PMS is the name for a cluster of symptoms that can be experienced in the 1-2 weeks preceding a menstrual period. Symptoms can include mood swings, fatigue, bloating, food cravings, anxiety, depression, tearfulness, breast tenderness, headaches/migraines and skin blemishes. In fact, over 150 symptoms have been attributed to PMS! The root causes that drives PMS are imbalances in stress hormones, neurotransmitters such as serotonin, and sex hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone.
- PMS can be classified into four different types, PMS A, C, D and H. Factors which can contribute to the hormones imbalances which cause PMS include nutrient deficiencies (especially vitamin B6, magnesium, calcium, iodine, vitamin E and vitamin A), liver dysfunction, thyroid problems, stress (i.e. relationships, workplace stress, money problems, etc), lack of exercise, blood sugar instabilities, poor sleep, caffeine, sugar, salt and processed foods.
- PMS-A (anxiety) presents with feelings of overwhelm, irritability and emotional instability and is associated with an excess of oestrogen and low progesterone. Increasing your intake of fibre and leafy greens are a good way to begin balancing PMS-A, and certain herbal medicines can be very useful – these are best prescribed by a naturopath, herbalist or integrative doctor.
- PMS-C (cravings) presents with increased hunger, sugar and carbohydrate cravings, fatigue and headaches. It is associated with low blood sugar and excess insulin, deficiencies in chromium, magnesium and vitamin B6, and excess salt intake.
- PMS-D (depression) presents with symptoms of depression, forgetfulness, crying and insomnia, and is associated with low oestrogen levels and an increase in the breakdown of neurotransmitters, often in response to stress. Adequate sleep, vitamin E supplementation and herbal medicines of the antidepressant class can be very beneficial. Speak to your healthcare practitioner before commencing any herbal remedies to be sure they are right for you.
- PMS-H (hydration/water retention) has symptoms of bloating, breast tenderness/swelling, fluid retention, weight gain. It is caused by an excess of the hormone aldosterone, which may be due to high levels of oestrogen, stress, dehydration, excess salt intake, or deficiencies in magnesium and/or vitamin B6.
Whatever your type of PMS, know that symptom-free periods are absolutely possible. PMS is not normal, it is a sign of imbalance within the body and the right healthcare practitioner can help you to figure this out. Natural medicine exceeds all other treatment options when managing PMS as it is able to truly correct the root cause of the problem, rather than merely suppressing symptoms.