Many women go through their reproductive years accepting these symptoms as “normal”. Other women seek out medications for their symptoms only to find they return once the medications are removed, or worse their cycle stops all together.
These symptoms do not have to be an inevitable monthly nuisance. There are things we can do to help!
WHY NOT TAKE A PRESCRIPTION MEDICATION?
I 100% agree that prescription drugs can alleviate PMS symptoms and overall make life easier. Unfortunately, they are not without their own side effects. For some, the side effects are manageable but you need to look at the pros and cons in your life.
Birth control seems to be the number one go to for just about any variation of “normal” related to female hormones. Yes, if symptom relief is the number one goal, it is a magic pill. Unfortunately, most doctors don’t say or realize that the pill can have side effects and that it can sometimes create irreversible damage that should be discussed.
My number one concern with using a hormonal birth control pill is that it does not correct the underlying imbalance. Also, the pill acts in such a way that it suppresses your hormones. Over time, these hormonal imbalances may make it difficult to become pregnant, cause hair loss, weight gain, changes to mood and headaches.
OTHER DRUG OPTIONS BESIDES BIRTH CONTROL OFFER THE SAME TYPES OF CONCERNS ….
Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH) agonists are used continuously to stop the production of estrogen. Unfortunately these types of medications also have side effects. The severity and frequency may vary from mild to severe but some women find them intolerable. One common system is menopausal-type symptoms such as hot flashes or night sweats or both (3). The other common side effects are insomnia, low libido, headaches, vaginal dryness, mood swings, acne, breast changes. Another concerning symptom is bone thinning, contributing to osteoporosis (3).
Another drug used to treat cramps is Danazol. It was the first drug that was designed to specifically treat endometriosis. This drug will help you also grow unwanted hair, acne, irreversible deepening of voice, decrease breast size and weight gain (4).
Also don’t forget that manipulating hormones in this way may lead to insomnia, fluid retention, anxiety and depression. Yes, there is a “pill for every ill,” but if you’ve found your way here, I suspect that you’re looking for more than a “quick fix”.
I want you to understand that there are practitioners out there than will help you not be at the mercy of your symptoms. There is a individualized plan out there for you. There are also natural solutions that have been shown to reduce mood swings, cramps and other symptoms that have been preventing you from living to your fullest.
Download your FREE Guide to Hormone balance.
GETTING TO THE ROOT CAUSE
A full work up is needed to determine the root cause of your imbalance. PMS is a sign of such a hormone imbalance.Most often, these symptoms are associated with estrogen dominance. This can be either an absolute dominance or dominance relative to progesterone, the second being more common.
One of the biggest ways we can impact hormones is by changing the diet. Sugar, simple carbohydrate, non-organic meats, dairy products, caffeine and alcohol all contribute to hormone imbalances. On the contrast, diets high in healthy fats, clean protein, plenty of vegetables, and loads of fibre help to balance hormones.
It also goes beyond diet. If you are not appropriately handling stress you are contributing to estrogen dominance.
In addition, if you are surrounded by environmental pollutants and/or hormone disrupting chemicals you can cause changes to your hormones. One of the fundamental things I ask my clients to do is evaluate what is in their products such as their skin care, make-up, hair products, deodorant, perfumes etc.
Lack of physical movement and lack of bowel movement allows for estrogen to be recycled into your blood stream. Drinking alcohol overtime may impair your liver’s ability to metabolize estrogen, all of which, again, keeps your hormones imbalanced.
When working with clients to restore balance and eliminate PMS, I start by eliminating symptoms while at the same time looking to find the individualized root cause. These changes are pretty simple, after 3 cycles you should notice an improvement in your symptoms.
NATURAL WAYS TO ALLEVIATE PMS & CRAMPS
#1. SYMPTOM RELIEF:
I know you want symptom relief STAT.
Previous studies have found that magnesium deficiency is common among women with premenstrual syndrome (6) and high magnesium intake may be associated with lower levels of inflammatory markers.
A recent study by Mathias et al. (7), observed that the fallopian tubes of women with endometriosis contract not at regular intervals but more spasmodically, exhibiting “seizure activity.” Because Magnesium has been shown to relax smooth muscles (8,9) , increasing magnesium intake has been observed to reduce the risk of endometriosis.
A typical dose for female patients suffering with cramps is 300-450mg/day of magnesium glycerinate at bedtime. As a bonus magnesium will also help you to get a better nights sleep.
Trials in the literature report on the efficacy of ginger for nausea (14,15). Patients were given 250mg of ginger capsules four times daily and a significant reduction in the symptoms of nausea and number of vomiting attacks.
A typical dose for female patients suffering with PMS associated cramps & nausea would be a 250mg capsule four times daily, 3 days prior to your period starting and continuing until day 3 of your period.
#2. REDUCE INFLAMMATION
Abnormal levels of pro-inflammatory markers have been seen in women with endometriosis (10-12). Inflammation also causes estrogen levels to increase and subsequently leads to estrogen dominance. This is because low grade inflammation increases the activity of aromatase. Aromatase is an enzyme found in fat tissue that converts testosterone to estrogen . When stress is high, aromatase is stimulated, which results in elevated estrogen and harmful estrogen metabolites. These metabolites are what makes you go PMS crazy (13).
