PMS. Premenstrual Syndrome is a very real phenomenon experienced by a vast majority of women during their menstruating years. It is estimated that almost 90% of women experience some premenstrual symptoms!
In this article we’re going to cover:
The premenstrual symptoms
What causes PMS
What natural treatments you can use for PMS
The top 5 things you can do today to help PMS
If at any time you wish to discuss how a naturopathic doctor can help with PMS, you can book a free call with Dr. Keara by clicking here.
PMS is defined as recurrent physical, psychological and emotional symptoms that affect quality of life and occur cyclically during the luteal phase of the cycle (the week or two before your period begins).
While the exact causes of PMS are unknown, it is thought to be related to hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle. Whatever the cause, PMS can be a real challenge to deal with.
Luckily, there are a number of things you can do to help ease the symptoms of PMS. If you or someone you know is struggling with PMS, then keep reading as we are going to cover the symptoms of PMS, likely causes of PMS, treatments, and things you can do right away to help PMS.
Many people think that moodiness and irritability during PMS is all there is to it, but in actuality this can be just one symptom of PMS among many others. There are so many more things you need watch out for!
Some of the most common premenstrual symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Heart palpitations
- Water retention
- Difficulty concentrating
It’s true that PMS can be pretty uncomfortable and inconvenient. As you can see there is a lot more to PMS that needs to be looked at and addressed. The more you know about your symptoms, the better!
The good news is that PMS can be managed once you have identified the symptoms specific to you.
Before we dive into what you can do to help your PMS symptoms, it is important to understand where your PMS is coming from.
So what causes PMS?
You may have heard that PMS is caused by a hormone imbalance. This isn’t exactly true, as women with PMS have been shown to have the same levels of hormones compared to those without PMS.
Instead, PMS is believed to be caused by a sensitivity to the fluctuating levels of ovarian hormones. Since these hormones influence neurotransmitters serotonin and GABA, this sensitivity leads to the symptoms of PMS.
How do we test for PMS? Is it in the blood?
Blood work can tell reveal many things that are going on in the body, but unfortunately not in the is case.
The doctors of yesteryear thought that reviewing blood work could show us different levels when symptoms of PMS were present. As more attention was put on PMS we have seen that when it comes to blood tests, hormone levels are usually found in the normal range. Blood testing is not helpful for diagnosing and treating PMS.
What is the Best Way to Assess PMS?
The best way to assess for whether hormones are at the cause of your symptoms is to track your symptoms across your menstrual cycle for a full 2-3 cycles/months.
The easiest way to do this is to download a period tracking app like Clue, Period Tracker, or Flo. Of course, you can also use a paper calendar and pen! The first day of your period is considered day 1 of your cycle, and through the whole cycle (likely anywhere from 24 to 34 days), you want to take note of your symptoms (mood swings, irritability, bloating, breast tenderness, energy, etc.). The hardest part is remembering to keep track, so I recommend doing this at the same time each day, i.e. before bed, to make it a routine.
Once you have gathered all this information, you want to take it to a Naturopathic Doctor who focuses on hormonal health.
With this information, you can consult your Naturopathic Doctor who will be able to identify trends and see whether hormones may have a hand in the symptoms that are bothering you.
How do we treat PMS?
As Naturopathic Doctors, we take a holistic and comprehensive approach to treatment. In terms of PMS, a naturopathic doctor uses nutrition, nutraceuticals as well lifestyle changes such a diet or exercise plans in order support hormone balance throughout your entire cycle so you can feel good all month long.
Before I share some general tips that can help you, I want you to remember that each person is unique, and while these can help, it is important that you get to the root of your unique symptoms.
Here are the top 5 ways you can get started today!
1. Consume more whole grains and complex carbohydrates.
This one might surprise you. What if I told you that the most important macronutrient to minimize PMS symptoms is carbohydrates? The type of carbs matters too! Research shows that the most important macronutrient to minimize PMS symptoms is carbohydrates, and specifically – complex carbs!
Increasing whole grains reduces both the physical and emotional symptoms of PMS. A quick way to get started is to incorporate foods like wild or brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, rye bread, sweet potatoes, etc.
2. Don’t Stress!
I know, so much easier said than done. Higher levels of perceived stress are associated with increased premenstrual symptoms.
The fact is that stress is an inevitable part of our modern-day lifestyle, and trying to remove all stressors is not realistic. It’s really important to get your stress response under control.
What really matters when it comes to our health outcomes is our perceived stress. i.e. how well we feel we can manage the stressors in our life. Here are some things to think about to assess your levels of perceived stress:
-Do you feel confident in your ability to handle issues that come up day to day?
-Do you often feel nervous or stressed out?
-Do you feel like you are on top of things in your life?
-Do you feel easily angered by things that are outside of your control?
A huge first step in managing your stress it to be aware of your stress levels. It’s important to bring in some practices and strategies to manage the stressors. That could include exercise, good quality sleep, adrenal support, engaging in hobbies, being in nature, etc.
Whether you have just started your period or are approaching menopause, exercise is an excellent way to manage PMS symptoms. Not only does it improve mood but can also reduce bloating and the other physical discomfort symptoms associated with your period.
Start by engaging 20-30 minutes of activity 4 days per week so that soon enough these sessions will become part ‘wants’ rather than ‘chores’ because they’re good for us both inside AND out. It can be anything that you enjoy – a brisk walk in nature, a yoga class, sex, weight lifting, etc.
4. Continue tracking your menstrual cycle and know which phase you are in!
Not only does tracking your symptoms help to diagnose PMS, but continuing to track your menstrual cycle and knowing which phase you are in can help to improve your PMS experience. When you know that you are in your luteal phase (the week or two before your period) and are more susceptive to symptoms of PMS, this can in and of itself help to make the symptoms feel more manageable. It is empowering to know what is happening in your body, and is super important and useful and you continue to work on the underlying causes.
5.Consider nutraceuticals like vitamin D, chaste tree, and calcium.
A few of the herbs and nutrients that have been shown to be effective for PMS in our tool kit include chaste tree or vitex berry, calcium, and vitamin D. We always recommend working with an ND to determine which supplements and at what dose will be the most effective and safe for you.
Premenstrual syndrome is a group of symptoms that many women experience in the days leading up to their menstrual period. While the exact cause of PMS is still unknown, we do know that it can be caused by a combination of factors including hormone fluctuations, diet, stress, and lifestyle choices.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to help manage your symptoms. If you’re looking for some immediate relief, start with the five tips you can start using today.
For more long-term solutions, book a free consultation with Dr. Keara, one of our naturopathic doctors – she will work with you to create a personalized treatment plan tailored specifically to your needs. We hope this article has been helpful – please share it!
Here’s to feeling like yourself again – all month long!
Dr. Keara Taylor, ND is passionate about helping women to feel at home and guided by the wisdom of their bodies. She believes that our symptoms are indications that our bodies and lifestyles are out of balance. Dr. Keara combines comprehensive evaluation with in depth lab testing when necessary to determine the root cause of symptoms. She uses evidence based and traditional forms of medicine to come up with an individualized treatment plan that may include clinical nutrition, botanical medicine and nutrient supplementation, IV Drip therapy, BHRT and acupuncture.