Whether you’re male or female, chances are, you’ve experienced the direct or indirect effects of PMS, or premenstrual syndrome. In fact, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimates that at least 90 percent of menstruating women have at least 1 PMS symptom as a part of their monthly cycle (Women’s Health.gov, 2018). With symptoms such as acne, tender breasts, insomnia, fatigue, and mood swings occurring 1 to 2 weeks before menstruation, PMS is actually not “normal.” It typically indicates an imbalance in lifestyle or organ function, and is driven by a number of factors.
1) Poor Diet and Lifestyle
One of those factors is poor diet and lifestyle. Indeed, PMS has been shown to be significantly associated with frequent consumption of fast food, increase of body mass index (BMI), excessive coffee drinking, exposure to passive smoking, and a sedentary life style (Seedhom, Mohammed, & Mohammed, 2013).
A poor diet means a poor intake of nutrients, which affects hormones negatively, because the body needs many nutrients for a healthy menstrual cycle, and to be able to support the liver and colon to detoxify and eliminate harmful hormonal byproducts. These include B vitamins, magnesium, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and E, and fiber.
Solution: Eat a mostly plant-based, Mediterranean diet full of nutrients, fiber, and healthy Omega-3 fatty acids (found in wild-caught fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, etc.). Be sure to include liberal amounts of cruciferous veggies – like broccoli, kale, cabbage, and cauliflower – which are especially helpful for optimal liver function. Avoid refined sugar, which causes high insulin, another hormone, which creates a hormonal imbalance. Also, avoid wine, caffeine, and any known food sensitivities, which may aggravate symptoms.
Fem Premenstrual® is a Chinese botanical blend that can help ease common PMS symptoms, especially cramping and heavy bleeding.
2) Poor Gut Function
The gut is responsible for 50% of hormonal regulation. When gut problems exist, such as leaky gut, indigestion, constipation, etc., it may contribute to PMS symptoms.
Solution: Optimize gut function by taking UltraFlora™ Spectrum, a multi-strain probiotic that helps populate the gut with good bacteria. According to a 2009 study in Menopause International, probiotics and prebiotics, play a role in preventing and/or alleviating PMS (de Vrese).
If leaky gut is the problem, UltraFlora™ Integrity works to repair the "tight junctions" within the intestines, lessening the leakiness of the gut.
Also, consume fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, etc.) and prebiotic-rich foods (onions, bananas, Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus), which provide nutrients to feed healthy probiotics in your gut, on a regular basis. If you suffer with more severe gut issues, see your functional medicine practitioner for specialized help.
3) Excess Estrogen/Low Progesterone
Many cases of PMS are due to excess estrogen and a deficiency in progesterone, otherwise known as “estrogen dominance.”
Low progesterone, which is an important part of the menstrual cycle, often occurs due to chronic stress. Chronic stress causes cortisol, “the stress hormone,” to rise, which interferes with hormonal balance.
Excess estrogen may also occur from stress, environmental estrogens (like chemicals and hormones in food), poor liver detoxification, taking hormonal birth control pills, and even a diet too low in fiber, which inhibits the body from being able to eliminate it in the bowels.
When the body is unable to eliminate this excess estrogen properly, it actually gets converted into toxic byproducts of estrogen that are inflammatory, pro-cancerous, affect brain function, and cause many PMS symptoms.
Solution: DO NOT start fooling around with synthetic estrogen/progesterone to balance things out. It may only complicate hormonal issues, and may make things worse.
A time-honored, proven remedy is Chasteberry Plus®, which contains herbs to support menstrual regularity and reproductive health, and relieve PMS symptoms. A review of 13 randomized trials evaluated chasteberry for managing PMS, and chasteberry was associated with reduced PMS symptoms like breast pain and regulation of the menstrual cycle when compared to a placebo, vitamin B, or magnesium oxide (NYU Langone Medical Center, 2014).
Meta I-3-C contains indole-3-carbinol (I3C), a naturally occurring compound in cruciferous vegetables, and a proven way to promote healthy estrogen metabolism (Michnovicz & Bradlow, 1991).
Axis Endo™ is a low-allergen medical food that contains nutrients to promote optimal hormone balance and healthy estrogen metabolism.
Stress, in general, can cause hormonal imbalances and lead to adrenal dysfunction, which further exacerbates symptoms.
Solution: To help manage stress, create short “islands of peace” during the day to check in with yourself and practice deep breathing. Of course, getting quality sleep and daily exercise are musts as well (even just 10 – 20 minutes of walking!).
5) Other Factors
Other factors may include hypothyroidism, or an under-active thyroid, and poor liver function.
Solution: See your functional medicine practitioner to assess your thyroid and for customized help.
Remember! PMS is NOT a normal occurrence; it’s your body’s way of telling you there is an imbalance somewhere. Follow these basic solutions to rebalance your hormones and redefine your “normal” and hopefully event-less menstrual cycle.
Chasteberry. (2014). NYU Langone Medical Center. http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=21649.
de Vrese, M. (2009). Health benefits of probiotics and prebiotics in women. Menopause International. Volume 15(1): 35-40. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=premenstrual+syndrome+and+probiotics.
Michnovicz, J. and Bradlow, H. (1991). Altered estrogen metabolism and excretion in humans following consumption of indole-3-carbinol. Nutr Cancer;16:59-66.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) fact sheet. (2018). Womens Health.gov. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/premenstrual-syndrome.html#e.
Seedhom, A. E., Mohammed, E. S. and Mohammed, E. (2013). Life Style Factors Associated with Premenstrual Syndrome among El-Minia University Students, Egypt. International Scholarly Research Notes Public Health. Volume 2013, Article ID 617123. http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2013/617123