- Kat D'Andrea
Free yourself from PMS naturally
What is PMS and how can Nutritional Therapy help
Nutritional Therapy (NT) is a form of complementary medicine, which uses the application of nutrition science to help bring balance to health. An example is, providing nutritional and lifestyle suggestions to help women cope better with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS).
We look at the biochemistry between how nutrients and other foods influence the function of our bodies, as well as considering lifestyle and environmental factors that can shift homeostasis (balance). (1)
PMS symptoms are recurrent psychological or physical symptoms during the luteal phase (second half of your period cycle), which include: fatigue, bloating, depressive moods, tearfulness, anxiety, backache, sleep problems, breast tenderness, irritability, cramping, headaches, food cravings, low mood, digestive discomfort and fatigue. There are 17 symptoms in total. It is common for some of these symptoms to ‘heighten’ before the end of our cycle (just before our period around day 28 or 30 of our cycle). (2)
In 2015, studies show PMS occurs in 95% of women of reproductive age. Severe, debilitating symptoms were experienced in around 5% of those women. In recent studies standardised criteria have been used to diagnose one variant of severe PMS — premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). The criteria are based on at least five symptoms, including one of four core psychological symptoms. (2)
It can be normal to experience ‘mild’ changes in how we feel towards our period. However, if symptoms are severe and distressing to you then there could be something else going on with your hormones. I would advise to book an appointment to see your GP, get some blood tests done and see a Nutritional Therapist.
Understanding our hormones
The rise and fall of hormones throughout the month is a normal rhythm of the female body. When the imbalance between the ratio of these hormones are disrupted, PMS happens. Disruption of these hormones can happen through factors such as:
Blood sugar levels.
Some studies have indicated that hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar levels) is a stimulating factor for PMS symptoms. (3).
It is suspected that PMS may be the result of dysregulation of the serotonergic system. In fact, serotonergic reuptake inhibitors are usually a successful treatment for severe forms of PMS. (3) Serotonin and another neurotransmitter GABA play a part in the psychological PMS symptoms, like low mood and tearful episodes which happens during the luteal phase.
The first half of our menstrual cycle before ovulation is a women's most productive time of the month. When most of us can achieve our to-do list and feel like super mums or superwomen, then responsible hormones for this flow, Oestrogen (the productive hormone) is dominating the first half of our period cycle.
The second half of our cycle (day 14 or 20 up until the first day of our period) Is when progesterone (the mothering hormone) takes over. This is the time to slow down and relax. Perhaps, increasing your Epsom salt baths, going for extra walks, journaling, reading and processing. The idea is to be mindful of what your body needs. Maintaining stress will help your body retain the serotonin, GABA and progesterone needed to help you feel okay towards your period.
The Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists (RCOG) guidelines suggest the use of exercise, cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and vitamin B6, as well as increasing serotonin levels, in the second half of your cycle can be helpful. (4)
The chemistry of B6 helps improve our moods, sleep and progesterone levels. It contains an amino acid called tryptophan, which helps the build-up of the neurotransmitter serotonin. Turkey meat is high in a vitamin called Pyridoxine (B6) - a vitamin that has had many studies linked to the benefit for women's hormones.
There have now been many links to the increase of PMS through sleep disturbances. Here the balance of B6, Magnesium, self-care and a good diet can potentially help with PMS and therefore improve our neurotransmitters which in turn will help sleep and reduce disturbances at night. (5)
7 steps for healthier ways to cope with PMS
Approximately day 3-14 (first half of cycle) - Follicular phase - be productive and driven by making the most of your energy
Approximately day 16-28 (second half of cycle) - Luteal phase - slow down, learn to unwind better at night, take self-care more seriously, listen to your body, be mindful of your diet
Ensure you eat within one hour of rising and if you do not feel hungry - stimulate your appetite with a warm drink.
Be mindful of including protein and fats in your breakfast, lunch and dinners. This will help stabilise blood sugar balance and keep you productive.
Always include some brassica veggies and bitters in your lunch and dinners such as broccoli, chicory, watercress, rocket, cavolo nero, leeks, onions and cabbage, lambs lettuce, cauliflower, sprouts, radish, bok choy
Prepare your snacks in advance during your first half of the cycle - such as Cacao + Macadamia Squares
Meals high in B6 towards the second half of cycle - such as ‘Pecorino and Thyme Turkey Burgers’