PMS Symptoms and Natural Tips to Alleviate Them ForeverSep 22, 2023
I went to a cafe the other day and ordered a hot chocolate and salt and vinegar chips. It was a very hot summer day and all I wanted was hot chocolate with some salt on the side!
This is the definition of a PMS craving.
My thoughts were, "What is this saying about my body? Excess estrogen in relation to progesterone? Nutrient deficiencies? Trying to create more fun and excitement in my life through sweets? All of the above?
And, also thinking, "What's the big deal! Live a little!"
As an herbalist, I try to take care of myself daily so that I don't have PMS in the first place. BUT--- becoming a mom has changed things quite a bit for me. Mostly for the better. But there's a few areas of my life where I've put myself on the back burner so to speak and can see / feel it catching up to me.
We all have times in our lives where self-care is the least of our concerns, which is usually when we need a little TLC the most.
PMS food cravings sounds harmless enough, right? But PMS is often a way your body talks to you. If you ignore it (which is so easy to do), over time, seemingly harmless PMS symptoms can and often do turn into something worse.
I want to share a few things about PMS and walk you through what I might suggest to a client and plan on doing for myself as well.
First, what is PMS?
PMS stands for Premenstrual Syndrome. PMS occurs in the second half of the cycle which is after ovulation leading up to your next menstrual bleed. PMS symptoms can last anywhere between 2 weeks to just a couple of days before your period and usually stops once your period arrives.
We experience symptoms of PMS for a number of reasons. Here are some main ones:
- Hormonal imbalance (usually excess estrogen in relation to progesterone)
- Thyroid dysfunction (too much little thyroid hormone and less often too much thyroid hormone)
- Stress and excess stress hormones (stress due to poor sleep, family stressors, work, environmental toxins, etc.)
- Nutritional deficiencies / Poor diet
There's a more severe form of PMS which is referred to as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). Tracking your symptoms and the timing of your symptoms is helpful in determining if it's PMS or PMDD.
Common Symptoms of PMS
Physical: bloating or fluid retention, breast tenderness, headaches / migraines, craving sweet or salty foods, fatigue or insomnia, pelvic pain, acne
Emotional: anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, mood swings, depression, weepiness, irritability
Depending on what PMS symptom(s) you're experiencing, diet, lifestyle and herbal remedies will help alleviate or get rid of the symptoms altogether.
Since everybody’s experience of PMS is unique, here are some "one-size fits most" suggestions. If you have any specific questions about what you're experiencing, shoot me an email.
One-Size Fits Most Tips:
If you're a morning coffee drinker, I suggest eating a breakfast that has protein and / or healthy fats. Eggs and avocado anyone? This helps keep energy levels up and maintains a healthy blood sugar level throughout the day. If your blood sugar is not stabilized, it causes cortisol, a main stress hormone, to spike and contribute to further hormone issues, like sex-hormone disruptions, including bad PMS.
One favorite addition to coffee is cinnamon. Add a few shakes of high quality organic ground cinnamon to your coffee. Cinnamon not only tastes amazing, but it balances blood sugar levels as it regulates insulin production.
Try to go to bed no later than 10 or 11pm to follow the body’s natural cyclical rhythms, the wake-sleep cycle being one of the most important. Keep in mind, women tend to need more sleep than men and among countless other benefits, sleep helps to regulate hormone production.
This is a tough one for me because I have a tendency to be a night owl. There are herbs to help the body relax at night time such as Chamomile, California poppy, Passionflower, Skullcap, Valerian root and many others. Herbal adaptogens also play a huge role in supporting the body to adapt to stress, making it easier to relax during the day and at night.
However, I want to share a couple other tips that will help if you're still struggling with getting your mind and body relaxed for an earlier bedtime.
We want our cortisol production (which is best known as a stress hormone, but it also helps with energy production) to be most active when we wake up and throughout the day. We want our melatonin production to be most active in the evening, helping us prepare for sleep. Cortisol (wake) and melatonin (sleep) have an inverse relationship. When one is high, the other one is low.
To help restore these healthy patterns, make sure you're getting enough physical activity and daylight exposure during the day. This can just be going for a 20 minute walk in the morning if that's all you have the time or energy for.
Around 8 or 9 pm, I drink about 2-3 oz of tart cherry juice which helps the release of melatonin (my favorite brand is Lakewood- expensive, but worth it). I also start turning off most of the lights in the house and keep a dim light on in the room I’m in.
Diet and Supplementation
There's no one diet that will work for everybody. In general, we all need enough water, healthy fats, carbohydrates and protein in order for our cells to function their best. One food group that tends to get ignored are bitter greens. These include: dandelion greens, chard, kale, arugula, radicchio and any other vegetables that have a mild or strong bitter taste.
Bitters, in addition to being loaded with vitamins and minerals, help the body digest and assimilate nutrients AND support the liver in detoxing excess hormones circulating in the body.
Including bitters in at least one meal a day will help the liver filter out what the body no longer needs and alleviate PMS.
For extra support, you could get an herbal tincture with bitter greens and take it before each meal to support digestion and liver function.
One supplement that I take several times a week is magnesium citrate. I love the CALM brand in powder form (add a teaspoon or so to a bit of hot water). Magnesium helps to calm the nervous system, supports healthy hormonal function and is a critical nutrient most of the US population is deficient in due to soil deficiencies in “big ag.” farming practices.
The Menstrual Calendar Journal is an amazing tool to track your daily observations and any PMS symptoms you may experience so that you can take better care of your health.
In good health!, Veronica
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