Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and in more severe forms premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) refers to a collection of symptoms experienced anywhere between 1-2 weeks before a menstrual period and usually disappear soon after your period has begun. Each woman will experience her own unique collection of symptoms and therefore treatment will vary from person to person. PMS is cyclical in nature and symptoms are experienced monthly, however there should be a gap between menstrual cycles where the woman feels symptom free. The symptoms can vary so much that it’s often easier to categorise them into
subtypes. These include;
- PMS-A — Anxiety Irritability Nervous tension Crying for unknown reasons
- PMS-D — Depression Withdrawal from family and social situations. Insomnia Forgetfulness Confusion
- PMS-C — Increased appetite. Increased sugar cravings. Fatigue Palpitations Fainting spells Headaches
- PMS-H — Fluid retention Abdominal bloating Breast pain (mastalgia) Weight gain
Most people don’t fall into one specific subtype but can identify with one or more symptoms from each category. This is completely normal and having an understanding of which category you might fit, will help guide the direction for your treatment. The causes are commonly an imbalance between our two main hormones oestrogen and progesterone. Sometimes there is not enough progesterone in relation to oestrogen. Or sometimes it’s the other way around, hence the imbalance.
What you can do to try and work out a pattern in your symptoms
Keep track of your symptoms Download an App on your phone to help track your symptoms. You may notice a regular pattern of when your symptoms begin and which symptoms are consistent every month. Or track your cycle in a journal for three months, then bring it to the clinic for us to work out your treatment plan.
Every day changes you can make, will help ease your symptoms
Drink enough water each day.
- Avoid soft drinks and fruit juices.
- Eat a wide variety of vegetables with all meals.
- Decrease the amount of sugar and processed foods in your diet.
- Reduce caffeine.
- Reduce alcohol.
- Avoid smoking.
- Exercise on a daily basis.
- Ensure you are having adequate sleep.
- Nutrients that may help include magnesium, zinc, selenium, vitamin B6 and essential fatty acids such as evening primrose oil or fish oil.
As a naturopath, I can offer support through diet, nutrition and herbal medicine and create real differences for young girls who are just starting their menstrual cycles to women of all ages who are struggling with hormones. PMS/PMDD is a sign for me that your hormones and nutritional status aren’t in balance. In my clinical experience, going on the Oral contraceptive pill (OCP) isn’t the answer to solving these issues. The OCP may mask your symptoms while you are on this medication, however when you stop taking it; you will find your symptoms just return. In contrast, having a good regular period and being symptom free is a sign that your body is healthy and in balance.
We don’t want to suppress these hormones as when they are in balance, they can help us to feel energised, calm your anxiety down and maintain a healthy libido. Oestrogen is our feel good hormone; it boosts our serotonin and dopamine which are our feel good neurotransmitters. Progesterone is our calming hormone, it is anti-inflammatory and helps boost GABA, our calming neurotransmitter. Various blood tests identify common deficiencies such as iron, vitamin B12 or zinc. Other blood work may include liver enzymes, hormones such as prolactin and insulin to check for blood sugar balance where indicated. Correcting any imbalances or deficiencies and improving your diet may be the key to feeling great again.
Author: Mish Keats, Naturopath