Who likes PMS!?! NO ONE! While most people in North America suffer from PMS they really don’t have to as it is not a natural part of womanhood. Although this is thought to be normal it is not!!! Since starting to do clinical rotations I have found that many women don’t understand their cycle. This post is intended to inform women more about their cycle and empower them to understand their bodies so they can feel their very best! ❤️
Why do we Menstruate?
Menstruation happens about once a month in females who have gone through puberty. Throughout the month the uterus is preparing for pregnancy by thickening the uterine walls to be able to support a baby. If pregnancy does not occur (which it normally does not!) all that work the uterus did go to waste and is shed out of the body via bleeding (aka. your period).
- Estrogen — a sex hormone which helps in regulation of the menstrual cycle, and aids in the growth of the uterine lining
- Progesterone — a sex hormone which helps in regulation of the menstrual cycle, and helps maintain pregnancy in the early stages
- LH — triggers the release of the egg from the follicle, maintains the corpus luteum and stimulates the secretion of progesterone
- FSH — stimulates the ovary to grow follicles and aids in the selection of the most mature follicle for release
How the cycle works
The cycle is actually the most complex process! I really had no idea how mine worked until I took a gynecology class in med school. When my doctor asked me how long “my cycle” was I would say 4-5 days (but this is just how long you bleed for not actually your cycle length)🙈. So let me explain!
Each month there are 2 cycles that have 3 phases each:
The ovarian cycle
- Follicular phase (days 1-14)
- Day 1 is considered to be the first day of bright red bleeding and the last day of this phase is ovulation day (around 14 days later)
- At the same time, the ovaries are producing FSH which causes several follicles to be brought to the surface of the ovary ready for ovulation
- Out of all the follicles, one will become dominant and form a mature egg within it
- The mature follicle will produce estrogen
- Estrogen gets the uterus ready for pregnancy (like we talked about before)
- LH is the produced and on day 12 a surge of LH and FSH will cause the egg to be released from the follicle
- Ovulation (day 14)
- The egg that gets released from the ovary will go to the fallopian tube where fertilization can occur if there is sperm in the area
- If no sperm, the egg will disintegrate in 24h
- Once the egg gets released the follicle turns into the corpus luteum
- Luteal phase (day 14-28)
- Levels of LH and FSH decrease
- The corpus luteum produces progesterone
- If fertilization happened then progesterone continues to be made to keep the uterine lining
- If no fertilization then corpus luteum disintegrates and progesterone levels drop causing the shedding of the lining (your period)
- Follicular phase (days 1-14)
The menstrual cycle
- Shedding of the uterine lining
- Usually, lasts 2-7 days
- 20-60mL of blood lost
- Proliferation phase
- Estrogen leads to the thickening of the uterus
- Estrogen stimulates the cervix to produce fertile mucus
- Secretory phase
- The corpus luteum is making progesterone — this increases blood flow and uterine secretions and decreases contractions of uterine smooth muscles
So who knew all this was happening each month in their body!?!?
PMS is recurrent monthly symptoms that are physical, psychological, and behavioral in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. The symptoms will subside during menses and don’t usually occur in the follicular phase of the cycle. PMS is EXTREMELY common with 70-90% of women experiencing PSM with each cycle.
PMS symptoms can include:
- Sadness + weeping
- Fatigue + lethargy
- Bloating + tummy ache
- Food cravings (salt + sugar)
- Acne flares
- Breast tenderness
I just want you to know that PMS is NOT considered to be normal. Just because we are told that it is part of being a woman and we just have to deal with it, this is not true!!!!!!!!
- Stress management
- Whatever is your favorite way to be ZEN do it now!
- The picture shows my favorite meditation… I listen to it even night when I am trying to sleep and it puts me right to sleep!
- Regular aerobic exercise (aka. CARDIO!… your favorite😉)
- Regular + frequent is most important for PMS
- Whole food diet
- Low sugar intake, refined carbs, dairy, caffeine, and saturated fats
- Increase dietary fiber
- Increase EFA (nuts, seeds + fish)
- A great way to do this is with seed cycling (it helps to balance hormone levels too!!), check out my post all about seed cycling here!
- Weight loss (if necessary!)
PMS + Hormonal Support
- Helps to reduce menstrual cramping
- Helps to decrease water retention + bloating
Vitamin B6 (aka. Pyroxidine)
- Increases neurotransmitters like serotonin + dopamine to help decrease depression
- Helps to decrease mood swings, irritability + fatigue!
- Helps the liver metabolize estrogens
- Magnesium in combination with B6 has been shown to be helpful at treating pre-menstrual anxiety
Evening Primrose Oil (EPO)
- Helps to reduce acne
- Helps to increase prostaglandin E1
- This has an inhibitory effect of prolactin, which is good as high prolactin can increase PMS
Vitex agnus castus (Chaste Tree)
- The most important botanical for PMS
- Helps to increase LH levels and promote healthy progesterone levels
Viburnum opulus (Cramp Bark)
- Helps to reduce uterine cramps (cramps… it’s in the name 😉)
PMS sucks!!! No one should have to deal with PMS yet so many women do. So this is your reminder to take care of your self and don’t suffer in silence! Go and see your ND and kiss your PMS goodbye!
Rocha Filho, E. A., Lima, J. C., Pinho Neto, J. S., & Montarroyos, U. (2011). Essential fatty acids for premenstrual syndrome and their effect on prolactin and total cholesterol levels: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Reproductive health, 8, 2. doi:10.1186/1742-4755-8-2
Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT. Healing Arts Press.
Hudson, T. (2008). Women’s encyclopedia of natural medicine. New York, NY. McGraw Hill.
Marciano, M. & Vizniak, N. (2018). Botanical Medicine. Canada. Professional Health Systems Inc.