Around 75% of women experience symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (aka PMS). Furthermore, roughly 8% of women have such extreme symptoms that they are said to have PMDD – premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of PMS to look out for:
- Breakouts or acne (particularly along the jaw line/chin area)
- Mood swings, anxiety, depression
- Sleep disturbances
- Breast tenderness
- Getting teary or experiencing crying spells
- Headaches or migraines
- Water retention
- Sore lower back
- Food cravings (for things like chocolate and sugar)
If you have one or more of these symptoms around the time of your period, month after month, it’s probably PMS.
What Could Be Causing My PMS?
The main cause of PMS is hormonal imbalance which can be triggered by the following:
- Lack of exercise – your body requires exercise to help balance hormones
- Consuming too many inflammatory/processed foods and refined sugar – this can promote hormonal and gut imbalances
- Alcohol – this contributes to problems because it damages the liver and prevents it from excreting excess estrogen
- Low vitamin and mineral levels
- Stress – this, of course, makes everything worse
- Environmental toxins – estrogen-like toxins from pesticides and pollution
- Constipation and imbalances in the gut bacteria – these problems can worsen the situation, because they lead to the reabsorption of estrogen from the gut back into your blood, even after your liver has tried to get rid of it.
How To Reduce PMS Symptoms
Fortunately, research shows that there are many ways you can help to get your hormones back in balance naturally. Here are 7 simple things you can do to help reduce PMS symptoms:
- Clean Up Your Diet
In a nutshell, you need to try and avoid foods that cause inflammation in the body – foods such as refined flour, sugar, vegetable oils and processed foods. You can read more in my blogs Inflammation Explained and Inflammation Fighting Foods.
- Consume More Omega-3 Fats
Research shows that adding omega-3 fatty acids to your diet reduces common PMS symptoms. Symptoms that responded to omega-3’s include depression, anxiety, lack of focus, breast tenderness, breakouts, bloating, headaches and lack of focus. Research also showed that the longer people supplemented or consumed omega 3’s, the more their symptoms decreased. So, in other words, if you want to see benefits, make it a consistent part of your long-term PMS treatment plan. The best thing to do is to fill up your plate with plenty of quality omega 3’s such as wild salmon, fatty fish and seafood. Changing Habits Inca Inchi Oil is also a wonderful plant-based option for those who are vegetarian or vegan. Healthy fats like these are important for hormonal balance and also creating an optimal environment for conception.
- Get More Magnesium
Because of large-scale farming and soil depletion, our vegetables don’t take up as much magnesium as they did hundreds of years ago. So many of my clients are magnesium-deficient, which is bad news because magnesium is essential for over 300 different biochemical processes within our body! A good supply of magnesium supports our hormones because it’s required in the metabolism of estrogen. Researchers found that increasing magnesium intake (via food or supplements) reduced the frequency and severity of menstrual migraines and reduced PMS symptoms in general. Epsom salt baths are also another incredibly easy way you can top up your magnesium levels. They also reduce inflammation, soothe the pain from menstrual cramps, help you to de-stress and support detoxification. You can read my blog here for more information.
- Consume Maca Root
Maca root is a radish and part of the cruciferous family that is renowned for its hormone-balancing qualities. Maca root has favourable effects on energy and mood, fertility, improving sexual desire and decreasing anxiety. Maca is an adaptogen – it improves the entire body’s resistance to stress (not just a particular organ or system) and creates balance and harmony in the body, thereby reducing inflammation and balancing hormones. Maca can help nudge estrogen in the right direction and improve symptoms such as PMS, infertility, loss of sex drive and mood swings. It is best to tune in to your body to determine if it is the right medicinal food for you. I always recommend starting with a low dose of ¼ teaspoon. You can blend it into yoghurt, bliss balls, your morning coffee or smoothies.
- Consume Broccoli Sprouts
One of my favorite foods that helps to rebalance the estrogens is broccoli sprouts. Broccoli sprouts also contain high amounts of the anti-inflammatory sulforaphane, which can also be found in smaller quantities in other cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli or cauliflower. Studies have shown that ¼ cup to 1 cup of broccoli sprouts a day can create profound health improvements as they rebalance estrogen dominance. They also aid in boosting the immune system and cleansing and strengthening the blood.
- Drink More Herbal Teas
Cinnamon Tea is fantastic for helping to reduce cramps and menstrual pain due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties. To make cinnamon tea, you can simply add cinnamon to some water and boil it for 15 minutes. For some sweetness, add in your preferred choice of milk or honey. That said, if cinnamon tea is not the thing for you, you can always opt to sprinkle the spice on your morning porridge, pancakes or add it your coffee or smoothie.
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea is another fantastic aid because it helps to tighten the muscles in the pelvic region which also helps to reduce the cramps that are caused by spasms. For relieving those nasty PMS symptoms, simply start having the tea 1 week before your period and continue through your period to slow down the blood flow (if you’re a really heavy bleeder). Do note though, red raspberry leaf tea should not be confused with raspberry tea. Red raspberry leaf tea is not commonly available in most supermarkets but you should be able to grab some from your local organic store!
- Nurture Your Gut Bugs
The bacteria in our gut work with our own bodily systems to help optimise our immune system, our blood sugar levels, boost our metabolism as well as regulate our moods and hormones. Did you know that levels of estrogen in the body are affected by our digestion? By optimising digestion, probiotics help keep excess estrogen out of circulation. Read more about probiotics here.
A normal bowel transit time (ie a perfect bowel movement 1-3 times daily) allows excess estrogen to pass out of the body, rather than be reabsorbed. So, if you’re suffering from constipation you’re reabsorbing the toxins you would get rid of through a bowel motion, as well as estrogen from the gut back into your blood, even after your liver has tried to get rid of it. If you are suffering with constipation, I would highly encourage you to read this blog Why You Could be Constipated and 14 Tips on How to Relieve it Naturally.
It’s clear that our friendly gut flora play a starring role in keeping our hormone levels in optimal balance. Here are a few blogs you can read to find out more about nourishing and nurturing your own gut health:
- What is Gut Dysbiosis & Leaky Gut?
- How What You Eat Impacts the Health of Your Gut
- 6 Easy Ways to Support Your Gut Health
Lastly, unless absolutely necessary, I recommend weaning yourself off hormonal birth control (with the help of your chosen healthcare practitioner). The synthetic hormones could hurt your thyroid function, hormones, and digestion. I’m not going to go into too much detail as you can read more about why going off the pill is a good idea from some experts in the field here and here.
Whether you’re looking to balance your hormones, fix your gut, or reduce inflammation, following the above tips can be hugely instrumental in helping to alleviate and reduce your PMS symptoms. Have you tried any of these suggestions to help beat your PMS?