PMS is such a common occurrence that women assume it is ‘normal’. PMS is NOT normal, just because it is common does not mean it is how your body is supposed to respond. With 70-90% of all women experiencing some premenstrual symptoms I do believe we’ve got ourselves an epidemic. PMS is one of the most common complaints I hear from my clients and it’s something I myself used to suffer with regularly. I no longer suffer from PMS like I once did, however from time to time I do get some minor symptoms. That usually correlates with excess stress in my life or during a time when my diet may not have been as ‘clean’ as I personally need it to be to avoid PMS. In this post I am going to share some information about PMS, as well as a holistic guide to help resolve PMS in your life.
(The image below is meant to make you laugh – I’m sure many of you can relate).
Did You Know?
- It is possible to be ‘mood free’ by your next cycle just by adjusting your diet and getting the right supplements
- Anywhere from 70-90% of women of childbearing age suffer from PMS
- PMS depression can be alleviated by simply ditching starches/sugars/carbs
- Between 50-60% of former SSRI takers relapse into depression as well as PMS
- PMS is NOT ‘normal’ or healthy
- Up to 30% of women with PMS have some kind of thyroid problem
- Adrenal hormones are important to healthy menstruation, and stress is known to affect the menstrual cycle. Increased symptoms of PMS are a sign of adrenal fatigue.
PMS & Mood
(A little comedy there for ya!)
If you find you have a reasonable temperament for the majority of the month, but become overly emotional, easily irritated or on edge before your period – you are experiencing PMS.
Anxiety that is experienced as a symptom of PMS typically can be supported with magnesium and diet, though not in all cases. Depression in PMS may respond well to zinc, B6, magnesium and tryptophan. Typically what PMS results in is due to a lack of adequate nutrients, excess stress, and imbalanced neurotransmitters and hormones. If you find that you still suffer from PMS after balancing blood sugar, eating clean (Paleo type dietary template) and working towards healing your gut, then it’s time to get your adrenals and possibly thyroid tested. Start with an Adrenal Salivary Index Test and go from there.
Factors That Contribute to PMS
- Poor Diet- A real food diet is key. Ditching all processed foods, ditching sugars and even finding hidden food allergens will go a long way to getting rid of PMS. A nutrient poor diet does not give the body the nutrition needed to combat issues such as PMS. Therefore this will be the first place to start when attempting to resolve issues with PMS.
- Stress– Excess stress added on top of not getting adequate nutrition is a recipe for disaster. Stress also impacts overall hormones and neurotransmitters and that plays a big role in PMS. Therefore, stress management and support are also a good place to start resolving PMS. Excess ongoing stress also causes the body to steal pregnenolone to make more cortisol, this in turn depletes progesterone. Low Progesterone is a key indicator in PMS. Stress will also impact your adrenal function.
- Low Serotonin– When serotonin is low or deficient one can become irritable, snap easily, overly emotional and just on ‘edge’. If PMS persists after addressing diet, stress and basic supplements like fish oil, probiotics, adequate vitamin D and b vitamins, consider that low serotonin could be the issue. Severe PMS is often a sign of serotonin imbalance.
- Low GABA– If you feel unusually stressed as a symptom of PMS this could mean your progesterone and GABA levels are low. PMS or excessive menstrual bleeding could be a sign of low GABA.
- Low Progesterone – A sudden drop in progesterone the week prior to your cycle could contribute to PMS insomnia. Endorphin levels should peak mid-cycle during ovulation but in women with PMS they do not. They tend to be low through the whole cycle. Excess ongoing stress will affect your progesterone levels. It is beyond the scope of this course however to further address issues with low progesterone. If you suspect you have a hormonal imbalance and severe PMS continues consider getting testing done that includes cortisol, DHEA, estrogen, progesterone & testosterone.
- Toxic Liver- toxic build up in the liver can contribute to PMS (and even poor memory). PMS worsens with constipation and liver toxicity. The worse your PMS chances are you may need to assess what is going on with your liver.
Specific Nutrients & Practices to Support PMS
- 5-HTP and/or Tryptophan – If you can recall tryptophan is used to help with low serotonin issues, and 5-HTP is the precursor to serotonin. Start out with 50 – 150 mg of 5-HTP at bedtime and add the same amount mid-afternoon if that dose does not help. In the case that 5-HTP doesn’t do the trick try adding tryptophan. 500-1500 mg of tryptophan at bedtime, and another dose if you feel you need it mid-afternoon. Play around with these to find what dosage works for you since everyone will be different. As a side benefit, you should experience amazing sleep with these supplements as well.
