Women’s Health: Overcoming PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)

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Although there are some contributors and factors of PMS that lie out of one’s control, there are many aspects that can be influenced and optimized. Doing so can improve one’s experience during the days leading up to menstruation. Before discussing the possible treatments available for reducing and resolving premenstrual syndrome it is important to have a solid understanding of the condition itself.

PMS: An Overview

Premenstrual syndrome is recognized as the time between ovulation and menstruation that occurs monthly. This period is called the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle and signifies the latter half of menstruation. During this time, most women experience great fluctuation in hormone levels. This swift shift in hormones is the primary contributor of PMS symptoms. Because hormone levels are unique to the individual, symptom severity differs from person to person. Additionally, those who experience thyroid dysfunction may have increased hormonal imbalance, which can lead to further issues. For example, reduced serotonin and thyroid hormone levels can contribute to increased symptom intensity.

During the luteal phase, after the egg has been released, the corpus luteum follicle is produced and left in the ovary. When conception does not occur the corpus luteum deteriorates and no longer impacts hormone levels. While it is active, this endocrine structure produces significant levels of progesterone and estrogen. Excess estrogen can lead to “estrogen dominance,” leading to severe PMS symptoms.

Recognizing PMS

Typically, PMS symptoms are experienced two to fourteen days prior to menstruation and may linger briefly. PMS is most frequently experienced by women during their childbearing years with roughly 20% to 30% of those beginning to enter menopause. Most women can recognize when they are experiencing PMS based off their symptoms and the regularity of its occurrence. For those who are unsure, The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology have guidelines that allow greater definition of PMS.

Those who fit the following criteria are classified as having PMS:

Symptoms can manifest themselves in a variety of ways. Depending on the individual’s current condition, hormone function, diet, and lifestyle, symptom severity and experience will differ. Those with PMS may experience some or all the following symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

Common symptoms associated with PMS include:

  • Headaches or migraines
  • Cravings
  • Irritability
  • Bloating
  • Irregular shifts in mood
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Cramping
  • Breast tenderness
  • Insomnia
  • Weight gain
  • Anxiety

Experiencing a wide range of these symptoms may suggest a greater underlying problem such as inflammation, adrenal and thyroid imbalances, insulin resistance, or anxiety and chronic stress. If one is experiencing these conditions, it is important to resolve them as part of one’s efforts in treating PMS.

Those with particularly intense PMS symptoms are likely experiencing premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Symptoms of PMDD are experienced during the same time frame as PMS but are more widespread and have a greater impact on the body. The heightened symptoms associated with this intense version of premenstrual syndrome may be caused by the following contributors:

  • Environmental toxins
  • Thyroid Malfunction
  • Food allergies
  • Poor diet
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Depression
  • Physical and/or emotional stress

Fortunately, most of the problematic contributors of PMS and PMDD can be solved. There are multiple treatment methods available and lifestyle changes that can improve or completely resolve PMS issues.

Treatment Options

Speaking to your doctor will provide a variety of treatment methods for reducing the impact of PMS. Additionally, there are various natural approaches that provide significant benefit with little risk while you partner with your physician to create a treatment plan. The following three methods of treating PMS can reduce its impact while also improving bodily function.

Supplement with Chasteberry:

People have been using natural remedies to treat PMS for centuries. One of the most well-researched and widely utilized methods of treating premenstrual symptoms is supplementing with chasteberry. This small peppercorn-shaped berry, also known as vitex, is a powerful tool for PMS relief. In a study published in the Journal of Women’s Health & Gender-Based Medicine, 93% of study participants who used chasteberry over the course of thee menstrual cycles experienced fewer PMS symptoms and had less PMS-related complaints overall. The herb’s primary benefit is found in its dopaminergic compounds, which help regulate the hypothalamus and pituitary glands. They also help regulate prolactin, which reduces the occurrence of mood swings, breast tenderness, and headaches. Furthermore, chasteberry aids in keeping estrogen and progesterone at appropriate levels.

Optimize Diet:

Diet is also a critical piece in regulating and treating PMS. Limiting one’s intake of inflammatory foods such as dairy, gluten, processed foods, hydrogenated fats, salt, and caffeine, can help reduce discomfort and risk of infection. Additionally, by including more hormone regulating foods, one can help keep their estrogen at the appropriate level. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, and brussels sprouts contain indole-3-carbinol, which is converted to diindolymethane (DIM). DIM is an enzyme that aids in the removal of excess estrogen and improves estrogen metabolization in the liver. Furthermore, indole-3-carbinol reduces 4-OH and 16-OH estrogen metabolites, both of which are associated with increased breast cancer risk and PMS symptoms.

Lower Stress:

Reducing stress can also be greatly beneficial in reducing the impact of PMS. Releasing cortisol is part of the body’s natural stress response. This is perfectly healthy if it is not constant and excessive. If one experiences chronic stress and anxiety, they may suffer adrenal fatigue and hormonal imbalance. This can lead to a variety of hormone imbalances, including estrogen and progesterone. One can combat excess cortisol release by engaging in relaxing activities such as yoga, meditation, qi-gong, and tai-chi.

Taking Control

Don’t let premenstrual syndrome control your life. If you are sick of experiencing the debilitating and frustrating effects of PMS, it is worth exploring the above treatment methods. Being better-informed of the causes and effects of PMS allows you to choose the treatment approach that best suits you. Commemorate National Women’s Health Week by caring for your body and giving it the tools needed to make PMS a thing of the past.