Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is characterised by a collection of symptoms that occur in the days leading up to, and including a female’s menstruation period. For some women this can be as long as 14 days from ovulation to menses. The media and our world has created this idea that PMS is normal and that women become "crazy at that time of the month'. Yes some light cramps on the first day of your period or feeling a little teary the day before, is normal. Your uterus is contracting and you're experiencing a dip in hormones at this time, which is going to have an effect on you! It is when these symptoms start to impact your life negatively such as days off work, use of pain medication monthly, and mood issues affecting your daily function for days on end that these symptoms need to be addressed. Below is 5 types of PMS that are often seen together and some strategies to address these. It is possible, and common, to have a combination of two or more types
PMS-A (Anxiety)- this is characterised by mood swings, nervous tension, irritability, anxiety, and the most common type of PMS I see in clinic. Usually caused by a high oestrogen/ low progesterone ratio, and is commonly seen in women with chronic stress. This is essentially due to progesterone and our stress hormone cortisol being made from the same thing in the body. The body will always preferentially choose making stress hormones over fertility hormones. Production of stress hormones helps with survival, whereas progesterone is not so crucial. Working on lowering stress levels is really important by doing gentle exercises such as yoga and pilates, meditiation and breathing exercises. Herbs that can be helpful are Chaste tree and Peony for progesterone support, and Holy Basil for stress, along with nutrients magnesium, zinc and B6.
PMS-C (Cravings)- Women with PMS-C will typically have an increased appetite leading up to their period and strong food cravings especially for sugary foods, and/ or carbohydrates. Other symptoms include headaches, fatigue, moodiness, dizziness, heart palpitations and irritability all caused by unstable blood sugar levels. Dietary treatment involves, small meals regularly (5 per day), that include a protein, fat and complex carbohydrate source e.g 1 poached egg on spelt toast with ¼ avocado. Herbs that may help are Cinnamon, Gymnema and Nigella to balance blood sugar, along with magnesium and chromium.
PMS-D (Depression)- Not to be confused with anxiety, they feel depressed, cry easily, become forgetful, confused and may experience insomnia. This is often caused by low oestrogen, which prevents the production of serotonin. Exercise is really important, making sure to get your heart rate up. Aim for 40 minutes at least 4 times a week. Phytoestrogen rich foods such as ground flaxseeds, fennel, legumes and fermented soy foods such as miso may be helpful to increase oestrogen. Herbs that may be of help are Black cohosh, Withania, St johns wort, and Dong quai.
PMS- H (Hyperhydration)- This type has fluid retention, painful swollen breasts, weight gain, and abdominal bloating. This is caused by high aldosterone which increases reabsorption of water and sodium from the kidneys leading to excess water weight. High prolactin is also a cause and causes breast tenderness in this type. High prolactin can be caused by a number of reasons, which may need to be checked with your medical practitioner. For symptomatic relief, avoid salty foods and sugary foods. Herbs such as Dandelion leaf, Nettle, and Clivers help reduce fluid. Dry body brushing can also help stimulate lymphatic clearance.
PMS- P (Pain)- Painful periods, and also painful joints, lower back, abdomen and head is caused by increased pro-inflammatory prostaglandins. It is also important to rule out conditions such as endometriosis and fibroids if you experience pain. Try reducing inflammatory foods such as sugar, coffee, refined carbohydrates, excess red meat, vegetable oils and nightshade vegetables (tomato, capsicum, eggplant, white potatoes). Herbs such as turmeric, ginger, feverfew and peony will be your friends.
Tess Doig- Naturopath
If you are experiencing any of the following, Tess is available for consultations Mon- Thu via the clinic or Skype. To find out more, visit here
The above is recommended advice only. Some of these herbs interact with medications, and it is best to see your natural health practitioner for support.