- Saint John’s Wort– If you don’t respond well to 5-HTP or tryptophan, St. John’s Wort could be a good bet for you. If you have thyroid issues this may be the case for you. It’s not common that the 5-HTP or tryptophan would not help, so this is suggested in rare cases and likely for those with thyroid issues. A capsule at bedtime or dropperful, 300-600 mg. Another afternoon dose can be added as needed.
- Magnesium/B6– Magnesium will go a long way to reducing breast pain, weight gain, tension and headaches, sugar cravings, helping with low blood sugar and dizziness related to PMS. Start with 400 mg. and work from there. Add 100 mg. a day if 400 does not seem to help. You will have to kind of work to find a dose that is right for you because stress quickly depletes magnesium. Too much magnesium will cause loose stools and you may need to use topical magnesium such as; magnesium gel or oil. B6 taken along with magnesium reduces PMS related anxiety. 50-100 mg per day of B6. Remember B6 plays a huge role in the production of neurotransmitters, including serotonin.
- Vitamin D– Important in preventing depression and mood disorders in general, it also plays a powerful anti-inflammatory role in the body. Make sure your levels are adequate.
- Inositol – helps with issues of low serotonin. Use this when 5-HTP or tryptophan are not enough. It could also be helpful in cases of insulin resistance (discussed in the Blood Sugar & Mood Lesson). Make sure there is inositol in your B vitamins or multi-vitamins.
- Chasteberry (Pictured Above)- Increases progesterone by stimulating the production of luteinizing hormone. Chasteberry at doses of 500 to 1000 mg per day raises progesterone levels. Work with your practitioner and get tested before taking chasteberry.
- Herbs/Homeopathy – see an herbalist or homeopath for individual recommendations. I like a tea from Mountain Rose Herbs called Women’s Freedom Tea, it has some key herbs that are specifically known to support PMS in it. Homeopathy in PMS has been shown to reduce symptoms in a small group by 90 percent. (source)
- Massage/Acupuncture – both have been shown to improve PMS. They are wonderful therapies that can benefit the body as a whole, not to mention mood disorders aside from PMS.
- Exercise– Moderate frequent exercise will also go a long way to decreasing PMS. (do not overexercise, this will make things worse).
Steps Towards Resolving PMS
- Focus on a modified Paleo diet – (this is a Properly Prepared Nutrient Dense diet minus grains/legumes/sugars and sometimes cuts out dairy). Avoid sugar, cut back on starchy carbs (no grains), eliminate caffeine and alcohol.
- Find a good Multi-Vitamin and Multi-Mineral. Biotics Research has a great broad spectrum multi specifically formulated to be supportive for PMS called PMT (Pre-Menstrual Tension).
- Include good fats in your diet and avoid the bad ones as well as make sure you are getting adequate Omega 3s.
- Include Probiotics or Fermented Foods on a daily basis.
- Get your vitamin D levels checked and supplement if needed.
- Try additional support if needed, such as; vitamin B6, magnesium, chaste tree, 5-HTP, Tryptophan or St. John’s Wort.
- Include daily liver support, such as milk thistle tea, plenty of water with lemon or beet kvass.
- Consider trying massage or acupuncture right before your cycle.
- If PMS is not resolved with these steps -consider getting your adrenals tested with an ASI test. If you suspect you have a hormonal imbalance and severe PMS continues consider getting testing done that includes cortisol, DHEA, estrogen, progesterone & testosterone.
Here is a Five Point Strategy for PMS, along with a 5-Part Nutritional Wellness Protocol by Dr. Alex Vasquez.
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Lydia Joy Shatney is a certified Nutritional Therapist Practitioner through the Nutritional Therapy Association. Additionally, she is the chapter leader for the Weston A. Price Foundation in Delaware County, Pa. (Find the group here on Facebook). Lydia is also a member of the Nourished Living Network. Lydia founded Divine Health From The Inside Out in March of 2010. You can find Lydia on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest. Sign up for the Divine Health From The Inside Out newsletter! Pick up a copy of Lydia’s eBook; ‘Divine Dinners: Gluten-Free, Nourishing, Family-Friendly Meals’.
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