HORMONE SERIES | The Truth About PMS
First of all, PMS is real. Those of you dealing with it every single month know this all too well. Don’t let anyone tell you that it is just in your head. Internalizing someone else’s opinions about your body messes with your feelings of self-worth and acts as an impediment to healing. Second, PMS isn’t normal. That’s right. It is not just part of being female. You don’t have to suffer. Yep, I said it. Okay, so what can you do? TONS.
Before we dive in, I want to take a step back and touch on the concept of quick fixes again and hopefully offer some perspective. When we are scouring the Internet for solutions to our problems we often land on pages that describe our symptoms and tell us our progesterone is too low or our estrogen is too high. In response, we try to spot treat with supplements or add a new food to our diet. This is where research goes awry because now you are starting to think of progesterone deficiency or estrogen excess as the root cause of all of your problems. You have to take a step back and ask the bigger question – what caused the hormonal imbalance in the first balance? Nutrient deficiencies? Blood sugar issues? The birth control pill? Uncontrolled stress? If you don’t address the true root cause, the symptoms will keep popping up again no matter how many supplements you throw at them.
This is as true for PMS as it is for any other hormonal imbalance. So when I tell you that PMS is normally the result of estrogen excess don’t start popping Vitex supplements. Figure out what is causing the excess estrogen or progesterone deficiency and go from there. Got it? Don’t worry, I’ll walk you through the basic steps you need to take for overall hormone balance and we’ll troubleshoot from there.
Let’s start off by describing some symptoms of PMS. You are likely all too familiar with them, but just in case, symptoms include:
· Breast Tenderness or Pain
· Fluid Retention
· Headaches/Menstrual Migraines
Some people experience symptoms in the 5 to 10 days leading up to their period, while others seem to suffer all month long.
What’s the deal and more importantly, why is this happening? As I mentioned before, PMS is typically the result of too much estrogen or not enough progesterone. Alternatively, PMS can be related to low thyroid function. We’ll take a deeper dive into estrogen excess (the reason behind most female hormonal issues), but for now, know that it can be related to gut issues, stress, liver overload, environmental toxins, wonky thyroid hormones and/or uncontrolled blood sugar. (If you are experiencing symptoms like bone-crushing fatigue, brain fog, weight gain, sensitivity to cold, and dry skin or alternatively, sensitivity to heat, weight loss, brittle hair, and difficulty sleeping, ask your primary care doctor to check your thyroid.)
What can you do about PMS? Like I said, TONS. This should feel empowering, not overwhelming. There are so many practical, powerful steps you can take towards feeling insanely good every day of the month. First and foremost, get your blood sugar under control. I’m going to keep bringing this up because if you refuse to address your diet, your hormone balance will continue to suffer no matter how many superfoods or supplements you introduce. Focus on healthy fats, wild proteins, and greens/veggies (especially cruciferous veggies – aim to have one at every meal). This goes without saying, but ditch sugar and processed foods so you can fill your plate with nutrient dense foods. In one fell swoop, you are helping your gut and liver to function optimally and addressing nagging nutrient deficiencies, which in turn will lead to hormone balance.
Anything else? Well it really depends on what’s happening for you. If you are still experiencing digestive distress in addition to PMS symptoms, it might be time for the dreaded elimination diet. This will help you determine your own personal food sensitivities. You might also try kick starting things with a liver cleanse if sugar, caffeine, and alcohol are daily staples for you.
Beyond diet, address your stress. Find something you love and do it every single day. And don’t be afraid of downtime or restorative exercise. Give your body what it needs. If you aren’t feeling Crossfit today, there may be a reason. Try Yin Yoga instead or better yet, take a long bath with Epsom salts. Additionally, make time to socialize with your female friends. The bond you have with them is crucial for your emotional well-being. And for goodness sake, sleep. But before you start adding all the things into your life, remember that self-care shouldn’t become a stressor. Incorporate what you have time for and don’t worry about the rest. We’ll talk more about stress in upcoming posts.
Finally, if you haven’t cleaned up personal care routine, it’s time to get started!
I have a sneaking suspicion that you still want to know about supplements for PMS. Alright, alright, let’s call this troubleshooting:
· Anxious, bloating, or trouble sleeping? Try 400-600 mg of Magnesium glycinate.
· Cramping? Try Vitamin B6 and Evening Primrose Oil.
· Breast Tenderness? Try Vitamin E.
· Think Low Progesterone is the Problem? Try Vitex, Shizandra, and Ashwagandha. (Do not take Vitex if you have PCOS with high LH levels.)
Hang in there! Your PMS will get better.