As a result, what you have is elevated estrogen and tanked testosterone. You will likely feel irritable, weepy, unmotivated to do anything and your libido will be out the window.
Dietary changes can have a profound effect on inflammation throughout the body. An anti-inflammatory diet should be the first and most emphasized step in your treatment plan. Cutting out dairy, gluten, sugar, and processed foods will give your body a change to restore balance.
As inflammation decreases so too should the intensity and frequency of cramps, muscle pain, mood swings and fatigue.
In addition to an anti-inflammatory diet, this easy at home DIY tool can be used to create happy hormones. Topically, castor oil packs can be placed over the abdomen to enhance liver function, stimulate the healthy flow of lymph fluid, decrease inflammation, and help treat chronic constipation. Click here to read more on how to make your own castor oil pack.
#3. CLEAR OUT ESTROGEN
Fiber will be your best friend if you are looking to help clear out excess estrogen. You should be having at least one good bowel movement a day (meaning formed, pain free, without any undigested food, mucus or blood). Increasing dietary fiber also has the added bonus of reducing bloating and promoting weight loss.
Estrogen is eliminated through the bowels. You must poop at least once every single day to balance your hormones. If you are constipated, your hormones and toxic metabolites sit around longer than they should and risk being reabsorbed into the blood stream. Again, this will cause those symptoms such as bloating, cramping, irritability, heavy periods and even fatigue.
I like to see all my clients, regardless of healthy condition, consuming at least 25 grams of fiber every day. Make sure to also increase your water intake. This will help keep your bowels regular and move your estrogen in the direction it should be going; OUT.
#4. STRESS MANAGEMENT
When you are constantly in that “fight or flight” mode because of stress, your adrenal glands will produce cortisol and adrenaline. While this is a healthy and normal process, the issue is that in order to make cortisol, your adrenal glands need progesterone.
This results in your progesterone being used to make your stress hormones, as opposed to what it was designed to do. Because the adrenal glands cannot make cortisol without progesterone, your body will steal however much progesterone it needs to make cortisol, often referred to as the “progesterone steal (5).”
When progesterone is down and cortisol is up, you will likely see increased weight gain around the mid-section, breast tenderness, difficulty sleeping, anxiety, painful periods, and weepiness.
There is no need to stress about your stress! Incorporating daily rituals such as 10 deep breaths, mediation, yoga, walking outside, visualizations and affirmations can help you handle your stress.
Being mindful of the situation as well as thoughts, emotions and behaviours is key. Take 10 deep breaths and critically evaluate your response to the situation. Often times when we are hormonally imbalanced we tend to over-reach or worry excessively. If stress is the root cause for you, then we will likely need more then just dietary changes and herbal support. In combination with the stress management techniques, there are specific nutrients that can be included to help reduce this big problem.
#5. STRIVE FOR INSULIN REGUALTION
Insulin’s role extends far beyond a concern in diabetes. In fact, insulin is a hormone that I consider to play a large role in your cramps & PMS symptoms.
Remember the enzyme aromatase that converts testosterone to estrogen? Well, when insulin levels rise so does the estrogen-producing aromatase enzyme. When insulin rises, aromatase goes up and your body makes more estrogen from testosterone. The result is increased estrogen and reduced testosterone – a recipe for mood swings, irritability, low libido and heavy periods.
You can regulate your insulin by modifying your lifestyle in these ways:
- Limit meals high in sugar and simple carbs.
- Prioritize healthy fats and protein.
- Increase you fiber intake.
- Move every day and do exercises that incorporate weight training
- Practice intermittent fasting. Evidence shows it can reduce insulin resistance and lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Read more by clicking here.
HEALING YOUR HORMONES
As always I ask my clients to do the foundational work first. I always address sleep, stress, diet, liver, and the gut but sometimes we also need more of a targeted support.
If you have been dealing with PMS symptoms for a while, chances are you will require some supplements. Some of the common supplements I use in my practice are; burdock root, dandelion root, NAC, omega-3, calcium d-glucarate, vitex, rhodiola, DIM as well as vitamins and minerals such as B5, B6, B12, vitamin C and magnesium (amongst others). To read more about the supplements I use download my free Hormone Balancing Guide
It may be tempting to go to your local health food store or functional medicine practitioner and purchase one or more of the above supplements. I promise you this will result in disappointment, frustration and half empty bottles.
I get it, you are busy and you want to try and fix your hormones on your own. I love when my patients are educated and involved in making their own health decisions but you do need a full work up to get to the root cause.
If lifestyle changes and mastering the fundamentals do not resolve your symptoms then it is important to speak with an experienced professional to explore where the imbalances lie in order to develop a targeted treatment approach. This truly will save you time and avoid any unnecessary side effects… just because it is “natural”, does not mean that it is safe!
What to do next? Grab a copy of one or all of my free guides to help you better understand where your imbalances lie, what lab testing would be appropriate for you, and to learn more about questions you should be asking your doctor.
Of course, you are always welcome to schedule a complimentary 10 minute consult with me. I am happy to help!