stress management techniques are essential to incorporate throughout your cycle to help reduce PMS when it comes to menstruating.
It can be helpful to increase your magnesium-rich foods during your cycle. This can help the muscles relax and result in a reduction in pain. Excellent sources of magnesium include legumes, nuts, seeds, dark leafy green vegetables, and cacao.
Clary Sage and Lavender essential oil can relieve tension, alleviate cramping, ease anxiety/depression and reduce inflammation. These essential oils can be placed in a diffuser or applied topically with carrier oil to your abdomen.
Hot water bottles, heat packs, and warm baths, when surrounding the abdomen, work wonders at reducing pain during severe cramping. The heat helps increase blood flow to the uterus, which helps relax the muscles. Applying heat for 10-15 minutes at a time can significantly reduce pain associated with cramping.
It is always essential to consult with your naturopathic doctor before incorporating new herbal remedies into your daily routine. But herbs can be a safe and effective way to manage pain during your cycle. Not to mention, when used in moderation, there is no risk of liver damage, as with NSAID use.
Ginger is helpful when dealing with nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea from cramping or hormonal changes. Ginger is known for its stomach soothing and anti-inflammatory abilities. A 2007 study with about 150 women found that women who took ginger capsules three times a day a few days before their period found the same amount of pain relief as those that took ibuprofen three times a day a few days before their period. So essentially, ginger is just as effective at reducing period pain as ibuprofen.
Crampbark is a commonly used plant to help relieve menstrual cramps. It acts as an antispasmodic and also can help relax uterine muscles. This herb can be used on both spasmodic and congestive cramps.
Anti-Spasmodic Herbs: These herbs are known for their ability to lessen muscle spasms and reduce pain.
Crampbark, blue and black cohosh, skullcap, & wild yam
Uterine Tonic Herbs: These herbs are known for their strengthening, toning, and soothing effect on the female reproductive system.
Red Raspberry Leaf, Black Cohosh, Don Quai
If you are looking into hormone testing or want to dive deeper into the root cause of your PMS symptoms, reach out to our office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Kizzy.