PMS can have a huge impact on a woman’s well-being and can literally change one’s life. We now know that premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms are experienced by 75% of all women. However, the exact cause of PMS has been difficult for researchers to pinpoint simply because each woman experiences PMS symptoms differently.
What is PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)?
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a conglomeration of over 150 symptoms experienced by many women between the time they ovulate and the onset of menstruation. PMS includes a variety of physical, behavioral, and psychological symptoms. A rare but more severe form of the syndrome is called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), officially labeled as a disease in 1987. It is estimated that up to 75% of all menstruating women have some symptoms of PMS before or during the menses. Approximately 3-7% of these women experience the more intense symptoms associated with PMDD. These may last from 4-10 days and be very disruptive to a woman’s normal daily activities. Some women report that symptoms begin as early as puberty, but the onset of PMS is most often found between the ages of 20-30. Symptoms usually continue until menopause.
When making a determination about PMS symptoms, the most important tool you can use is a chart of the cyclic nature in which they occur. If nothing is done to interrupt PMS, it often gets worse over time. You may begin by having symptoms just a few days before menses that stop abruptly as soon as your period begins. Later, the symptoms gradually begin to appear one to two weeks before the onset of menses. Over time, you may have only two or three days of the month that are symptom-free. Eventually no discernible pattern of good days and bad days can be detected. You feel as if you have PMS all of the time.
There are general PMS symptoms that have been determined that include:
- Abdominal bloating
- Abdominal cramping
- Accident proneness, coordination difficulties
- Acne, hives
- Aggression, rage
- Alcohol intolerance
- Anxiety, irritability, suicidal thoughts
- Back pain
- Blood sugar shifts
- Breast swelling and pain
- Depression, withdrawal from others, emotional liability
- Exacerbation of preexisting conditions (lupus, arthritis, ulcers, herpes, etc.)
- Fatigue, lethargy
- Food binges, salt cravings, sweet cravings
- Headache, migraine
- Heart palpitations
- Joint swelling and pain
- Sex drive changes
- Sinus problems
- Sore throat
- Urinary difficulties
Don’t confuse PMS with cramps occurring at the beginning of menses, which is a different condition.
Chart Your PMS Pattern
You don’t have to suffer. By keeping a chart of your symptoms, you can often begin to see a pattern emerge and predict when the symptoms will start. Keeping a daily symptom journal can be a valuable tool when trying to uncover premenstrual symptom triggers and the issues associated with them. Many events and other factors can contribute to or trigger PMS by resulting in hormonal changes in the body, including:
- Onset of menses
- Discontinuing birth control pills
- Childbirth, or termination of pregnancy
- Toxemia during pregnancy
- Tubal ligation
- Unusual trauma
- Decreased light associated with autumn and winter
- Family history of alcoholism; parent or grandparent who is an alcoholic
- High consumption of dairy products
- Excessive consumption of caffeine (soft drinks, coffee, chocolate)
- High blood levels of estrogen
- Low blood levels of progesterone, either due to lack of production or excessive breakdown
- Diet that leads to increased levels of the hormone prostaglandin F2
- Excess body weight which can increase you levels of estrogen
- Low levels of vitamins B, C and/or E
- Selenium deficiency
- Magnesium deficiency causing chocolate cravings
End PMS Suffering
Many of the factors in this list can be controlled. For years conventional medicine has given symptomatic treatments for PMS that do not work. Many practitioners do not keep up with the latest research on hormone balancing and some really do not believe that PMS is even real. Treating a woman’s bloating with diuretics, headaches with painkillers, depression with anti-depressants and anxiety with Valium ignores the underlying imbalance that led to PMS. And many of the treatments prescribed often have side effects. Psychotherapy can provide insight about stress, but this bypasses the nutritional and biochemical aspects of this disorder.
Don’t give up! There are answers that can relieve PMS symptoms:
- Adopt a diet high in fresh, in-season, organic fruits and vegetables. Eat three meals per day including 2-3 healthy snacks.
- Add omega–3 fatty acids in the form of EPA/DHA in the amount of 2–3 grams per day.
- Review your dietary needs eliminating caffeine, refined sugar, hormone laden grocery store dairy/meat, processed foods and soy.
- Add healthy oils to your diet such as unrefined coconut oil, hemp seed oil, cold-pressed olive oil, walnut oil, grape seed oil.
- Keep your liver clean. A sluggish liver can have trouble in effectively filtering out excess hormones.
- Drink lots of purified water. Don’t allow yourself to become dehydrated.
- Eliminate personal care products that contain hormone disrupting chemicals.
- Take a foundational organic multivitamin mineral supplement such as intraMAX.
- Supplement with extra magnesium. I recommend Magnesium Orotate.
- Reduce stress as much as possible.
- Get at least 30 minute of exercise five times per week. Walking outside. Rebounding. Pilates. Tennis. Swimming. Yoga. Tai Chi. Kick Boxing.
- Try reflexology.
- Go to bed at the same time every night including weekends. Try to get at 8-9 hours of sleep in a dark and cool room.
- Use full-spectrum lighting in your home and office.
- Saliva test your sex hormone levels — estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEAS and cortisol.
- Many have found success in taking the herb Chaste Tree Berry (Vitex). However, it can take 3-6 months for complete symptom relief. If saliva testing indicates low progesterone|estrogen levels, ask your practitioner about using bioidentical progesterone USP cream.
- Test thyroid levels. Request levels for TSH, FREE T3, FREE T4, Reverse T3, Ferritin, % Saturation, TIBC and serum iron. Also B12, folate, Vitamin D3 and MTHFR gene.
Changing the factors that can contribute to PMS is one of the best ways to reduce symptoms and find relief. Remember that it takes about 21 days to change a habit. We all have the ability to change so Don’t Give Up! Begin at a rate that is comfortable to you and before long you may find that PMS is something that you “used” to experience.