Premenstrual syndrome or “PMS” is often used in a joking manner among women and men when it comes to women not feeling “themselves” prior to menstruation. The truth of the matter is, PMS is no joke. For some, symptoms can cause mental health struggles, decreased work productivity and strains on relationships.
Many women think this phase of the menstrual cycle which typically lasts any where from a few days for some women, to two weeks for others is “normal” and something they just need to deal with.
Women can experience a multitude of PMS symptoms each month. They may include:
- Irritability and rage
- Headaches and migraines
- Pelvic cramping
- Breast tenderness
- Skin breakouts
- Food cravings (and we aren’t talking kale)
What’s to Blame?
Estrogen and progesterone are two hormones that play a huge part in your monthly cycles. If they are not being secreted in large enough amounts, or too much (estrogen mainly), this can have major implications in how you are feeling each month before your period.
A chemical (neurotransmitter) in your brain call serotonin can have effects on PMS as well. Mood changes, such as depression, as well as fatigue and appetite changes can be caused by inadequate serotonin secretion.
Ever feel like you’ve had a few good months with less PMS and then WHAM, you have a horrible cycle of PMS? If you’ve had an increase in stress recently, you may notice more PMS symptoms, as stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline can affect hormones such as progesterone causing an increase in symptoms.
What you can do about it
To manage PMS, modern medicine often relies on birth control pills or pharmaceuticals for neurotransmitter support as first line therapy. There are also integrative solutions which are less invasive and don’t have potential side effects.
Effective natural solutions include:
- Acupuncture and Chinese medicine – Acupuncture is a non-invasive, side effect free therapy that can improve PMS by increasing endorphins in the body (opiate-like substances released from the pain which can have a pain relieving effect). Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can also improve the quality of the menstrual cycle by increasing circulation to the ovaries, uterus and glands in the brain that help to secrete hormones like estrogen and progesterone. Reducing inflammation is also a common direct effect of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. Inflammation can make PMS much worse!
- Talk with your provider about taking a vitamin B6 supplement. Studies have shown it to improve PMS, specially mood before your period.
- Be sure your digestion is functioning optimally, as this can assist the body in removing excess hormones. Especially estrogen. Too much harmful estrogen, can cause more PMS.
- Reduce foods high in histamine such as alcohol and dairy products.
PMS doesn’t have to be something you just “deal with”. By taking control of your cycle, you don’t have to dread the days leading up to your period!