PMS | What Is It & How To Best Manage It

PMS or rather Premenstrual Syndrome is a seemingly common & sometimes incredibly uncomfortable experience for many women. So common in fact that it’s seen as just a part of “being a woman”, a normal monthly experience we all just need to go though. But in reality this couldn’t be more incorrect, PMS truly can be a thing of past. Whilst experts aren’t yet entirely sure how or why women experience PMS, partly due to the vast array of symptoms experienced, we do seem to have an understanding about specific sets of symptoms & the reason they occur. In today’s blog post we delve into what defines PMS, why it happens & most importantly what we can do to reduce it.

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What defines Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

PMS is defined as a range of physical & emotional symptoms which begin to appear in the lead-up to menstruation, which is typically up to 10 day before before your period begins. Yes 10 days! Symptoms can range from very mild to severe, where women can experience such intense PMS symptoms it impairs their ability to go about daily life. Most women will experience some or a combination of PMS symptoms in their lifetime.

Here are the most common PMS symptoms experienced by women…

  • anxiety

  • irritability

  • low mood

  • depression

  • acne & pimples/blemishes

  • weepiness

  • bloating

  • brain fog

  • food cravings (usually for sugary or salty foods)

  • fluid retention

  • breast tenderness

  • sinusitis

  • headaches

  • insomnia

  • dull lower back pain

  • joint pain

What Causes PMS?

Unfortunately there is no simple or clear answer. There are a number of suspected underlying causes of PMS & the vast array of symptoms (& symptom clusters) attached to it. Here are a few suspected underlying causes of PMS in many women:

Imbalance Between Oestrogen & Progesterone

Oestrogen & progesterone are both essential sex hormones for not just out menstrual cycle quality but our overall health. They both have profoundly positive effects on our mood, energy & menstrual health but ONLY when they are in balance with one another. Oestrogen has a much more stimulatory effect on mood & reproductive health. It is known to increase energy, improve our mood, enhance stamina & libido as well as support the growth of the endometrial lining. However, when oestrogen is left unopposed its can have a “hyper-stimulatory” effect leading to symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, insomnia, fluid retention & heavy periods. It’s a “too much of a good thing” type of situation. Progesterone on the other hand is soothing & essentially acts as a buffer from the fluctuations (& intensity) of oestrogen. Without progesterone we experience the overwhelming nature of oestrogen. For many women supporting progesterone is a key factor for reducing PMS symptoms. Oestrogen may also be problematic due to poor detoxification via the liver & bowel.

Systemic Inflammation

Inflammation has a really detrimental influence on our hormones, especially progesterone. Inflammation interferes the production of progesterone as well as the communication system between the brain & ovaries, known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis. Inflammation also has a negative influence over oestrogen detoxification which promotes imbalance of oestrogen & progesterone as a result of recirculated oestrogen. It’s important to get the root cause of the suspected inflammation in order to move forward. Some examples of factors that can support inflammation in the body include: poor gut health & imbalances in the micro-biome, toxicity from frequent exposure to chemicals, food intolerances, chronic stress & infections.

Chronic Stress

As with inflammation, chronic stress has a direct effect on our hormones in much the same fashion. Chronic stress impairs our ability to make progesterone, as your body preferences the production of cortisol over progesterone. Chronic stress also negatively impacts our ability to detoxify oestrogen.

Nutrient Deficiencies

Nutrients deficiency commonly relate back to imbalances between oestrogen & progesterone as most nutrient deficiency will have an impact on both of these hormones in a number of ways. Common nutrient deficiencies which have can exacerbate PMS include iron, selenium, iodine, magnesium, B vitamins, zinc, calcium…just to name a few.

How Can I Best Manage PMS?

There are a number of dietary & lifestyle strategies you can implement in order to lessen PMS symptoms & support your natural hormonal fluctuations.

Reduce intake of inflammatory foods & beverages (sugar, alcohol, wheat, dairy & refined vegetable oils)

Include more foods which promote anti-inflammatory activity in the body such as avocados, salmon, green leafy vegetables, flaxseeds, nuts, fresh herbs & spices.

Avoiding endocrine-disrupting chemicals

Products in our environment such as plastics & pesticides significantly increase your exposure to toxic chemicals. This exposure subsequently places excessive burden on the bodies detoxification systems & can impair your ability to detoxify oestrogen. Aim to minimise your exposure to plastics & eat organic where possible to limit your exposure to this hormone disruption chemicals.

Maintaining healthy gut flora

Our gut flora has a significant influence over the metabolism of oestrogen. One of the most powerful food groups you can incorporate to support & improve gut flora is fibre. Fibre not only ensures bowel regularity but support the balance of microbes in the gut which have strong influence of oestrogen metabolism & excretion.

Manage stress

Implementing some self-care time, whether that’s 5 minutes or 50 minutes per day, can have significant influence over your hormonal health. Activities you can incorporate include:

  • Having a bath (even add a cup of Epsom salts for an extra Magnesium boost & a few drops of essential oil)

  • Meditating (even 5 minutes per day has been show to have magical benefits)

  • Reading a book

  • Cook your favourite nourishing meal

  • Journalling

  • Good for a walk whilst listening to your favourite podcast

Rest & Sleep

Having a healthy sleep routine should really be a core priority in every women’s life. Our bodies are creatures of habit & absolutely thrive off routine, hence why going to bed & rising at the same time can really improve sleep onset & quality long-term. If you are having trouble getting enough shut eye a few small changes you can make to improve sleep onset & quality include:

  • At least 1 hour before bed turn off all electronic devices to reduce your exposure to blue light (i.e. try reading instead of watching T.V.)

  • Avoid drinking caffeinated beverages (i.e. coffee & black tea) after lunchtime (12pm-2am)

  • Have a warm shower or bath 30min before bed

  • Use a few drops of lavender essential oil in an aromatherapy diffuser

  • Have a cuppa. Some relaxing herbal teas I recommend include - Chamomile, Passionflower, Holy basil, Scullcap

Herbal Teas

Incorporating loads of delicious & therapeutic herbals teas throughout you cycle can really help to support your hormonal cycle. A great herbal tea combination I recommend is Raspberry leaf, Ginger root & Chamomile or replacing your morning coffee with a Turmeric Latte, especially those days leading up to bleeding.

Seek Assistance

Sometimes the very best thing you can do is seek help from a professional. If you would really like to get to the bottom of your PMS I would be honoured to help you. Book your initial consultation here.