Most women have experienced unpleasant symptoms before their period. The term “PMSing” has even become a politically correct term to refer to someone’s irritable behaviour. These unpleasant symptoms may present as mood changes or physical pain such as breast tenderness and migraines. Irrespective of the shape it takes, all premenstrual symptoms point to a common underlying cause: hormonal imbalance. Believe it or not, premenstrual symptoms (PMS) are NOT normal. The hormonal fluctuation that occurs in a woman’s body throughout the month is meant to be a seamless, efficient, and a comfortable process.
PMS symptoms occur 7-14 days before your period. These symptoms can include any the following:
-Cravings (sugar, chocolates, carbohydrates)
-Breast swelling and tenderness
-Changes in libido
-Constipation or diarrhea
What do PSM symptoms mean?
Throughout the month cyclical hormonal fluctuations occur naturally as part of our reproductive process. PMS symptoms often mean there is an imbalance in the ratio of estrogen and progesterone in the body. If there is too much or relatively too little of either one of these hormones circulating in the body during at the appropriate times, it can cause many issues around menstruation. These hormones can influence neurotransmitters, circadian rhythm and serotonin. Further, if the liver is not appropriately breaking hormones down for elimination further hormonal symptoms arise.
What can cause PMS?
Anything that eventually influences the ratio of estrogen and progesterone to shift outside it’s healthy normal range can cause PMS. The following are some common causes:
* Birth control pill- Although this is often prescribed to treat PMS, it can also often be the cause. Even history of birth control usage can contribute to PMS by shifting the normal rhythm of your body’s hormones. It also puts stress on the gall bladder and liver which are the organs responsible for the breakdown and elimination of estrogen.
* Endocrine disruptors- Toxins in our environment are such PCB’s, biphenyl A, parabens and phthalates bind to hormone receptors and mimic hormones. Exposure to these toxins often come from food stored in plastic, cans and beauty products.
* Diet- Hormones can also be found in food such as dairy and diets high in animal protein. Further foods such as coffee, chocolate, alcohol and sugar can also influence our hormones and cause PMS. Nutrient deficiencies like protein and iron can also lead to fatigue, insomnia and headaches prior to menstruation.
* Lifestyle- A sedentary lifestyle can have a profound effect on our mood and energy. Lack of sleep further can disrupt our hormonal rhythm and promote premenstrual symptoms.
* Stress- Chronic stress without adequate down-time and recovery leads to Increased cortisol and can shift our sex hormones leading to relative deficiencies.
* Underlying hormonal conditions- Ovarian cysts, fibroids, endometriosis, hypothyroidism or adrenal fatigue are common conditions that influence progesterone and estrogen. If these conditions are present PMS is often a secondary result.
Naturopathic Approach for the treatment of PMS
Your naturopathic doctor will assess for any underlying condition that could be contributing to your PMS. Appropriate collection of health history, testing and a physical exam will identify which hormones are out of balance.
At Naturopathic Foundations we offer comprehensive testing which includes the use specialized tests such as saliva hormone panels, adrenal panels and food allergy testing which measure important and often overlooked markers of hormone balance. We also have the ability to requisition blood work when needed to identify other health markers. Further, unique testing is also available and commonly used to identify how the body is metabolizing and breaking down hormones allowing us to better understand and identify areas that need special support.
Naturopathic treatment focuses on balancing the physiological hormonal imbalances, however we also recognize that psychological and emotional factors also influence our hormones. Stress management techniques, diet and lifestyle counseling as well as liver support are often foundational work that is required for long lasting benefits. Herbs, vitamins and supplements are often prescribed to help relieve uncomfortable symptoms and help balance the hormones. Bio-identical progesterone may also be extremely effective in some cases.
Dr. Pearl Arjomand is a Naturopathic Doctor at Health in Balance that focuses on women’s health. Her practice consists on treating a variety of hormonal imbalances affecting women. Dr. Arjomand is also board certified to prescribe bio-identical hormones and dessicated thyroid. Please call the clinic at ______ to book a visit with Dr. Arjomand.