Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) includes physical and emotional changes that vary from slightly noticeable to crazy intense. It occurs ten days before your period and then disappears during or shortly after your bleed. PMS affects up to 75 per cent of women, although only 20 per cent to 40 per cent have difficulties as a result. Sadly most women grow up believing that having PMS is an inevitable part of being female. Still, PMS is NOT normal, and the symptoms appear due to hormonal imbalances.
In this article, we will find out the causes and solutions for PMS so you can feel good every day of the month!
Let’s get started!
What is PMS?
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a collection of symptoms that many women experience during the one to two weeks before a menstrual period.
The most common emotional symptoms include:
- Mood swings
- Feeling irritable and/or depressed
The most common physical symptoms include:
- Breast tenderness
- Bloating/retaining fluid
- Food cravings and/or increased appetite
- Brain fog
- Low back pain
- Sleep disturbance
What causes PMS?
It is essential to understand that your hormones are not the problem and that hormonal changes happen during the month, and it is part of being a woman. But the problem is when these changes are out of balance.
PMS is one of the consequences of estrogen dominance, a state of either absolute excess of estrogens in your body or a relative excess compared to progesterone. In other words, a high estrogen-to-progesterone ratio.
Estrogen dominance can arise from many different reasons: Using hormonal birth control, exposure to xenoestrogens (compounds that mimic estrogen found in fragrances, plastics, parabens and pesticides), insulin resistance, stress and nutrient deficiencies.
Hormonal imbalances are almost always caused by one or more of the following:
1. Blood sugar imbalances
Before having your period, it is normal to be more hungry. This happens due to a drop in estrogen and serotonin; These hormones are natural appetite suppressants. However, this is not an excuse to eat doughnuts, candies or processed foods. These foods will lead to blood sugar imbalances making you feel moody and crash your energy levels during the day, worsening PMS symptoms.
Inflammation can lead to PMS because it destroys hormonal communication. Prostaglandins, the hormone-like substance that controls inflammation, can trigger PMS symptoms, and studies have shown that the more prostaglandin you have, the worse PMS symptoms will be. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6350580/
Stress is a nightmare for your hormones, and in the long term, can impair ovulation. The more stress you have, the more PMS symptoms you will experience. Women who reported feeling stressed two weeks before menstruation were two to four times more likely to report moderate to severe symptoms than women who did not feel stressed. If you feel crushed by stress, that alone will put you at higher risk for menstrual dysfunction and PMS.
4. Having an unhealthy weight
Extremes of BMI, either significantly underweight or overweight, are associated with amenorrhea and menstrual dysfunction. Being underweight or overweight will harm your hormones and make you more prone to PMS symptoms. Maintaining a healthy body mass may be important for preventing the development of PMS.
5. Digestive issues
Having excess hormones of any type in your system changes how your body produces these hormones. Excess hormones are eliminated through our poop, so crucial to have healthy and regular bowel movements. Digestive issues can cause hormonal imbalances, and hormonal imbalances can cause digestive problems.
What can you do?
It would be best first to address the root cause of your symptoms. Then, lifestyle changes and supplementation, and healthy nutrition can help you reduce PMS and support your body during the whole month.
1. Reduce inflammation
When it comes to your diet: Sugar, dairy, vegetable oils, and gluten are the most inflammatory foods, so eliminating these foods from your diet will reduce inflammation and PMS symptoms. Adding anti-inflammatory foods like mackerel, sardines, salmon, nuts, and seeds will help keep blood sugar levels stable. A diet low in processed foods such as sugar and high in wholesome foods is the way to reduce PMS.
2. Stress management
Exercise is a great way to reduce stress, but the correct dose is key. Too little or too much exercise can do more harm than good and add more stress to your body instead. Meditation and yoga are both great options to help you relax, especially before and during your period when your energy will be lower and training hard may not be ideal. My favourite yoga channel on youtube is EkhartYoga, and for meditation, I love https://www.headspace.com/. Spending more time in nature and with the people you love will boost your mood and immune system and, as a result, reduce stress. Whatever works for you, do it, and do it often because your health depends on it. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2875955/
Last but not least, sleep is crucial not only for stress management but recovery and overall health. Keeping a regular sleeping schedule will reduce PMS symptoms and help you feel better during the day. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19616145/
3. Eat enough food
Eating enough to meet your needs is as important as eating a healthy diet. An inadequate calorie and carbohydrate intake might be the most common contributor to a dysfunctional menstrual cycle. If you follow a low carbohydrate diet such as ketogenic, carnivore or the paleo diet, I strongly recommend you to start carb cycling and introduce complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, rice or oats six days before getting your period; And avoid fasting during these days as well.
Suppose you are underweight, your BMI is below 18.5 and struggling with irregular periods, PMS or amenorrhea. In that case, you must gain enough weight so your hormones can work adequately for you to have a healthy period again. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16801735/ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3600234/ I know this is easy to say and hard to do. Take baby steps and keep in mind the whole picture which, in this case, is your overall health and well being—one day at a time, sister!
Supplements are beneficial, but they won’t work without the lifestyle and diet changes mentioned below! Keep in mind that supplements are not a magical solution but a helpful addition to a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Also, when it comes to supplements, quality matters and a lot! Read what you buy and avoid artificial fillers, a sugar that usually comes under the name of maltodextrin, dairy and lactose.
- Magnesium: helps reduce bloating, breast tenderness and headaches. Also, it can help you relax and reduce anxiety. Magnesium glycinate is my favourite!
- Vitamin B6: Reduces inflammation, helps in detoxification and is a natural diuretic. I prefer to take it along with a B complex supplement. B vitamins will also help reduce stress.
- Zinc: It is a strong anti-inflammatory. Aim for 20-25 mg a day along with copper.
- Omegas-3 with vitamin D: Omegas are anti-inflammatory and will help reduce menstrual cramps. Both will add to hormonal balance. Take them during the day with fat for better absorption.
PMS is not normal, but you can make it a thing from the past! With some diet and lifestyle changes, PMS symptoms can disappear. The most important thing is that you take care of yourself. Make more what makes you happy, celebrate your body and embrace the chaos that comes with being a woman. And reconsider stopping smoking is disgusting and unhealthy.