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 bleeding. 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 a normal part of being female. Still, PMS is common but NOT normal.
This article will find 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 shitty emotional and physical symptoms; none are normal, but unfortunately, they are pretty common. PMS differs from one woman to the next, but most women with periods have premenstrual symptoms ranging from mild to severe and for some women with severe symptoms, PMS is linked to reduced quality of life.
The most common emotional symptoms include:
-Feeling irritable and depressed
-Difficulties concentrating AND memory lapses
-Drop in self-esteem and confidence, leading to social isolation
-Drop in sexual desire
The most common physical symptoms include:
-Food cravings and increased appetite
-Low back pain
-Hot flushes or sweats
What causes PMS?
It is essential to understand that your hormones are not the problem and that hormonal changes happen during the month and throughout a woman’s life they are part of every woman’s life journey. 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 estrogen 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
About a week before your bleeding, it is normal to be hungrier than usual. This happens due to a drop in estrogen and serotonin; These hormones are natural appetite suppressants. However, this is not an excuse to eat more inflammatory and sugary foods because 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 can impair ovulation in the long term. 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 necessary for preventing the development of PMS.
5. Digestive issues
Digestive issues can cause hormonal imbalances, and hormonal imbalances can cause digestive problems. Excess hormones in your system change how your body produces these hormones. Excess hormones are eliminated through our poop, so it is crucial to have healthy and regular bowel movements to eliminate excess.
Smokers are twice as likely to have severe PMS symptoms compared to non-smokers. Cigarette smoking, especially during adolescence and young adulthood, may increase a woman’s likelihood of developing moderate to severe PMS.
Family history and genetics, as always, also play a role. Women whose mothers and sisters suffer from PMS are more likely to develop the condition. But remember that your lifestyle will determine whether you express these genes or not.
What can you do?
It would be best first to address the root cause of your symptoms. Then, lifestyle changes, supplementation, and healthy nutrition can help you reduce PMS and support your body throughout the month. We are all unique, and no solution fits us all, so you may have to experiment to find the best treatments for your body and needs.
1. Reduce inflammation
Regarding your diet: Sugar, dairy, corn, vegetable oils, and gluten are the most inflammatory foods, so eliminating these foods will reduce inflammation and PMS symptoms a LOT! Then, adding anti-inflammatory foods like mackerel, sardines, salmon, nuts, and seeds will help keep blood sugar levels stable. A diet low in processed foods and high in wholesome foods is the way to reduce PMS. That doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself forever of the foods you love and live on a diet, a big NO to that. The intention here is to find a healthy and sustainable balance to work with your body, not against it. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26695747/
2. Stress management
There are many things that you can do to reduce stress. Exercise is a great way to reduce stress, but the correct dose is critical. Too little or too much exercise can do more harm than good and add more stress to your body. Meditation and yoga are 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/.
Also, 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 often because your health depends on it. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2875955/ Last but not least, sleep is crucial for stress management, recovery, and overall health. Regular sleeping will reduce PMS symptoms and help you feel better during the day. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19616145/
3. Eat enough food
If you are underweight, your BMI is below 18.5, and you struggle with irregular periods, PMS or amenorrhoea. In that case, you must gain enough weight, so your hormones can work adequately to have a healthy period again. I know this is easy to say and hard to do. Take baby steps and remember the whole picture, which, in this case, is your overall health and well-being—one day at a time, sister!
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 paleo, I strongly recommend you start carb cycling and introduce complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, squash, carrots or rice six days before getting your period; And avoid fasting during these days as well. As women, we need to use these tools differently than men; we cannot fast or reduce our carbohydrate intake at any time of the month.
4. Supplements to the rescue
Supplements are beneficial but won’t work without the lifestyle and diet changes mentioned below! Remember 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 a lot! Read what you buy and avoid artificial fillers, gluten, soy and sugar.
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 detoxify, 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 15-25 mg a day, along with copper.
Omegas-3 with vitamin D: Omegas are anti-inflammatory and help reduce menstrual cramps. Both will add to hormonal balance. Take them during the day with fat for better absorption.
PMS is normal, but you can make it a thing of the past! PMS symptoms can be minimized and even make them disappear with diet and lifestyle changes to support your unique needs. The most important thing is that you take care of yourself and do more of what makes your body and mind happy, celebrate your body and embrace the chaos of being a woman. Also, reconsider stopping smoking is disgusting and unhealthy.