An Integrative Approach to PMS Treatment
Premenstrual Syndrome (or PMS) is a very common condition. I see many patients in my practice that experience the symptoms every month. In this article, I would like to discuss various treatment approaches to reducing both the frequency and severity of the symptoms of PMS.
If you suffer from PMS, you are not alone! It is estimated that 40% of women of childbearing age experience PMS (1). Common symptoms include depression, anxiety, irritability, craving sweets or salty foods, headaches, weight gain, fluid retention, breast tenderness, abdominal bloating and headaches. These symptoms generally start a week to two weeks before a period and stops after menstruation.
The causes of PMS is difficult to isolate because there are so many factors that contribute to the symptoms. Hormones are a complex picture, with diet, lifestyle, liver health, brain chemicals (neurotransmittors), genetics, hormones, toxicity and emotional health all interacting and having different synergistic effects on each other.
In my practice I always stress the importance of diet. Over the past 20 years of clinical practice, I have learned a lot! One of the most important lessons is the influence of diet on our overall health and especially hormones! Essentially sugar makes the symptoms of PMS worse. I know that many women crave sugar and this may be related to the changes occurring in insulin and neurotransmittor levels associated with hormone changes. While eating sweets may temporarily make you feel better, it negatively affects your hormone health and may make the symptoms of PMS worse! In my experience, and I know many other practitioners would agree, refined sugars make the symptoms of PMS worse! So the first step is to avoid refined sugars and focus on a diet high in protein, vegetables and complex carbohydrates. Avoid the sweets!!!!
For those women who suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), sugar can wreak havoc on their hormone metabolism. It creates inflammation, increases insulin and drives up androgens. These androgens can make acne worse, stimulate male pattern hair growth on the body and thinning of hair on the scalp. So bottom line, avoid refined carbohydrates and processed sugars for improved hormone health!
The health of your liver is extremely important in reducing PMS symptoms. Your liver is involved in the processing and elimination of hormones. Magnesium and B vitamins are important nutrients that may help the liver process hormones. Alcohol, sugar and fatty foods may also affect how well the liver can detoxify hormones (as well as toxins in general). Supplementing with a good liver herbal formula and reducing toxic stressors on the liver may improve PMS symptoms.
Nutritional supplements may be very beneficial in reducing PMS symptoms. I have already mentioned B vitamins and Magnesium. Vitamin B6 specifically has been found in research to reduce some symptoms of PMS in some individuals. The symptoms that responded well include bloating, fluid retention, breast tenderness, depression, irritability and fatigue (2).
The health of the intestinal tract is also very important in treating PMS symptoms. If you are constipated or have intestinal candidiasis, PMS symptoms may be worse. Include a diet high in fiber, fluids and a probiotic to optimize intestinal health. Consider getting tested for candidiasis.
Lastly stress management, regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight is very important when optimizing hormone health.
As you can see, hormone health is affected by environment, diet, organ health, brain neurotransmitters and the interplay of our hormones. It is difficult to navigate through all these systems when trying to determine the best treatment approach. A Naturopathic Doctor is trained to review these systems, determine what areas to address and develop an individualized treatment plan specific for the patient. If you suffer from PMS, I do feel naturopathic medicine can offer many treatment options.
Enjoy the beautiful spring weather in our city!!!
Yours in health,
Dr Tasreen Alibhai, ND
- (1) The worldwide prevalence of premenstrual syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis study. Iranian Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Infertility 16(65): 8-17. Sept 2013
- (2) Kerr GD. The management of PMS. Curr Med Res Opinion 1977;4 29-34