Nature’s clock- PMS, or premenstrual syndrome. One of those things that many women experience. The good news is that PMS is a there are things that can be done to help lessen the physical and emotional symptoms you experience each month.
Premenstrual syndrome is a combination of physical and emotional symptoms that can significantly affect a woman in the days or weeks leading up to her period. Cramping, bloating, irritability, and food cravings are some of the more common symptoms. In some women, PMS is so severe that it has its own psychiatric diagnosis; it’s called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) and is used to describe PMS with extreme anger or sadness each month.
Conventional medicine isn’t able to offer much in the way of support: ibuprofen for cramps, and prescription medications for other symptoms. Antidepressants like SSRIs are first-line therapy for PMS when the symptoms affect your ability to go to work. For women who can’t tolerate SSRIs, oral contraceptives (the birth control pill) is the next choice.
While the advances in female sexual liberation that came with the birth control pill are no doubt a good thing, the side effects that come with taking it are not. The pill alters the way your body produces hormones, and many women who take it end up with weight gain, mood swings, food cravings – symptoms very similar to PMS, except consistently experienced. The birth control pill also depletes important vitamins and minerals in your body, essentially starving your cells of the food they need. All in all, if it’s being used for anything other than contraception, there are better, healthier choices to help control your PMS.
Naturopathic medicine recognizes five subtypes of PMS that help guide natural treatment choices. Some women fall neatly into one category, and others may not. Either way, identifying the type and treating appropriately can make a big difference for women.
PMS Type C is characterized for food cravings, whether it’s for carbohydrates, chocolate, salt, or sugar. We think that a relative excess of insulin causes this type, which makes blood sugar levels to fluctuate more than they should. Supplements aimed at correcting insulin and blood sugar like chromium or cinnamon can help with this type too.
Women who show symptoms of depression, including sadness, easy crying, apathy, and in extreme cases, suicidal thoughts, have Type D PMS. These symptoms are often the result of a relatively low estrogen and serotonin, and herbs like chaste tree and red clover can help, in addition to proper exercise.
Hyperhydration means excess water, and women with Type H PMS tend to have bloating, swelling, water retention, and weight gain before their period. The exact imbalances are unclear, and diuretic herbs like dandelion or nettle, and potassium-rich foods like bananas can help ease your symptoms.
Like many health conditions, naturopathic doctors think about PMS differently from conventional medical practitioners. Where western medicine runs short on answers, NDs have had training in women’s health that helps us recognize different PMS types. In addition to herbs and supplements, NDs also have training in acupuncture and clinical nutrition, to make sure all the angles are covered and your PMS gets resolved.