PMS is a common occurrence for many women that often arises from hormonal imbalances in the body, and with extra nurturing, it can be healed. Many experience symptoms ranging in severity a week or so before menstruation begins. Symptoms can often be alleviated by regular self-care and nourishment throughout the month, as well as plenty of sleep and exercise. In addition, certain foods, supplements, and herbs help to balance, regulate, and clear excess hormones from the body, making that time of the month a more gentle experience. Slight imbalances can be regulated through proper nourishment and the integration of a few key herbs and supplements. In cases of extreme hormonal imbalance, it is best to work directly with a holistic practitioner.
Signs and Symptoms of PMS:
· Nervousness, anxiety, irritability
· Mood swings and mild-to-severe personality changes
· Fatigue, lethargy, depression
· Abdominal bloating, pain and/or cramping
· Breast tenderness and swelling
· Constipation and/or diarrhea
· Change in appetite (cravings for sugar/carbs)
5 categories of PMS
1) Type A (anxiety): a mixture of emotional symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, nervous tension and mood swings
Possible cause: excess estrogens or a progesterone deficiency
2) Type C (carbohydrates & cravings): cravings for sugar and/or carbohydrates, or a craving for salt, fatigue, dizziness, headaches and heart palpitations
Possible cause: hypoglycemia due to an increase in insulin secretion, low serotonin
3) Type W (water retention): Bloating, weight gain, breast swelling and tenderness, fluid retention in the face, fingers, hands or ankles
Possible cause: Excess estrogens, increase in adrenal aldosterone, dopamine deficiency
4) Type D (depression): Depression, insomnia, confusion, crying, and forgetfulness
Possible cause: Low estrogen, high progesterone
5) Type P (pain): cramps, low back pain, nausea, and vomiting
Possible cause: High pro-inflammatory prostaglandin activity (prostaglandins have hormone-like effects)
Experiencing a range of symptoms is common as hormones shift from month to month. The state of our hormones is directly connected to our diet and lifestyle choices. Stress, travel, lack of sleep and major life changes can often have a dramatic effect on our hormones - so it’s important to take extra care during these times.
Supportive Lifestyle Shifts
Women of all ages can benefit from eating regular meals at regular meal times. Those with Type C PMS symptoms who experience cravings and notice a dramatic increase in appetite will find that eating something small every few hours will help to regulate abnormal insulin levels and blood sugar. This will also help to relieve headaches, fatigue, moodiness (feeling “hangry”), and irritability.
Eating more frequently just before your cycle begins can curb cravings by stabilizing excess insulin. Nourish yourself with plenty of protein, healthy fat, and carbohydrates, and opt for unprocessed snacks and produce. Probiotic-rich foods like coconut yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso are helpful for diminishing cravings. Healthy carbs like sweet potatoes, bananas, quinoa, apples, and oats are rich in fiber which slows the conversion to glucose and helps to regulate blood sugar.
Regular movement is essential for all women, through every stage of life and is particularly important for women who experience Type D for depression. Low moods are often caused by low levels of estrogen and the feel-good hormone, serotonin. Exercise is imperative to elevate moods and reduce symptoms such as depression, insomnia, confusion, and withdrawal.
Every bit of movement helps. Even a 20-minute walk outside does wonders for lifting moods, and being outside in the fresh air raises our energetic frequency.
Consume Plenty of Produce
Helpful for healing all types of hormonal imbalances, but especially supportive to those who experience Type W for water retention. Water retention causes swollen fingers and ankles, breast tenderness, bloating, and weight gain. There are a few reasons for this including impaired lymphatic flow, high serotonin, and too much stress.
Potassium-rich foods like avocados and bananas are helpful to reduce these PMS symptoms and dark leafy greens & cruciferous veggies are high in indole-3 carbinol which helps to clear excess estrogen. Excess sodium should be avoided, as well as alcohol and processed foods.
Avoid Nightshade Vegetables
For those who experience Type P for pain, avoiding nightshade vegetables can help reduce symptoms over time. The pain is caused by an increase in inflammatory chemicals, which affects the joints, lower back, abdomen, head, and maybe more. Nightshade vegetables can actually make the inflammation worse so they are important to avoid. Instead, consume omega-3-rich foods which are anti-inflammatory. It is also very important to avoid foods you think you may be allergic and/or intolerant to, plus gluten and dairy.
What to avoid: Potatoes, peppers, eggplants, tomatoes, any foods you may be allergic and/or intolerant to, and processed foods.
