Understanding the Hormone Connection to PMS + Top Suggestions for Alleviating Symptoms
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) most commonly results from a hormone imbalance where progesterone is low relative to estrogen levels, particularly in the second half (luteal phase) of the menstrual cycle, about 1-2 weeks before the onset of a period. PMS encompasses a cluster of symptoms including bloating, breast pain, migraines, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and irritability.
Dr. Katherine Dalton, a British physician in the 1950s, was the first to discover the condition when she noticed the monthly migraines that had plagued her since adolescence went away during her pregnancies, a time when hormones, especially progesterone, are at peak levels. Dalton put the term “PMS” on the medical map when she published her findings in the prestigious British Medical Journal ("The Premenstrual Syndrome" 1952). Dalton helped shift the perception of PMS as a “mental illness” as it was in her day to a hormonal imbalance that afflicts an estimated 75% of women with varying types and intensity of symptoms — the kind that sabotage our relationships, our jobs and our happiness!
Many women just accept these symptoms as the "new normal" but we know they don't have to be!
What Can I Do to Reduce Symptoms?
First, it's important to be aware of certain lifestyle factors that can negatively affect our hormones and intensify PMS symptoms. Next, we’ll share natural remedies to help reduce the intensity!
1. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is filled with high-sugar, processed foods, factory-farmed meat, non-organic produce, conventional dairy (loaded with hormones), and excess alcohol and caffeine...all of which create inflammation & imbalances in the body! On the flip side, a diet focused on organic meat & dairy, low sugar and anti-inflammatory foods like healthy fats, veggies, and at least 25 grams of fiber per day promote hormone balance
→ Check out our weekly “product swap outs” on our BLOG to find “better for you” non-toxic foods and products.
2. Regulate Bowel Movements: In order to detoxify the liver & sweep out excess estrogens, it's imperative that we prioritize healthy bowel movements, every day! When things aren't moving, constipation slows the detoxification process which can cause estrogens to accumulate in the system leading to estrogen dominance and all of those unpleasant PMS symptoms. Fiber and a magnesium supplement can help a lot. More on this below!
3. Abundant Stress is taking center stage in today's world and can be both physical, emotional and environmental! Environmental pollutants and hormone-disrupting chemicals like xeno-estrogens (i.e. "fake" estrogens) lurking in our household & beauty products can intensify stress on the body. We must learn to lessen the load by practicing stress-reducing techniques, swapping products for safer alternatives and being aware of what we put in and on our bodies. We love this article on how to reduce stress for your personality type!
Suggested Remedies to Reduce PMS Intensity
#1 - Increase dietary fiber to at least 25 grams per day to stay "regular" in the restroom which reduces bloating & helps move excess estrogen out of the body. What does this look like? 1/2 avocado (4.5 grams) + 1/2 cup raspberries (4 grams) + 1 tbsp chia seeds (5 grams) + 1 cup sweet potato (4 grams) + 1/2 artichoke (5 grams) + 1 cup broccoli (2.5 grams).
Some ways to include fiber in your day include:
- 2 eggs cooked in coconut oil w/ avocado and a side of raspberries
- Chia seed pudding as a snack
- Sweet potato stuffed with ground turkey & ghee for lunch
- Salmon for dinner with steamed artichoke & broccoli topped with grass-fed butter
Viola... fiber for the day!
#2- Manage Your Stress - When your cortisol "stress" hormone levels are running on overdrive, progesterone (i.e. "the chill out" hormone) takes a hit, and when it’s down and cortisol is up, you might find yourself hyper emotional (crying at commercials), puffier in the mid-section and "tired but wired" with breasts so tender hugs hurt and periods so painful you consider taking a sick day!
To manage your stress, it's important to schedule in moments of bliss every day! Some ideas:
- Take a walk and listen to a book on audible
- Try an app like Shine for daily meditations and community support
- Sign-up for a yoga class (there are lots of virtual options these days as well!)
- Practice deep breathing
- Watch a funny show or movie
- Create a themed night in with a friend or family member
- Write your feelings down in a journal
- Sweat it out by moving your body
- Draw an epsom salt bath and light candles
#3- Fill your plate with anti-inflammatory foods & herbs like wild-caught Alaskan salmon, extra virgin olive oil, avocados (also high in vitamin E which boosts progesterone!), dark leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables and turmeric which is essentially nature’s ibuprofen! By reducing inflammatory foods and increasing the foods listed above, you are likely to see an improvement in your menstrual cramps, low backaches, irritability, and fatigue.
#4 - Healthy carbs - When we experience PMS, our estrogen and serotonin drop, so we may find ourselves craving heavy carbs and sugar. Instead of feeling controlled by these cravings, get ahead of it! There is nothing wrong with bumping up the healthy carbs during the 1-2 weeks prior to your period, so cycle in things like sweet potato, rice noodles, and ezekiel bread sandwiches. You may also really enjoy some dark chocolate to satisfy those sweet cravings, while also supporting neurotransmitter production!
#5 - Supplement Wisely with herbs & vitamins that have been shown to help ease PMS symptoms...these are some of our favorites!
- CALM Calcium Magnesium at night
- Vitamin B6
- Evening Primrose Oil
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids
- High-quality probiotic
- Chasteberry fruit extract (Vitex Agnus-castus) which can help balance the hormones released by the pituitary gland that control your overall hormone function. We like the Moody Bird supplement from HUM Nutrition. Use code 165CB1 for $10 off your first purchase.
- Introduce CBD for cramps: Cramps happen because chemicals called “prostaglandins” cause the uterus to contract and shed the uterine lining. If you experience a lot of cramping, you may want to consider trying a CBD oil or CBD topical product as a natural remedy to relieve pain. We love CBD+Nature (use code “balance” for 20% off) as well as Beam CBD.
- Essential oils! These wonderful healers provide a great way to mitigate stress and support hormone health. Go for oils like lavender, clary sage, or thyme; use them with a diffuser, dilute them into jojoba or coconut oil to create a natural massage oil, put a few drops into a bath, or simply inhale their scent from the bottle for a few seconds!
- Get tested! Lastly, If you have PMS that is sabotaging your life and has your loved ones running for the exits around ‘that time of the month,’ it is a great idea to test your hormones! A simple saliva test can determine if low progesterone or an adrenal / cortisol imbalance is at the root of the persistent or severe symptoms you are experiencing. If this is the case, following an all natural rebalancing plan (including specific herbs, vitamins and plant based hormones - i.e. progesterone) can bring you back into balance and help you find relief long term!
Interested in testing your hormone levels and getting started on an all-natural rebalancing plan? Check out our at-home hormone testing + consulting packages HERE.