May 19, 2021
Managing PMS naturally
by Mona Jauhar RDN, LD
Don’t let period pain control your life, make lifestyle changes to take control of its triggers and side effects instead
That time of the month? An empathetic statement that immediately binds all of womankind together, though also sometimes stereotypes them. Women come into this world believing they have to bear and endure. That pain is a given and they have to brave it. PMS forms a big part of this burden. The monthly cramping, bloating, nausea and mood swings are all common symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, a condition that about 90 percent of women experience and ‘live with’, according to the Office of Women’s Health. In fact, a more severe form of PMS, premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD can also cause issues like panic attacks, depression, fatigue and sleep disorders.
News flash: This vicious cycle is about to break. The rounds of black coffee, heating pads and painkillers needn’t go on forever thanks to Functional Medicine and its integrated approach. The idea is not to treat the PMS symptoms anymore, but the reasons behind the symptoms which could vary from an underlying thyroid condition or chronic inflammation in the body to exposure to environmental toxins. Once the root cause is identified, healing begins through natural herbs, stress management, clean eating and mindfulness.
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PMS and INFLAMMATION
PMS may start a week or two before your period in the form of acne, constipation, hot flashes or even crying spells. If you have dysmenorrhea then you experience painful menstruation, typically involving abdominal cramps (one of the most unpleasant period symptoms). Mostly PMS happens due to fluctuating hormone levels, including estrogen and progesterone, that occur in preparation for menstruation. This causes overproduction of inflammatory chemicals called prostaglandins which make the uterus to get all up in a bunch with spasms. Sadly, most over the counter painkillers treat the pain and not the inflammation which slowly builds up inside and wreaks havoc on a woman’s overall health.
TOXIC BODY BURDEN
So, where does this inflammation come from? Umm… everywhere. We are living in a sea of inflammatory triggers. Over time, chronic inflammation affects our blood sugar, immunity, thyroid, and our hormones. One of the biggest forms of inflammatory triggers, and also direct insults to our hormonal balance, are Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs), environmental toxins that enter our bloodstream, causing higher levels of circulating estrogen. They are in plastics, household furnishings, household cleaners, residues from herbicides, pesticides, cosmetics and much more. This imbalance is what causes awful cramps and heavy bleeding during periods. They are a major cause of much of the hormonal suffering women are experiencing from menstrual problems to endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and fertility challenges, to breast and other forms of cancer. So the first step in managing PMS would be to identify and get rid of these toxins.
AN INTEGRATED APPROACH
Detox your home and life: Throw our all possible toxic substances from your kitchen shelves and bathroom cupboards. Go for green and clean products.
Eat more greens: Up your intake of a wide variety of veggies, especially dark leafy greens, onions and garlic, yellow and orange veggies – all of which actively support natural detoxification, reduce inflammation, and help clear excess oestrogen. Just make sure that at each meal your plate is basically half covered in vegetables and that you’re getting about 8 servings of veggies and fruits daily. Researchers have also linked a high intake of B vitamins, particularly riboflavin and thiamine (found in fortified milk and cereal, leafy greens, lentils, bananas, beans, seafood, and red meat), to a lower incidence of PMS.
Cut down on sugar, caffeine and processed food as much as possible.
Optimise your nutrient levels: Various studies establish the connect between sufficient vitamin D and magnesium levels and lower menstrual pain in women. Calcium may help with mood-related symptoms, while vitamin B6, magnesium, and curcumin might help with both psychological and physical side effects of PMS. You could also replace painkillers with natural herbs like ginger root, cinnamon bark and valerian root for gradual pain relief.
Start stress journaling: Becoming aware of your stress and learning how to cope with it are super important. While exercise, meditation, breath work, guided imagery, and other relaxation techniques can all help lower stress levels, making notes on triggers of your personal stress level and how it affects you can do wonders.
Improve circadian health: Poor sleep directly leads to inflammation due to disruption in circadian rhythm and our cortisol cycles. Circadian rhythm disruption has been found to be associated with disturbances in menstrual function. So follow a good sleep hygiene and eat and sleep in sync with nature’s sleep-wake cycle.