Symptoms of PMS like mood swings, irritability, depression, anxiety, bloating, breast tenderness, sugar cravings, headaches, and sleep disturbances, affect 75% of women. But just because you’re a woman doesn’t mean you have to live with these symptoms.
So what is the underlying cause of PMS? Hormones become unbalanced. Estrogen levels increase and progesterone levels decrease. There are many things that promote these hormone imbalances, such as a high-sugar, refined carbohydrate diet, caffeine, stress, dairy, hormones in dairy products and meat, and estrogen-like toxins from pesticides and pollution. Alcohol damages the liver and prevents it from excreting excess estrogen. Constipation and imbalances in the gut bacteria can lead to the reabsorption of estrogen from the gut back into your blood, even after your liver has tried to get rid of it. And your body needs exercise to help balance hormones. It’s no wonder that so many women’s hormones are out of balance!
Fortunately, good research shows that there are many ways to get hormones back in balance — without drugs. Here’s my plan for preventing PMS and PMDD. Give them a try and you will see in just one or two cycles how much better you feel.
1) Clean up your diet.
– Stop eating refined flour, sugar, and processed foods.
– Cut out caffeine.
– Stop drinking alcohol.
– Balance your blood sugar by eating protein for breakfast.
– Eat evenly throughout the day and don’t skip meals. Don’t eat within 3 hours of bedtime.
– Cut out all dairy and consider eliminating other common allergens for a few months, especially gluten.
– Increase fiber in your diet from vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains. Two tablespoons of ground flax seeds a day are especially helpful in correcting constipation and balancing hormones. Sprinkle them on salads or food.
– Increase omega-3 fats by eating more wild fish like wild salmon and sardines.
– Eat organic food, especially animal products, to avoid environmental estrogens from pesticides.
2) Take supplements.
A number of supplements have been shown to help ease PMS symptoms by improving metabolic function and hormone metabolism. Here are the superstars:
– Magnesium citrate or glycinate, 400 to 600 mg a day
– Calcium citrate, 600 mg a day
– Vitamin B6, 50 to 100 mg a day (along with 800 mcg of folate and 1,000 mcg of vitamin B12)
– Evening primrose oil, two 500-mg capsules twice a day
– EPA/DHA (omega 3 fats), 1,000 mg once or twice a day
– Taurine, 500 mg a day to help liver detoxification
– A good daily multivitamin (all the nutrients work together)
Herbs and phytonutrients can also be very helpful. Here are the best studied and most effective:
– Chasteberry fruit extract (Vitex Agnus-astus) can help balance the hormones released by the pituitary gland that control your overall hormone function. Studies of over 5,000 women have found it effective. Take 100 mg twice a day of a 10:1 extract.
– Dandelion root can help with liver detoxification and works as a diuretic.
– Flax seeds contain lignans that help balance hormone metabolism and block the negative effects of excess estrogens.
– Chinese herbal formulas may also help. One of the most effective is Xiao Yao San, or Rambling Powder.
– Replacing healthy bacteria in the gut also helps normalize estrogen and hormone metabolism. Take 5 to 10 billion live organisms in a daily probiotic supplement.
– For intractable cases, one option is to use topical, natural bioidentical progesterone in the last two weeks of the menstrual cycle. The usual dose is 1/2 tsp (20 to 40 mg) applied at night to thin skin areas for the last two weeks of the menstrual cycle.
3) Get moving.
Exercise is very important for balancing hormones. Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, 4 to 5 times a week.
4) Address stress.
Dealing with stress is also critical. Take a hot bath at night, get a massage, try yoga, learn deep breathing or meditation. These techniques and others can help balance hormones.
5) Get acupuncture.
Acupuncture regulates the hormones, alleviates stress, and can serve as a “re-boot” button for your system.