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Pre Menstrual Syndrome (PMS)

What is Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)?

PMS occurs 7 to 10 days before the menstrual period. There are a number of contributors that appear to trigger hormonal changes within the body that could contribute to these symptoms, however there are no known causes of PMS specifically. It occurs most often in women in their thirties, seems to worsen with age, and is often more severe during stressful times.

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What are the symptoms of PMS?

There are over 200 listed symptoms related to the group of premenstrual disorders. Common complaints range from:

  • Feeling lost or out of control
  • Over emotional or temperamental
  • Depressed and anxious
  • Bloating and weight gain
  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Headache and backaches
  • Breast swelling and tenderness
  • Cramping
  • Loss of libido
  • In severe cases, suicidal thoughts may be present

PMS and Hormonal Imbalances...

A lot of research has shown that these symptoms are related to a deficiency in the hormone progesterone. Progesterone is a hormonal that should be dominant in the second part of the menstrual cycle (after ovulation). When progesterone is deficient, the body has an excess of estrogen, which causes estrogen to dominate the whole female cycle. This condition is called Estrogen Dominance.

Estrogen Dominance can cause serotonin (a mood elevating neurotransmitter) to become imbalanced. Estrogen dominance also disrupts hormone like substances called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins exert multiple actions on the central nervous system and effect behaviour; hence any imbalance contributes to the aetiology of PMS.

So why are woman suffering from hormonal imbalances in the first place?

Probable causes for hormonal disruptions are described by experts to be originating from causes such as toxicity (heavy metals, endotoxins etc), stress (adversely effects the central nervous system), excessive insulin production (decreases prostaglandins, and increases androgens associated with hormonal imbalances) and poor nutrition, or a combination of one or more.

The importance of nutrition in regulating hormonal functions...

Nutrition seems to be one of the most important keys to helping regulate hormonal function. Recent research findings increasingly suggest that nutritional factors may play significant roles in influencing both the production and metabolism of various hormones.

Vitamin B6 is helpful for overall symptoms, by acting as a cofactor for enzymes involved in estrogen conjugation in the liver, for the synthesis of several neurotransmitters and for the synthesis of prostaglandins. B6 also stimulates cell membrane transfer of magnesium and increases intracellular magnesium levels. Ideally take a good quality multivitamin such as MultiVite to obtain a full spectrum of the B vitamins, or a high potency Vitamin B Complex.

Magnesium is fundamental to the treatment of PMS. Magnesium is commonly depleted in sufferers of PMS. Its multi factorial role extends to prostaglandin functioning, excess estrogen excretion, activation of B vitamins, energy production, and synthesis of neurotransmitters. As well as this, this mineral helps you to unwind better at night time. Deficiency symptoms include muscle cramps and twitches, restless leg syndrome, being unable to unclutter your head of racing thoughts at night and insomnia. Vitamin E is useful for breast tenderness, fibro cystic breast problems and for helping with PMS generally.

PMS and diet...

Diet, i.e. the foods you eat, is an important factor to look at, as there are a number of foods that may ease some of the symptoms of PMS. Complex carbohydrate foods have a calming effect in the body and should be eaten often. Foods like pasta, vegetables, whole-grain breads, and cereals are good examples. Cookies, candies, and all refined carbohydrates, too much protein, and fried and fatty foods all have negative effects on PMS. Caffeine, colas, alcohol, and chocolate should also be avoided. These 'foods' deplete valuable B vitamins, which cause diminished levels of liver enzymes therefore furthering a hormonal imbalance. DIM contains a cruciferous extract, which helps detoxify excess estrogen through the liver. This offers a detoxifying effect...

Herbal remedies to help with PMS..

Herbs have been traditionally used to help with the problems relating to PMS and they have been extremely beneficial in helping reduce hormonal problems and symptoms. Probably the most efficient is vitex (or chaste tree). This comes in the supplement called Femaprin. Vitex inhibits a hormone known as prolactin, which causes some of the symptoms that premenstrual syndrome presents. Vitex increases the progesterogenic activity in the ovaries, thus naturally balancing progesterone and estrogen throughout the menstrual cycle.

Some other herbal formulas we stock for helping with PMS include Femzone, Femplex and Feminecta. Other herbs and natural products that may help with PMS are Organic Evening Primrose Oil, Red Clover & Wild Yam.  The following homeopathic remedies have helped. These are Nux Vomica & Pulsatilla.

Moderate aerobic exercise several weeks before the period is essential to a healthy body and mind. Brisk walking or swimming are aerobic exercises that are good choices for PMS. Natural painkillers are released from the brain during exercise.

Having hormonal tests to reveal your current hormonal levels is always a sensible way to determine exactly what is happening and whether the symptoms you are experiencing are related to this or something else. By using the Self Test Female Hormone Test kit you will find out exactly what your estrogen, progesterone and testosterone levels are, enabling you to choose a product that will help specifically with this imbalance. The results are sent directly to you, bypassing your doctor altogether.

Factors that can increase symptoms of PMS...

If you suffer from symptoms related to any type of condition under the banner of premenstrual syndrome, consider the following factors.

These things can increase your symptoms:

  • lack of exercise
  • recurring constipation
  • a hereditary predisposition
  • a lack of daily exposure to full spectrum light
  • a confirmed low thyroid reading
  • nutritional deficiencies
  • poor liver function
  • constant dieting, laxative and enema use.

Nutritional and herbal support for PMS include:

Maca Gold - Maca has been traditionally used as a general tonic and to increase energy, fertility and endurance. It is touted as a natural hormone balancer and sexual performance and fertility enhancing super-food
Super Starflower Oil - these oils are essential precursors for prostaglandin regulation of hormone metabolism.
Femaprin - a concentrated source of the herb vitex with the added benefits of vitamin B6.
Magnesium - magnesium depletion in PMS individuals is common. Sex steroidal hormones disrupt magnesium levels causing menstrual dysfunction. Oral magnesium successfully relieves premenstrual mood changes.
Vitamin B Complex - the B vitamins are essential for all aspects of health, but are particularly beneficial in PMS and other hormonally related problems.

Some important points on PMS...

  • Increase intake of calcium foods including buckwheat, buttermilk, molasses, nuts, seeds, oats, tofu, vegetables, wheatgerm, yoghurt and fish. PMS patients have been shown to consume more refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, sodium and dairy products, with less iron, B vitamin, zinc, and manganese rich foods.
  • Studies shown vegetarian women have lower serum estrogen levels when compared to omnivorous women.
  • Weight bearing exercise is beneficial for women for lowering glucose levels and improving a more positive state of mind.
  • Diminished liver function can actually cause an increase in circulating estrogens, thus potentiating their activity in the body. Because the liver is dependent on B vitamins to perform these functions, any lifestyle habit that depletes B vitamins will interfere with liver function. These include alcohol, caffeine, poor nutrition, and emotional stress.
  • If you are overweight, the excess body fat tissue will convert circulating androgens into active estrogens that influence your body's delicate hormonal balance. Thus a weight management program is essential in the treatment of PMS.
  • Combat any stress in your life. Stress appears to exacerbate premenstrual complaints by affecting hormone production and stimulating the secretion of a range of other hormones that interfere with sex hormones. An important component of stress reduction is regular exercise, which helps to improve blood supply and endorphin levels.
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The Naturopathic Team
Ideal Health

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered and is intended to be used for educational and general information purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice or as a means to diagnose, treat, cure or prescribe for any particular condition or disease. You assume all responsibility for the treatment which may be undertaken as a result of the information on this site, or treatment recommended by any other party. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.

If you need help or advice, please email our naturopathic team with your health question.  Please allow 48 hours for a response.

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