“I’ve got PMS and a handgun – any questions?”
Unfortunately for women who suffer from PMS, that bumper sticker is not as funny as it may seem. PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome and manifests as a cluster of symptoms that occur only in the ten days prior to menses. The usual symptoms are bloating, tender breasts, emotional changes like crying or anger, as well as food cravings. The good news is this syndrome can be easily treated.
If you suffer from PMS, you need to look at your lifestyle. First, you should have an excellent diet. Caffeine tends to increase anxiety and depression and it can also be a cause of breast tenderness. Highly saturated fats in the diet can lead to more cholesterol, which leads to more estrogen, which may increase symptoms. High sugar consumption has also been linked to high estrogen levels. High salt consumption hampers the functioning of the kidneys, which can cause water retention and bloating. A little known fact is that the pesticides in our food can mimic estrogen in the body and can play a role in estrogen related problems such as PMS (and a low sperm count in men).
The liver is the major organ in the body that breaks down and regulates estrogen so it’s important to make sure the liver is functioning well. You can do this through a liver cleanse, which consists of a diet and a series of herbs and vitamins; this can help to clean out the liver.
Exercise is also very important. It produces endorphins, those feel-good opiates in our brains. Exercise reduces your stress level and has been found to have a beneficial effect on gynecological problems like PMS and menopause.
Supplements can help. B6 in a combination with B complex can relieve both bloating and tender breasts. Omega-3 oils can help lower your level of prostaglandins, the substances that surge three days before menses and cause many symptoms.
Some PMS sufferers have low magnesium levels in their blood, so a magnesium supplement might help. Excellent herbs for PMS include Dong Quai, which balances estrogen, and licorice root, which can help re-balance the level of estrogen and progesterone in your body.
The first line of treatment I take with my patients is to encourage them to clean up their lifestyles. If that doesn’t work, I add a natural progesterone cream made from wild Mexican yams or soybeans. The cream is applied to the body for two weeks before menses and can help regulate the entire cycle.
The important thing is to know that you can do something about PMS. The lifestyle changes you make to alleviate your PMS will raise your total level of wellness – and inspire you to toss out your bumper sticker.
Dr. Paulette Roscoe is a naturopathic physician who practices in Nanaimo.