It’s that time of the month and you are miserable; cramps, nausea, vomitting, headaches, dizziness, bloating, mood swings, insomnia and fatigue, breast tenderness, food cravings or aversions, depression, irritability, weight gain, etc. Then someone mentions those three letters — PMS — and you give them your best “Oh no you didn’t” look. You would go over and really give them a piece of your mind, but unfortunately you are bent over on the ground, crippled in pain.
PMS, or Premenstrual Syndrome, refers to a wide variety of symptoms that affect some women one to two weeks before their period starts and may endure through the length of their period. PMS is estimated to affect 85% of menstruating women with at least one of the symptoms mentioned above. For some, PMS is simply a good excuse for why they cried during Free Willy the night before, yet for others PMS has caused missed days at work and doctor’s visits. Whether symptoms are mild or severe, hormonal imbalance is behind it all. Maintaining hormone balance is a surefire way to reduce PMS symptoms and ensure your quality of life no matter what time of the month. This can be done naturally through nutritional changes, supplements, lifestyle and environmental changes.
1. Fat Education
Polyunsaturated fats are man-made fats such as vegetable oil, canola oil, soybean oil, peanut oil, margarine or shortening. These fats are highly unstable and oxidize quickly in the body, which leads to inflammation and cell mutation. Our bodies require fat in order to rebuild cells and aid in hormone production, however, when polyunsaturated fats are in our bodies, it has no choice but to use those fats in these processes. In order to boost cell and hormone production, incorporate healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil (not to be used for cooking), ghee, butter, lard, tallow, and quality meats (especially fish!).
2. Avoid Inflammatory Foods
Grains, dairy, vegetable oils, refined sugar, and processed foods contribute to inflammation and may aggravate hormonal problems. When rebalancing our bodies at a cellular level, nutrient density is the key. Avoid any foods with ingredients that you couldn’t draw a picture of in a game of Pictionary. Fill your diet with whole, real foods and get as wide a variety as you can of vegetables and fruits, which are chock full of vitamins and minerals that will help to rebuild any damage from toxins. Look at a copy of the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen list and buy organic based on the foods in the Dirty Dozen. Prioritize nutrition and your body will repay you in full!
Supplemental nutrition is a common path for those looking to heal PMS naturally. Because supplements are not regulated by the FDA, results of these supplements are inconclusive, although many women have found relief from varying symptoms. Some of the more common supplements for PMS are as follows:
- Chasteberry Extract, for breast pain, swelling, cramps, and cravings
- St. Johns’ Wort, for lowered levels of depression and anxiety
- Evening Primrose Oil, for breast tenderness
- Ginka Biloba, for mood swings
- Dandelion Leaf, for bloating
- Magnesium, for cramping and improved sleep
- Maca, for hormone production, increased fertility, and improved skin
- Fermented Cod Liver Oil, for hormone production and beneficial fats
- Red Raspberry Leaf, for cramping and increased fertility
These results will vary from woman to woman. Please consult with a doctor before using any supplement to ensure that it does not have a negative side effect or interact with any other medication you may be taking.
Our bodies do some of their best work while they are asleep. Without a healthy sleep pattern or without quality sleep (quality is just as important as quantity!), our bodies cannot complete all the repairs and processes it needs to in order to maintain a healthy hormone balance. With proper sleeping patterns, inflammation is reduced, damage is repaired, and disease is kept at bay. If you are having trouble sleeping, try to get into a daily schedule; go to sleep and wake up at the same time, even on the weekends. Create a relaxing bedtime routine so that your body knows it is time to wind down. Reduce stress, especially in the evenings; you might find that stretching, praying, or meditating will help to accomplish this. Avoid caffeine after 1pm. Expose yourself to natural light during the day and avoid the blue light on computer or TV screens two hours before bed. Give it time; a new sleep pattern can sometimes take weeks to develop, but your body will thank you in the long run!
If a hormone imbalance is at the root of your PMS, strenuous activity may make your symptoms worse. Avoid high intensity cardio workouts, and wave goodbye to Jillian Michaels for the time being. Until you see an improvement in the way your body is functioning, focus on lighter intensity exercises such as walking, swimming, or yoga.
Many environmental toxins are impossible to control or avoid, but there are things in your control that you can do to limit your exposure to harmful toxins.
1. Avoid Household Chemicals
Those with hormonal imbalances may be sensitive to the chemicals found in every day cleaners or even in the plastics used for food storage. Consider using a natural brand of cleaner such as Mrs. Meyers or Seventh Generation. There are also many DIY cleaning products that you can make with common household ingredients such as baking soda, lemon juice or vinegar. Changing your food storage containers from plastic to glass is also an important step towards reducing the amount of toxins you are encountering.
2. Natural Menstrual Products
Harmful toxins are even found in typical menstrual products like disposable pads and tampons, hence the risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome from tampons. However, there are now an abundance of natural products available that may help to reduce PMS symptoms such as cramping or pain. As someone who is sensitive to the chemicals in these products, I will tell you my life has changed since transitioning to reusable pads and a menstrual cup (I use a moon cup, but the Diva cup is also very popular). There are also natural brands of disposable menstrual products that are made without the harsh chemicals of other brands.
Healing looks different to every woman, but even one small change from the options listed above may help to reduce PMS symptoms. Start small and work your way towards healing your body naturally. Your body wants to function at its best, it only needs a little help from you.