“No I am not PMS’ing, I don’t get PMSl”
While over 40% of women experience PMS symptoms severe enough to seek medical attention, statistics indicate that closer to 70 to 90% of menstruating women experience premenstrual symptoms of some sort, yet they do not always recognize or admit it. The term premenstrual syndrome covers a group of symptoms that can affect a woman emotionally and physically. Usually symptoms peak 2 or 3 days prior to menstruation, but for some, it can last up to 2 weeks. Endocrinologists have identified as many as 150 different symptoms, the most common being lower back pain, bloating, mood swings, irritability, anxiety, fatigue and food cravings, especially for chocolate. Doctors do not know the exact cause of PMS but there is a general consensus that fluctuating hormones are partially to blame. Genetics also plays a role, as women whose mothers or sisters have PMS are more likely to experience it themselves.
The main culprits aggravating PMS are estrogen, progesterone, serotonin (our happy hormone), GABA (our relaxing messenger) and cortisol (our stress hormone). Estrogen begins to rapidly fall mid-cycle while progesterone starts to rise. Over the next 10 days these hormones help build the lining of the uterus for possible implantation and retain fluid to keep tissues well hydrated and elastic. If the body is producing the right amounts of these hormones at the same time, no side effects are seen. However, it only takes a bit of stress, a small illness, or nutrient deficiency to throw off this balance and wham – you got full blown PMS! This hormonal imbalance increases water retention leading to headaches, bloating, breast tenderness and muscle cramping and spasticity. If that was not enough, they begin to interfere with the binding of serotonin and GABA increasing depression, moodiness, sleep disturbances and food cravings, as well as augmenting cortisol, producing anxiety, irritability and more food cravings. So you can see how a bad day at the office can result in an irrational argument over the last piece of chocolate!
Before you ransack the nearest 7-11 in a desperate search for a Hershey’s bar, head to the pharmacy or local health food store instead for some effective herbal support. Vitex, a natural herb, can help re-establish the normal balance of estrogen to progesterone. Willow, the natural aspirin, decreases headaches and cramping. Artichoke, in herbal form, stimulates liver enzymes to help breakdown and recycle estrogen and progesterone for better hormonal balance, and a reduction in bloating, acne and fatigue. Casien peptides, extracts from milk, mimic gaba and its calming effects, while decreasing cortisol, dissipating anger, irritability anxiety and food cravings. 5-HTP, an amino acid, helps support serotonin levels, to decrease depression, weepiness and sweet cravings. Increasing protein at each meal and avoiding white refined foods help stablize blood sugar levels greatly minimizes water retention, mood swings, food cravings and fatigue.
Stress has a major impact on PMS symptoms as many of the same hormones are disrupted. Simple stress management techniques have been shown to have a profound impact on the severity of PMS.