Premenstrual Syndrome, or PMS as it’s more commonly known, is not often spoken about. And yet more than 75% of women are affected by its changes to their mood, energy, and physical well-being. For 1-2 weeks prior to their period, these women may experience depression, sadness, anxiety, irritability, fatigue, loss of concentration, bowel disturbances, headaches, skin eruptions, food cravings, clumsiness, breast distention, bloating, and insomnia. Symptoms are worse for women in their 30’s and 40’s, and seem to be caused by rapid changes to levels of estrogen and progesterone following ovulation.
Many women notice that their PMS symptoms are exacerbated in the fall. And symbolically, this part of our menstrual cycle corresponds to Autumn. Trees let go of their leaves to create fertile ground for new growth in the spring, just as our bodies slough off unused uterine lining to start a new cycle of fertility the following month. The days are at their most dark. This is a time for slowing down, drawing inward and reflecting on the cycle that has just past.
Here are some suggestions to help manage your PMS symptoms naturally:
Clean up your diet:
Minimize your consumption of red meat, dairy, refined carbohydrates, sugar, and caffeine, as these foods have been found to increase symptoms. Focus on lean proteins such as fish, chicken, and turkey, lentils and beans, whole grains, and fruits and vegetables.
Increase your consumption of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale. These vegetables contain a compound called Indol-3-carbonol, which promotes healthy estrogen metabolism. Besides helping with PMS symptoms, I-3-c, can also help to prevent against breast cancer.
Omega-3 fats found in fatty fish and flaxseeds, have been found to reduce symptoms of PMS. Try to include 2 servings per week of Salmon, Tuna, Mackerel, or Sardines. If fish is not your thing, try an Omega-3 fish oil supplement such as Nordic Naturals or Carlson Norwegian fish oil.
Vitamins B6, B12, and Magnesium help the liver to metabolize estrogen, and deficiencies are linked to increased PMS symptoms. Pumpkin seeds are high in Magnesium; just a 1/4 cup provides a third of your daily requirement for this mineral. Foods such as potatoes, fish, chicken, and non-citrus fruits are rich in B6; and B12 is found in animal products, or in fortified cereals. Vitamin C, E, and Selenium are also important nutrients to have in balance.
Regular aerobic exercise promotes healthy blood flow, boosts feel-good endorphins, and reduces symptoms of PMS. Traditional Chinese Medicine attributes PMS to stagnant “liver qi”, and one of the best ways to treat the liver is to get moving! A 20 minute walk 3x per week is enough to produce benefits.
Yoga, meditation, and deep breathing are all helpful to manage the symptoms of PMS.
Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine:
The formula ~ Xiao Yao San (Free and Easy Wanderer), has been used for centuries to regulate hormones and treat PMS. It also helps to improve digestion, treat symptoms of anemia, and modulate the stress response. It’s ingredients are: Dong Quai, White Peony root, Bupleurum root, Atractylodes, Poria, and the more commonly known Ginger, Mint, and Licorice.
Acupuncture Points on the top of the foot, thumb pad, and one hand width above the inner ankle, are also used to help alleviate PMS symptoms and regulate the menstrual cycle.
Full Spectrum Bright Light:
Using full-spectrum bright lights during the winter months for 30 minutes per day, was shown by researchers to reverse PMS symptoms and Seasonal Affective Disorder.