What is PMS?
PMS is an all too familiar term used by women across the globe. PMS stands for Pre Menstrual Syndrome which relates to symptoms that a women experiences a few days to a few weeks before the onset of menstruation. A variety of symptoms can be present with PMS. When making the diagnosis, it does not matter what the symptoms are, but instead the cyclical fashion in which they occur. Listed below are some of the more common symptoms experienced by women. Do any of these sound familiar to you?
- Abdominal Bloating
- Abdominal Cramping
- Back pain
- Breast Swelling/Pain
- Food Binges
- Joint swelling/pain
- Withdrawal from others
What are some possible causes?
There are numerous reasons why a women might experience PMS. Each of us is unique and each PMS case is different. Listed below are a few of the more common reasons for hormonal imbalance and discomfort around the menstrual period:
- High consumption of dairy products. Dairy promotes inflammation and causes hormonal imbalances because of all the hormones in dairy itself.
- Excessive consumption of caffeine. This includes all forms such as pop, chocolate, coffee, tea.
- Excessive consumption of high sugar foods (ie. candy, pop, white refined bread/pasta/rice). This increases insulin levels and inflammation in the body.
- Excess estrogen levels. This can be due to increased levels found in dairy, meat, using plastics or can be a result of poor elimination of estrogen by the liver and digestive system.
- Low levels of progesterone. When the body is under a lot of stress, this can lead to the accelerated breakdown of progesterone.
- A diet that promotes increased production of prostaglandins (inflammation) and also contributes to high levels of estrogen and low progesterone. Vegetarians who eat a whole food diet with high amounts of fibre are known to excrete 2-3x more estrogen in their feces than non-vegetarians.
- Excessive body weight increases the levels of estrogen and PMS. Body fat produces a harmful estrogen that negatively impacts the body.
- Nutritional deficiencies. Specifically Vit C, E, selenium, and B vitamins. These vitamins are necessary to metabolize estrogen properly. If you crave chocolate, this could signify a deficiency of magnesium. The liver also uses magnesium to metabolize estrogen properly.
- Lack of Exercise can also contribute to hormonal imbalance and worsening of PMS.
How can you help it?
- Detoxify- When the liver is “sluggish” or overwhelmed with toxins/chemicals, it prevents the proper metabolism of estrogen. This can lead to hormonal imbalances. When my patients detox, it is important that they eliminate coffee, sugar, alcohol, smoking, dairy and gluten for the duration of the cleanse. This will give the liver a break from processing all the “junk” in the diet and enhance its ability to metabolize the hormone estrogen-a huge proponent in not only PMS, but other female conditions. A medically supervised detox is essential and finding the right cleanse for you is equally important.
- Heal your Gut- If there is an imbalance between healthy bacteria in your gut and other bacteria, this too can affect estrogen metabolism and hormone balance. Supplementing with a good probiotic is a great way to help replenish your intestinal flora and promote estrogen excretion. This will also help to regulate any issues with constipation or diarrhea. If you have a high sugar diet or have ever been on an antibiotic, a probiotic supplement would be highly recommended. Please note that you cannot get enough probiotics through eating yogurt daily.
- Exercise- So many wonderful things come from a regular exercise routine. Balancing hormones, mood, regulating sleep and more. Get moving at least 3 times a week for 45 minutes.
- Manage Stress- Women who endure a lot of stress in their lives and find difficulty in managing it, are often complaining of severe PMS. This is because the hormone cortisol affects many other hormones. Try yoga, meditation or book an acupuncture session with me. By lowering stress and cortisol you will be balancing other hormones, especially progesterone which will help you feel better overall.
- Improve your Nutritional Profile– When the body has what it needs, it will regulate, balance and heal itself. Try journaling your daily food intake for one month. You may surprise yourself with your eating habits. I do this exercise with most of my patients and it proves to be very successful in pointing out deficiencies and hidden sources of sugars and fats. You can improve your diet by adding more fruits, veggies, lean protein sources and healthy grains, nuts and seeds. In addition to changing your diet you can get started on a B complex, which will help the liver to metabolize estrogen.
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Wishing you Balance,
Dr . Jen Cisternino, Naturopathic Doctor