We all know the all too familiar line “it’s that time of the month; leave me alone.” That time of the month really is a period of emotional imbalance usually lasting for up to one week before the menses, in which a woman can experience weight gain, fluid retention, dizziness, shakiness, breast tenderness, cramps, acne, migraines, anxiety, depression, fatigue or insomnia.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is believed to be caused by an imbalance of estrogen or progesterone. Excess estrogen can cause fluid retention and weight gain, sweet cravings, breast tenderness, and nausea. Excess progesterone can cause acne. Deficiency of estrogen can cause hot flashes, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety or depression, and memory loss. Deficiency of progesterone can cause insomnia, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar and the need to eat often), and anxiety or depression. PMS occurs in 40 percent of childbearing women and 80 percent of those sufferers experience emotional mood swings.
Thankfully, there are many natural remedies.
• Women with lower levels of calcium suffer more from PMS so 400 mg of calcium citrate or glycinate taken three times a day may help. Calcium rich foods include the bones of sardines and chicken, sesame seeds or tehina, green leafy vegetables such as bok choy, and Swiss chard, soybean, salmon, almonds, brazil nuts, parsley and dairy if tolerated.
• Chaste tree berry (Vitex agnus) is one of the most popular herbs for PMS in Europe. Studies have shown that women taking chaste tree berry have significant decreases in irritability, depression, headaches and breast tenderness. One should consult with a practitioner before taking this herb.
• Magnesium is found naturally in foods and supplements and has been used to significantly reduce mood swings, cramping, weight gain, swelling, abdominal bloating, breast tenderness, migraines, low blood sugar and anxiety. One could take 300 mg of magnesium citrate or glycinate three times a day. Foods rich in magnesium are dried figs, dried apricots, lemons, almonds, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruit. Magnesium can interfere with certain medications so take under a doctor’s supervision.
• Evening primrose oil contains omega 6 fatty acids or gamma-linoleic acid and is involved in the metabolism of the hormone-like substance called prostaglandins that regulate pain and inflammation in the body so this can help with cramps and headaches.
• Acupuncture is a very good modality used to treat PMS. In traditional Chinese Medicine the liver is the organ most affected by stress, anger and frustration. Stagnation of liver energy or “qi” by emotions, alcohol, and fatty foods can lead to PMS symptoms.
• Stress reduction of any kind can help balance PMS symptoms. A restful vacation, exercise, yoga, meditation and walking all will help balance the energy flow in the body and decrease PMS. One should exercise at least 3-4 times a week.
• Use aromatherapy. Taking a bath using oils like lavender and frankincense can be very relaxing. Taking time for yourself can help reduce the symptoms of PMS. • Patients often find that breast tenderness is eliminated when vitamin E (800IU) is taken. Iodine as a tincture or from kelp also can reduce breast tenderness.
• Diet is a very important part of eliminating PMS. Reduce sugar and salt intake to lessen bloating and swelling, breast tenderness, and hypoglycemia. Increase foods rich in potassium such as fish, legumes, and broccoli. Eat small frequent meals to stabilize blood sugar. Eliminate caffeine which can aggravate anxiety, depression and breast tenderness. Increase intake of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fish. Avoid alcohol, and decrease intake of fatty foods and meat. If one does eat meat or dairy try to get ones that do not contain hormones, antibiotics or pesticides which all increase estrogen.
• Natural hormones have been very helpful in balancing PMS symptoms especially for women who have had children. One can become low in progesterone or estrogen after having children and these hormones can be assessed through the blood and saliva. Natural remedies include progesterone creams or lozenges to boost progesterone. As always, it is important to consult a certified practitioner to discuss symptoms and treatment options.
Barbara Gordon-Cohen, D.O. is board certified in family medicine and neuromuscular medicine. Her office is on 4 Boar Court in Suffern. She can be reached by calling 354-4507 or visiting DoctorBarbara.com.
During a period of stress, I suffered from an imbalance of my hormones. One week before my menses I was experiencing chest pain, anxiety and insomnia. I had my progesterone levels checked and via a compounding pharmacist I was prescribed progesterone lozenges from ovulation to menses at bedtime. My chest pain and insomnia subsided. I was able to function again. –Dr. Barbara Gordon-Cohen