Sore boobs & the bloat : A Guide to PMS
For some women, it’s hard to imagine a period that comes without any notice. That is, no uncomfortable premenstrual symptoms that warn you ‘it’s coming’. But guess what, that’s exactly what’s supposed to happen.
Except many of us have been taught to expect moodiness, breast tenderness, bloating, teariness, frustration and pain before a period, and so we don’t question when it happens. We grow up with sexist comments “oh it must be that time of the month” or “Looks like someone’s getting her period”. It’s assumed that anytime we express ourselves with anger or frustration that it MUST be our period. No, I’m frustrated at you because you’re simply being a jerk.
Despite the period and PMS shaming I’m sure you’ve experienced, I’m here to let you know that if you do experience PMS, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with you, your body just needs a little helping hand and some nourishment. There are many natural healing options to relieve and even resolve this issue, and therefore experience a luteal phase (the two weeks after ovulation) without the symptoms of PMS.
Firstly, let’s define what PMS actually is.
PMS (premenstrual syndrome) is technically defined as recurrent signs and symptoms that develop during the late luteal phase of the menstrual cycle and disappear by the end of the full flow of menses.
Symptoms can include:
- Abdominal bloating, fluid retention and weight gain
- Irritability, anxiety and anger
- Depression, sadness and teariness
- Breast tenderness or abdominal pain
- Excessive fatigue and lack of motivation
- Food cravings or aversions
- Headaches, migraines or muscle tension
- Blood sugar fluctuations and nausea
- Insomnia or sleep changes
- Allergy, acne or other skin flare-ups
- Poor concentration or foggy brain
- Constipation or diarrhoea
Reasons for this occurring are varied and individual, and it’s important to approach it case by case with a practitioner. Many of my patients report an improvement within 2-4 cycles once implementing healthy changes to their diet, lifestyle and learning to listen to their body (trust me, our bodies want to heal!).
Please note: this is by no means a comprehensive list but simply a guide to get you started on establishing a healthy menstrual cycle so that you can reduce your symptoms of PMS. Also, this is not an article on endometriosis, which is a completely different condition altogether but does have overlapping symptoms – you can read more about endometriosis here.
For healing PMS, start here:
1. Sort out the nutrition situation
Our bodies require nutrition to function well. When we get that sorted, we set a foundation that allows our bodies to heal and restore balance.
- Include – lots of fresh vegetables (especially the green ones), protein from organic meat, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds and good fats from oily fish, chia seeds, walnuts, avocado etc.
- Best to avoid – processed foods such as deep-fried fatty foods, sugary biscuits, cakes, lollies, chocolate, unhealthy takeaway, processed meats.
- The foods that many women find makes a huge difference to reducing their PMS is avoiding dairy (esp A1 dairy), gluten, caffeine and alcohol. This is because it reduces histamine levels which can worsen PMS and also takes a load off the liver/digestive system to give it a chance to focus on other things like……see next step.
- Consider supplementing with magnesium and essential fatty acids (fish oil, evening primrose oil).
2. Improve oestrogen clearance and progesterone production
For women that experience breast tenderness, fluid retention and mood fluctuations such as irritability or frustration then this may indicate ‘oestrogen excess’ where oestrogen is not effectively being metabolised and eliminated by the liver and bowel. Progesterone deficiency relative to oestrogen, is the other common scenario which can exacerbate oestrogen excess and PMS symptoms. The trick is to make sure you’re producing enough progesterone.
- Help oestrogen be metabolised by looking after your liver and digestive system – reduce alcohol intake and address any gut dysbiosis (bowel flora imbalance). Do my 21 Day Detox Program to get started.
- Consider supplementing vitamin B6 which is needed for oestrogen metabolism. As a bonus, vitamin B6 is also needed for GABA and serotonin production – neurotransmitters that have roles in mood and pain management.
- Reduce stress (see step 3) – progesterone production is exceptionally sensitive to stress
- Consider herbal medicine Vitex agnus-castus or Paeonia lateriflora – two of my favourite menstrual cycle herbs that do wonders to regulate the HPO (hypothalamic pituitary ovarian) axis and encourage healthy ovulation and therefore a healthy period with PMS reduction. PLEASE NOTE: don’t take these herbal medicines if you’re taking the oral contraceptive pill, or other medications for that matter – see your naturopath or make an appointment with me.
3. Look after your little adrenals
Chronic stress affects everything. So there’s no surprise that stress affects the natural rhythms and functioning of a menstrual cycle. Stress hormones released by the adrenal glands impede ovulation, reduce progesterone and create inflammation. Stress also makes you on high alert and on guard to the world. In this state of being, fear takes over and the body’s priority is to survive – not to procreate aka ovulate. So your hormones become imbalanced and PMS symptoms ensue.
- If you’ve been in a state of stress for some time, please address this with a practitioner.
- Find ways to better cope with the stress you’re facing. Whether it’s a meditation practice or time off, it is never sustainable to stay in stress. Your body will let you know.
- Consider adaptogenic and adrenal tonic herbs such as WIthania somnifera (Ashwagandha/Withania), Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng), Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice root) or Rhodiola rosea.
4. Look within
You may hear me say it all the time – unresolved emotions and trauma will more often than not present as physical health conditions. I find that until someone addresses this step – they often need to stay on some sort of supplement regime that ‘holds’ their body in balance. When they stop taking the supplements, symptoms may return. This is because the unresolved trauma/event is remaining unprocessed in the mind, body and energy system and can sometimes be the very thing driving the health condition in the first place – in this instance hormonal imbalances and PMS.
- Consider psychological therapy or a practitioner that can help you with addressing events from the past, that you feel are still unresolved.
- Explore EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) aka Tapping. This is one of the most effective tools for addressing stress and anxiety, and resolving old emotional wounds.
- Consider energy healing such as reiki. I offer these sessions in conjunction with my naturopathic consultations because of the reasons above.
- Begin a self-reflective journal – start noting how you’re feeling and what you’re being triggered by. As uncomfortable as the symptoms can be, I find that PMS can be the body’s way of showing you what needs to change in your life, or what needs to be healed. Yes, there may be hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalances, however, the emotional issues we suppress can arise in times of vulnerability and stress, and present themselves as premenstrual symptoms. Pay attention to these. There might be some valuable info in there.