Natural Relief for PMS
By Joanne Aponte, ND • May 12, 2017
Symptoms of PMS usually manifest 7-10 days before the onset of menses and include mood changes such as low mood, irritability, difficulty sleeping; swollen breasts; water retention and bloating; acne; food cravings and other symptoms. 75-80% percent of women experience PMS symptoms. Although it is natural to feel changes in your body as menses approaches, if the symptoms are debilitating to the point where you cannot function, something may need to be done to alleviate your symptoms.
The body systems that typically need balancing when it comes to PMS are the liver, endocrine system (thyroid, adrenals and ovaries) and nervous systems.
There are several possible contributing factors to explain PMS symptoms and the cause may vary from woman to woman. However, most often symptoms arise because of an imbalance between the two main female hormones – estrogen and progesterone. In the 2nd half of the cycle, progesterone should be higher than estrogen. But when PMS symptoms are rearing their ugly head, the ratio is often flipped and estrogen is higher than progesterone. Using herbs and natural remedies that help balance the progesterone:estrogen ratio is helpful for many women.
Basic approach for relieving PMS symptoms and supporting hormone balance:
- Fiber: increase fiber to 35-40grams per day. Fiber will help your body clear excess estrogen. I recommend 2 tbsp of ground flax seed per day (buy whole and grind yourself). Also consume other high fiber foods such as whole grains, beans, nuts & seeds.
- Consume complex carbohydrates (vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts/seeds) and avoid refined/processed carbs (bread, pasta, pastries, cereals etc). Consume 5-7 servings of vegetables and 2-3 servings of fruit per day.
- Avoid sugar, refined /processed (white) grains, white potatoes, breads and pastas.
- Limit dairy
- Limit fat intake – reduce to 25% of total calories per day. Avoid saturated fat from meat, poultry and dairy. Choose fat from vegetable sources such as olive oil, avocado, coconut oil, nuts & seeds.
- Buy organic meat and dairy to avoid sources of exogenous hormones that are fed to the animals.
Balance the key female hormones:
- Chaste Tree Berry (Vitex agnus-castus) – Helps increase your body’s production of progesterone and balance the estrogen: progesterone ratio. Low levels of progesterone have been associated with many PMS symptoms including anxiety and sleep disturbance. Taking chaste tree alone can make a big difference!
- Don Quai root (Angelica sinensis) – Particularly helpful if you experience menstrual cramps, irregular menstrual cycles or premenstrual constipation. Discontinue 2-3 days before menstruation begins and do not resume until you have completely finished bleeding. Pair with Chaste tree berry.
- 2 tbsp of ground flaxseeds per day. Mix 1 tbsp in 8 oz of water, add lemon and drink first thing in the morning. Sprinkle on salads, add to rice, oatmeal, yogurt or smoothies. This is a great source of fiber.
- Other support:
- Oils high in GLA (gamma linolenic acid) such as Evening Primrose oil – 500mg 2-3x/day. Helps balance hormones and is particularly helpful if you experience breast tenderness.
- B6 – 50-200mg/day to help balance estrogen levels. Particularly useful if you experience premenstrual acne.
- Identify individual hormone imbalances
- The key is to identify specific hormone imbalances so that tailored and individualized wellness recommendations can be made. I run a salivary hormone panel that measures levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. I also often investigate underlying thyroid dysfunction. A low functioning thyroid can cause all sorts of symptoms related to hormone imbalance including PMS and other menstrual difficulties.
Support your liver:
Herbs that help liver function will help balance hormones by supporting their metabolism and clearance. This is especially helpful if you are estrogen dominant.
These include Dandelion root, Burdock root and Milk thistle, Artichoke and Curcumin.
Castor oil applied nightly to the belly and liver area (upper right side) is also very helpful.
Address the stress in your life
There is an intricate and close relationship between your sex hormones (i.e. estrogen, progesterone, testosterone) and the chemicals of your nervous system. This is why many women experience worse PMS symptoms when under stress. Addressing the stress in your life with stress- relieving lifestyle activities such as exercise, breathing or yoga is another key step for getting your hormones in balance.
For bloating and water retention.
Using the herbal approach outlined above to balance the estrogen: progesterone should help reduce water retention and bloating since excess estrogen increases the hormone aldosterone which causes water retention.
For symptomatic relief consider natural diuretics, such as Dandelion leaf and Parsley. Start 7-10 days before menses begins.
- Dandelion leaf tea – 3-4 cups per day. Can add nettle leaf as well.
- Traditional Medicinals makes a nice tea called Weightless to help with water retention.
- B6 – 50-200mg/day.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.