What to consume: Anti-inflammatory foods like ginger, turmeric, berries, leafy greens, kale, spinach, salmon, walnuts, olive oil
Magnesium is an incredible mineral that offers many benefits to the body. Since magnesium plays such an essential part in normal cell function, magnesium deficiency may account for a wide range of symptoms attributed to hormonal imbalances and PMS. It can help with relief of premenstrual mood fluctuations and depression, so it’s great for women with Type D PMS for depression. It also helps to relax the body and soothe the nervous system, which is helpful for Type A for anxiety PMS symptoms. To avoid diarrhea and for better absorption, it is best to use magnesium citrate or glycinate. Try 200-400 mg at bedtime.
Supplementing with vitamin B6 provides significant relief to a wide range of PMS symptoms. It is important to note that some people have difficulty converting B6 into to its active form, pyridoxal-5-phosphate, so when shopping for a vitamin B6 supplement look at the ingredients to see if the B6 provided is in its active form. Supplement Dosage is 50-100 mg/day.
Chickpeas are a great source of B6 and can be enjoyed in hummus with veggies for a balanced snack
Zinc is required for the synthesis, use, and secretion of hormones including the sex hormones, estrogen, and progesterone. Women suffering from PMS often have low zinc levels. Supplement with 15-20 mg of zinc picolinate daily around your menses to ease PMS symptoms.
Food sources of zinc include oysters, beef, lamb, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, lentils, chickpeas, cashews, turkey, and quinoa.
Supplementing with Omega 3 can help to reduce symptoms of Type P for pain PMS. Either take the supplement daily throughout the whole cycle, or from Day 1 (the start of menses) to Day 14 (or your day of ovulation). As the body repairs the uterine lining before ovulation, omega 3 supplementation can be utilized by the body, and help to alleviate pain during the next menstrual cycle. A dose of 1,000 mg one to two times a day is sufficient.
I-3-C (Indole-3-carbinol) I-3-C is a phytonutrient found in brassica vegetables. In high concentrations this phytonutrient is effective in helping the liver to metabolize estrogen, helping to eliminate excess estrogen from the body. This supplement is specifically helpful for those dealing with estrogen dominance or estrogen-dominant disorders. Supplement with 300 mg/day of I-3-C.
This herb is said to be the single most important herb in the treatment of PMS because of its profound effects on the hypothalamus and pituitary function. As a result, it is able to normalize the secretion of many hormones. Chasteberry can help decrease the rates of irritability, mood changes, anger, headaches, and breast tenderness. Many women take this herb for months at a time to help balance and normalize their estrogen and progesterone levels. The berry is especially beneficial for estrogen-dominant conditions, acne, PCOS, and heavy bleeding. It reduces all PMS symptoms and also improves fertility.
Suggested dosage : for PMS relief is 175-225 mg/day.
St. John’s Wort
This herb is commonly used for depression because it raises serotonin and is therefore great for women with Type D for depression PMS. St. John’s Wort could also be effective for treating women who experience many types of PMS as it also relieves food cravings, swelling, poor coordination, insomnia, confusion, headaches, crying, and fatigue.
Suggested dosage : for PMS relief is 900-1800 mg/day.
Cramp bark is especially great for those suffering from dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation) and lower back cramps at the beginning of menstruation. This herb is safe to use repeatedly, without the risk of liver damage that over-the-counter pills carry. Cramp bark also has a mild relaxing and sedative effect, making it ideal to take during stressful and painful periods. Using it at the beginning of your period will help ease cramps and take away menstrual pain.
How to use : as a tincture 60-90 drops per day or decoction (boiled in water for 30 minutes) - take daily during your cycle.
Red Raspberry Leaf
This leaf has no effects on the body’s hormone levels but has been used in herbal medicine for centuries to help tonify the uterus. Red raspberry leaf strengthens the wall of the uterus, so it’s a great tea to take one week before your period if you suffer from heavy bleeding or cramping. It’s also useful in the third trimester of pregnancy to help soon-to-be mothers prepare for childbirth.
How to use : Drink as an infusion daily during & pre-cycle.
Dandelion and Burdock Root
Dandelion and burdock root are both powerful liver detoxifiers and supportive for all hormonal imbalance and PMS. They are also both natural diuretics, which relieve bloating and excess water retention. Unlike synthetic diuretics, they also contain potassium, so you won’t be depleting your natural stores as you expel any excess water. Dandelion and burdock root work on the liver, where excess estrogen and other hormones are broken down for elimination. Try dandelion leaves if you tend to experience water retention and bloating, and dandelion and burdock root if you experience heavy bleeding, acne, mood swings, and irritability.
How to use : take as a tea or as a tincture daily in cases of issues with liver, estrogen dominance, and severe PMS.