Holistic Healing Protocol for PMDD
PMDD stands for premenstrual dysphoric disorder and is commonly discussed alongside PMS (premenstrual syndrome). Both PMS and PMDD are disorders experienced by women that closely relate to the menstrual cycle. Although very similar, PMS and PMDD are not the same thing.
Most of us are familiar with PMS. It famously includes physical and emotional symptoms such as breakouts, mood swings, cramps, breast tenderness, anxiety, bloating, fatigue, food cravings, constipation, and digestive disturbances.
PMDD also includes any of these PMS symptoms, but mood swings and emotional symptoms are much more severe in PMDD. The word dysphoric refers to feelings of mental discomfort or suffering, unease, unhappiness, dissatisfaction, anxiety, and/or misery. PMDD is a severe hormone-based condition and its symptoms can greatly affect a woman’s quality of life, relationships, and ability to perform at work.
Both the symptoms of PMS and PMDD have a strong connection to hormone imbalances, specifically estrogen dominance. However, the causes of each can be due to a number of factors. If you’re dealing with ongoing hormonal imbalance, reach out to a holistic practitioner for support.
Symptoms of PMS and PMDD will vary for every woman, but can include any of the following
sudden mood changes
loss of interest in daily activities
changes in appetite
fatigue or lethargy
It’s important to note that the symptoms of PMDD are hormone-induced and arise during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, which starts just after ovulation and lasts until the beginning of menstruation. If you are experiencing these symptoms outside of the luteal phase, there may be something else going on.
PMDD often emerges during the 20s or 30s and tends to worsen over time, especially when entering menopause. Diagnosing PMDD is no easy task, as there is no specific test that can be taken. It is best to track your symptoms carefully for at least two menstrual cycles, using a journal and being as detailed as possible. Include all details regarding your period and symptoms - when they start, how intense they are, how you feel, what your flow is like, etc. Then reach out to a holistic practitioner for help.
The exact cause(s) of PMDD has yet to be determined, however, hormonal imbalance is typically the main contributing factor. As mentioned above, estrogen dominance is often the main culprit.
Estrogen dominance is a common issue in this day and age. The body needs a balance of sex hormones (especially estrogen and progesterone) in order to function optimally. When the levels of these hormones get too high or too low, we begin to experience various symptoms. With estrogen dominance, there is typically more estrogen than there should be, or not enough progesterone (since estrogen and progesterone exist in a delicate balance, low progesterone can have the same effects or symptoms as estrogen dominance). This affects more than just the menstrual cycle and can cause a host of imbalances in the body including blood sugar imbalances and a drop in serotonin, which causes mood shifts.
Symptoms can include: severe fatigue, breast changes, mood swings, bloating, adult acne, swelling, uterine conditions (such as fibroids and endometriosis), heavy periods, no periods, irregular periods, PMS, and PMDD.
Possible causes: constipation and poor elimination, low progesterone production, birth control use, exposure to xenoestrogens (found in fragrances, solvents, plastics, parabens, pesticides, etc.), and approaching menopause.
Other factors for PMDD include: a history of anxiety and mood disorders, a family history of PMS and PMDD, stress, age (20s-30s), poor diet, and poor gut health.
Conventional treatment for PMDD is often a combination of prescription anti-anxiety and depression medications, and sometimes birth control pills, estrogen suppressors, mood stabilizers, and surgical interventions. Before seeking these treatments, try healing naturally with the following:
Better bowel movements - although you may not expect it, improving bowel function can have a significant impact on PMS and PMDD symptoms. This is especially related to estrogen dominance. One of the ways that excess estrogen is eliminated from the body is through the feces, so when constipation and insufficient bowel movements are present it means that estrogen is not being properly eliminated, and it will begin to build up in the body. This can lead to or intensify symptoms.
Try- to have around 2-3 healthy (solid but not hard) bowel movements every day. To improve elimination, increase fiber intake, increase water intake, take a shot of ACV or bitters before meals, properly chew foods (to a paste!), take a probiotic supplement, and/or eat fermented foods regularly.
Nourishment - diet is important when healing any condition. For PMDD, focus on eating smaller meals throughout the day to keep blood sugar balanced and stabilize energy. Also focus on eating a whole foods, plant-based diet, as well as the following guidelines:
Include - complex carbohydrates, good quality fats, protein, and lots of fiber. Plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, lentils, flax seeds, and nuts. Feed cravings with fruit - cravings for sweets are common, so instead of reaching for processed foods or sugar, try natural sweets such as berries, bananas, and pears.
Avoid- caffeine (will worsen symptoms), alcohol (affects hormone levels), chocolate (can contribute to mood swings and blood sugar imbalances), sugar (causes inflammation and blood sugar imbalances), damaged fats, soy, and processed and packaged foods.
Improve liver health - the importance of liver health cannot be stressed enough as it is the main organ that rids the body of harmful substances, including excess estrogens and toxins.
Try- adding foods to your diet that support the detoxification process. These foods include dandelion root, burdock root, chlorophyll, beets, brassica vegetables, fermented foods, lemons, and walnuts.
When dealing with symptoms of PMDD it is important to prioritize self-care, which can be anything that makes you feel good.
sleeping in, going to bed early
Maca root is said to support glucose control, something that is important to many women with PMDD who find their moods and energy levels are aligned with their blood sugar.
Try in powder or capsule form.
Vitex/Chaste Tree Berry (up to 400 mg daily) to balance hormones & relieve physical and behavioral/emotional symptoms
St. John’s Wort (900 mg daily) to relieve anxiety, depression, and aggression
Lavender Essential Oil (a few drops on a pillow or in a diffuser) to treat depression and anxiety, and to help improve sleep
Peppermint Essential Oil (a few drops in a diffuser or applied to the temples with a carrier oil) to reduce headaches, cramps, and digestive disturbances
Omega 3 (1-2 g daily) to reduce multiple symptoms such as depression, nervousness, anxiety, lack of focus, tender breasts, breakouts, and poor cognitive function
Magnesium (400-600 mg daily) to ease tension and cramping, improve mood, reduce anxiety, improve sleep, and support hormones
Calcium D-Glucarate (500-1,000 mg daily) to help detoxify the liver process and eliminate excess estrogen