80% of women in Australia experience PMS to some extent,it is very common, but that does not mean it is normal.

Did you know that in Asian cultures they don’t even have a word or expression for PMS, because PMS is almost unheard of. Our western diet has a lot to answer for!
PMS occurs due to imbalance in key hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, and key neurotransmitters, like serotonin, dopamine and GABA.

Physical symptoms of PMS include:
• Fatigue
• Bloating with possible weight gain
• Headache
• Backache
• A heavy dragging sensation in the lower abdomen
• Digestion issues (upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation)
• Breast tenderness
• Skin outbreaks (pimples)
• Muscle and joint pain
• Insomnia

Emotional and behavioral symptoms of PMS include:
• Irritability or anger
• Moods swings
• Anxiety
• Depressed mood
• Crying spells
• Poor concentration and/or memory
• Cravings – especially for carbs or sugar, or for some people its chocolate

Severe PMS is called Premenstrual Dysphoric disorder (PMDD). When emotions spiral out of control due to PMS, the consequences can be severe. Loss of emotional control can affect parenting, relationships with spouses or significant others, job performance, and more.

What you eat has a large bearing on the extent of your PMS symptoms. The typical western diet is high in processed foods which are high in carbohydrates, sugar, salt and vegetable oils. These foods do not provide the nutrients we need for good hormone and nervous system balance, and even worse they use up a lot of our nutrient reserves just to digest and process them, especially magnesium; A double whammy! Changing to a wholefoods diet rich in fruit, vegetables, lean meat, fish, nuts and seeds will see big improvements in PMS symptoms.

Many of the symptoms of PMS are due to inflammation and respond very well to fish oil and magnesium supplementation. Most women with PMS will have low progesterone levels, and the week or so prior to their period oestrogen levels also drop off. Oestrogen controls neurotransmitter production, so when oestrogen drops off so too does serotonin and dopamine, so you might find you become moody or irritable. Its just chemicals! To boost progesterone and balance it with oestrogen, Maca powder helps about 50% of the time, and Vitex agnus-castus (vitex, or chaste-tree by another name) helps 90% of the time.

Taking Vitex, fish oil and magnesium should improve your PMS at least 50% within a month and completely get rid of it after 3 months.

If a healthy diet and these supplements do not resolve your PMS there may be other factors at play, such as vitamin D deficiency, insulin resistance leading to PCOS, thyroid issues, chronic stress or other deficiencies, such as B vitamins and zinc in particular.

Other tips

– Reduce sugar (carbs) and salt if fluid retention is an issue

– Avoid BPA plastics which introduce xeno-oestrogens (foreign oestrogens) to your system. These mimic oestrogen and throw off hormone balance. Avoid re-filling disposable plastic water bottles and take away containers. There are many other sources of endocrine disrupting hormones in cleaning and personal are products so switch to low-chemical alternatives. (please ask for a full list if you are interested)

– If you have symptoms of oestrogen dominance, such as heavy periods, tender enlarged breasts, endometriosis or fibroids you should avoid non-organic dairy and red meat, as conventionally raised cattle, their meat and milk is loaded with unhelpful hormones.

– Eat 1-2 raw carrots whole or grated every day. Raw carrot has a type of fibre that binds to excess oestrogen and helps eliminate it from the body.

– Eat more leafy greens which provide the best source of magnesium. Cruciferous vegetables (Broccoli, Kale, Cauliflower, Brussel Sprouts, Bok choi etc) provide sulphur and anti-oxidants to boost liver function. It is the liver that regulates hormone levels in the blood.

– Detoxifying foods include lemon, beetroot, avocado, walnuts, leafy greens, garlic, and grapefruit.

– Stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga, walking and exercise are recommended.

There are many simple things you can do that will make a huge difference.

Take home message:

– PMS is not normal and you do not have to put up with it
– PMS results from hormone imbalance and a rise in inflammatory prostaglandins
– A healthy wholefoods diet and correcting nutritional deficiencies will go along way to resolving PMS
– If PMS does not resolve seek advice from a qualified natural health practitioner who can determine the root cuase of your particular symptoms

Stay healthy!