Bloated belly, crushing migraines, food cravings, acne and depression – welcome to the world of PMS. Lola Ross discusses the symptoms, science and the soothers…
Tell us about premenstrual syndrome (PMS)?
PMS is a cyclic range of symptoms related to your hormonal cycle - starting before the start of your menstrual bleed. The late luteal phase of your cycle is when both oestrogen and progesterone are at their most imbalanced state and can cause a heap of emotional and physical symptoms, which disappear by the end of your period.
What do most women suffer from with PMS?
The most common are fatigue, anxiety, irritability, depression, acne, migraines, cramping, high/ low libido, breast enlargement and tenderness, bloating, cravings and increased appetite. For some, these symptoms are minor but for others, PMS can have a big impact on the quality of their life.
Who is affected?
70-80% of menstruating women suffer from PMS to some degree and severe symptoms seem to increase in women in their 30’s and 40’s, but research shows that PMS is seen in women in all ages, from all ethnic backgrounds. Most women function ok when PMS hits and ride out any discomfort, but a smaller population of women can suffer from a far more intense experience known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) This can bring about overwhelming mood swings which can interfere with personal and professional relationships.
What is happening internally to cause PMS?
Monthly changes in hormones oestrogen and progesterone cause changes in brain neurotransmitters, which affect how we feel and think and there are strong links between these hormones and how they interact with endorphins (mood), blood sugar (cravings/weight) and stress hormones (anxiety/irritability), which mean that out of sync levels can exacerbate some of the classic PMS symptoms. PMS is also linked to oestrogen dominance, a common hormone imbalance where there is either higher than normal levels of oestrogen, or an imbalanced ratio of oestrogen and progesterone.
How can we prevent oestrogen dominance and get on top of PMS?
Our liver removes excess oestrogen from the body so that normal levels are maintained, but a poor diet and lifestyle can overwork the liver, causing the oestrogen to recirculate back in to the body. Reducing excess oestrogen is vital in getting on top of PMS; so liver detoxification support is super important. Start by tidying up your diet by avoiding processed foods, refined sugars, alcohol, caffeine and other foods that contain liver-burdening chemicals. Replace these foods with nutrients that help the liver to remove toxins and excess oestrogen.
Which nutrients or tools are good for PMS?
Increasing fibre from whole fruits, vegetable and wholegrains is helpful as fibre binds to old oestrogen and helps it to be removed through faeces. Eat lots of essential fats such as nuts and seeds and oily fish for hormone health and support detoxification by eating foods containing folate and antioxidants, such as dark green leafy vegetables and berries. Also, a healthy and diverse microbiome has been shown to be important in supporting liver detoxification, so stock up on fermented foods such as kefir, saukraut, tempeh and probiotic yogurts. Also body movement is central to supporting reducing PMS and studies have shown that women who exercise regularly have less severe PMS symptoms.