In the past, I experienced really bad PMS symptoms.
It all started when I was in my teens; I used to get a headache right before my period started. After a while, I began to experience an intense negative shift in my mood. I got irritable; I almost felt like a different person for the last half of my cycle.
Finally, my breasts became really sore right after ovulation. It seemed that this was the norm for a lot of my friends as well.
When I started to learn more about hormone health I realized that PMS symptoms are common but they aren’t normal. Most symptoms are signs of hormone imbalance. This knowledge inspired me to take action to eliminate my PMS.
PMS happens in the luteal phase of your menstrual cycle (the 10-16 day period after you ovulate). In the luteal phase progesterone is the dominant hormone and estrogen should be lower. The corpus luteum (the structure leftover from the follicle that released the egg) produces progesterone. It’s responsible for fertility because it helps ‘ripen’ the uterine lining for a potential fetus.
You become slightly more insulin resistant during the luteal phase, meaning you are more sensitive to sugar. If progesterone is low, your serotonin may be low, causing a mood imbalance.
When your hormones are balanced, progesterone should actually help you feel more calm and focused… the opposite of irritable and angry.
Hormone Imbalance Equals PMS
High Estrogen is very common due to the high amounts of xeno and phytoestrogen we are exposed to on a daily basis. We live in an estrogen dominant world: plastics like BPA and popular cleaning chemicals being the main culprits. Estrogen dominance is usually the main cause of PMS symptoms because your body produces too much and also absorbs too much from your environment.
How to decrease estrogen:
- Eat estrogen detoxing foods (especially during your ovulatory and luteal phase) such as brassicas, white button mushrooms, and raw carrots.
- Sweat it out! Sweating is a natural and easily accessible detoxification method.
- Get fibre from ground flax, chia seed and lots of leafy greens.
- Supplement with DIM (diindolylmethane) or Indol 3 Carbonal. This is what I did and it was really effective.
Low Progesterone can happen to many women after 35 because progesterone production naturally starts to slow down. In addition, high levels of stress can also decrease progesterone. Symptoms include heavy periods (flooding), brain fog, night sweats and extreme moodiness.
How to increase progesterone:
- Remove stress. Work to decrease your overall stress levels.
- Track your cycle and make sure you are ovulating. You need to ovulate to produce adequate progesterone.
- Eat foods to support progesterone like cod liver oil, grass-fed beef liver, yams, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and squashes.
- Take progesterone boosting herbs like vitex or saffron.
- Supplement with evening primrose oil. It provides you with GLA, which is an anti-inflammatory fat that helps balance your menstrual cycle.
High Estrogen and Low Progesterone together can create a condition called estrogen dominance. You may get more extreme versions of the symptoms listed above with the addition of bloating and discomfort in your body.
A Sluggish Liver impacts your PMS symptoms in a big way. All hormones need to be detoxified, processed and metabolized by the liver. Even if your estrogen levels are normal, if the liver isn’t doing it’s job estrogen will build up in the body and you’ll get symptoms of high estrogen.
How to improve liver function:
- Give your liver a break. Decrease foods that are hard on the liver like dairy, fried food, gluten, and sugar.
- Increase your intake of liver detoxing foods like leafy greens and beets.
- Consider taking a B Vitamin supplement to help your liver metabolize excess estrogen. Vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, helps with the production of progesterone and has been shown through research to reduce PMS.
- Supplement with schizandra berry. You can read about how it’s an ideal women’s superfood here.
- Drink dandelion or burdock root tea. Both are effective liver herbs. Dandelion is a natural diuretic and is effective for reducing bloating and breast tenderness.
To reduce your overall symptoms, avoid processed sugar and coffee during your luteal phase. Increase your serving size of leafy greens (preferably steamed or cooked) to get adequate magnesium.
Ultimately, the key thing to know is you can have control of your PMS symptoms through your lifestyle and diet. PMS is common but not normal. You can have control!