Many women struggle with PMS (premenstrual syndrome) symptoms, but what you may not realize is that these symptoms are actually indications that you may have a hormonal imbalance, nutrient deficiency, or underlying health condition. If these underlying factors are corrected, you should experience little to no PMS symptoms.
WHAT IS PMS?
PMS is experiencing any of the following symptoms, typically 1-2 weeks before your period, and in some cases, continuing throughout your period.
- Acne breakouts, especially around the chin, mouth, and jawline
- Mood swings, including depression and irritability
- Breast tenderness
- Abdominal pain or cramping
- Food cravings
WHAT CAUSES PMS?
PMS can be caused by a number of factors, and your Naturopathic Doctor will help to investigate which factor(s) could be contributing to your symptoms.
- Sluggish Detoxification:
Normally, the liver processes and deactivates hormones, which are then excreted in stool via bile. If the liver isn’t functioning optimally, this process is slowed, which causes premenstrual and menstrual symptoms.
In addition, if you are constipated (fewer than 1-2 bm’s per day) the hormones that were supposed to be excreted in the stool sit in your intestine and are reabsorbed into the body. Again, this raises hormone levels, causing sub-optimal periods.
Simple things to do to improve detox pathways include:
- Increase your water and fibre to promote more frequent bowel movements.
- Eat lots of garlic, onions, Brussels sprouts, kale, and cabbage to help the liver detox.
- Do a supervised liver cleanse to help the liver function more optimally.
2. Nutrient deficiencies:
Many women are deficient in B vitamins, especially if you are taking the birth control pill, or if you are under stress. Studies show that taking a robust B complex can improve mood swings and energy levels. Specifically, vitamin B6 regulates irregular menses, and also reduces fluid retention and bloating. Vitamins B6, B9 and B12 also help process estrogen and progesterone, which helps with overall hormone balancing.The other major nutrient deficiency that causes mood swings, migraines, bloating, painful periods, and sugar cravings, is magnesium. If you crave chocolate before your period, or experience the above symptoms, you may be deficient in magnesium. You can increase your magnesium intake by eating magnesium rich foods, including leafy greens, nuts, seeds, nettle, and yes, dark chocolate.
3. Hormonal imbalances:
The most common pattern of unbalanced hormones is estrogen dominance, which causes symptoms of heavy, painful periods, breast tenderness, and mood swings.Estrogen dominance occurs due to xenoestrogens, which are chemical substances in our environment that mimic estrogen in our bodies. We get xenoestrogens from plastics, BPA, pthalates, and pesticides. We are also exposed to exogenous estrogen from non-organic, non-hormone free animal products, like chicken breasts.
The best way to minimize exposure is to buy organic, hormone free animal products, avoid personal care products containing phthalates, and compounds labeled “fragrance”, and to limit your use of plastics for food and beverage storage.
It’s important to note there are many types of hormone imbalances. I recommend hormone testing to determine which pattern might be occurring before starting treatment.
4. Underlying Conditions:
Many undiagnosed hormonal conditions can cause your period to be abnormal.
- PCOS is a condition affecting 8% of women, and it causes irregular periods, acne, weight gain, and extra hair growth on the body.
- An underactive or overactive thyroid can also cause heavy or light menstrual flow, pain, and fatigue.
- Endometriosis can cause extremely painful periods, or pain with intercourse.
- Fibroids, which are abnormal growths in the uterus, can cause long and heavy periods, with abdominal or back pain.
- Candida (yeast) overgrowth or food intolerances
All of these conditions can be treated with naturopathic care, it’s just a matter of being diagnosed with the correct lab testing.
HOW IS PMS TREATED?
Your Naturopathic Doctor may do lab testing to determine your hormone levels, and then use herbs to increase or decrease your estrogen and/or progesterone levels. Your ND will also correct nutrient deficiencies, ensure your detoxification pathways are functioning optimally, and will screen and test for any underlying health conditions that may be contributing to your PMS symptoms.
Book your appointment with Dr. Hilary Chambers, ND to treat your PMS today.