If you're a woman you've probably either had PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) or know someone close to you that suffers from it.
It's thought around half of women still menstruating will suffer some kind of symptoms during their cycle, including mood issues, bloating, cravings, fatigue and depression.
But just because it's common does not mean you have to put up with it!
Here's my lowdown on PMS and how you can regain control.
You can watch the video below or listen to the podcast (episode 109).
Common PMS Symptoms
There are lots of potential symptoms associated with PMS however these are some common ones;
- Acne or breakouts
- Tender breasts
- Water retention
- Bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, nausea
- Headaches or migraines
- Mood swings
- Brain fog
- Anxiety or depression
When symptoms are severe, you may be diagnosed with PMDD – Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.
When does it happen?
Women can suffer from PMS at any time from puberty up to final menopause. It's particularly common during the peri-menopause, when it can reappear with a vengeance!
Most PMS symptoms strike up to 2 weeks before your period, and they often disappear once your period starts.
What are the causes of PMS?
PMS is not just about your female hormones. There are multiple factors that can contribute to your symptoms.
- Oestrogen/progesterone imbalance – there should be a nice ratio of oestrogen and progesterone when hormones are balanced, however this can vary and an imbalance in either of these 2 hormones can cause PMS symptoms, especially cramping, bloating, breast tenderness and mood swings
- Sluggish liver – when your liver is backed up (with chemicals, toxins, medications or other waste products) it can affect how your hormones are detoxified and eliminated. This can upset that delicate balance of oestrogen and progesterone.
- Blood sugar imbalance – if your diet is high in sugar or refined carbohydrates, your blood sugar may be out of balance. You may have too much insulin running around, which can be inflammatory and can also increase oestrogen levels.
- Nutrient deficiencies – many nutrients are needed for a smooth monthly cycle. When your diet is lacking or you're stressed out, you can easily become deficient. The key nutrients I'm seeing deficiencies in are magnesium, zinc, B vitamins, iron, folate and Vitamin D. It's easy to get these tested.
- Low serotonin – we need serotonin to boost our mood, reduce cravings and manage pain, all key symptoms of PMS! If you're spending a lot of time indoors, you're nutrient deficient or you have digestive issues, you may be low in serotonin.
- Stress! Too much cortisol can suppress your sex hormones and mess with your brain neurotransmitters. This can mess with your cycle!
- Gut disorders – many of your hormones are regulated in your gut, so if your gut isn't happy, your hormones may not be either!
- Weight – if you're overweight or obese, this can increase your chances of suffering PMS. If you're too underweight, you're more at risk of missing periods (or amenorrhea).
Natural solutions to PMS
- Eat hormone friendly foods – eat real whole foods, lots of healthy fats, good quality protein, low GL carbs, and plenty of vegetables to balance blood sugar and insulin. If this is hard or not accessible for you, my tip is to make yourself a daily smoothie with a good quality protein and green powder to get your nutrients in. I don't normally advocate snacking, but for the week running up to your period, you may feel more hungry or need a boost, so snack on nuts, seeds, hummus, oatcakes, veggies or low sugar fruit.
- Try cycle syncing throughout the month – eat, exercise and plan your activities according to the 4 phases of your cycle; menstruation, follicular, ovulation and luteal.
- Support your liver – reduce caffeine/alcohol/processed/sugar, especially in the week or so before your period is due. Drink plenty of water to make sure you're hydrated. Include lots of cruciferous vegetables in your diet to help your liver detoxify excess oestrogen (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, chard, rocket, watercress, Brussel sprouts).
- Stress management – switch off that ‘fight or flight' response every day with some mindfulness, relaxation, reading, music, laughter, walking in nature, yoga, Epsom baths.
- Increase serotonin (and melatonin) – maintain a good daily Circadian rhythm; get some daylight every day (that's how serotonin is stimulated). Make sure your body gets the message to make your melatonin (sleep hormone) by not going to bed too late (aim for 11pm latest), make sure your bedroom is dark, and avoid gadgets and screens 2 hours before bed
- Support your gut – remember to chew your food! Digestion starts in your mouth. Include probiotic foods (live yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut), diversify your veggies (the more the merrier for your gut bugs!). Work with a practitioner if your gut isn’t happy so you can identify the root cause of your issues.
Certain supplements can be really helpful to give your hormones a boost. Here are some of my favourites;
- A good quality MultiVitamin – with active B vitamins and all your minerals
- Vitamin D3 & K2
- Antioxidant or liver support (with milk thistle)
- 5HTP for serotonin (check with your Dr if you're on medication)
- Adrenal support formula (look for ashwaghanda, rhodiola or L-theanine)
- Omega fats; EPA, DHA and GLA for inflammation/pain
- Vitex Agnus Castus for low progesterone
- CBD oil can help with mood, sleep and pain
Check out our favourite recommended brands at Approved Vitamins. And as always please check with your Doctor if you're on any medication or have an existing health condition.
If you'd like help with your PMS or want to chat to us about any other health issue, do contact us for more information on how we can help.