If you struggle with premenstrual symptoms such as mood swings, irritability, muscle cramps, cravings and bloating; don’t worry you’re not alone. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) affects up to 90% of women before they reach the menopause; for some, the symptoms can be mild and almost unnoticeable, whilst for others, they can be so severe that they struggle to cope with normal daily life.
There is no single known cause of PMS. It is likely however that changing levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone throughout the cycle are involved. Other possible causes include alterations in the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitter serotonin, blood sugar imbalance, thyroid problems, nutrient deficiencies and even stress.
With no single known cause or unifying treatment protocol, the subject of PMS can be a complex one to navigate. Fortunately though, diet and lifestyle changes can have a dramatic impact on both symptoms and addressing the underlying causes.
1) Balance your blood sugar – Taking steps to balance your blood sugar is one of the most effective changes you can make to support PMS.
• Eat fresh fruits and vegetables, cook from scratch
• Include at least some protein (chicken, meat, fish, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, chickpeas, eggs, dairy) and healthy fat (nuts, seeds, oily fish) with every meal and snack
• Reduce / avoid refined and processed foods, refined sugar, sugary drinks and snacks
• Reduce/ avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine
• Eat regularly (every 2-3 hrs) – aim for around 3 meals and 3 snacks daily
2) Reduce stress – Stress is a major risk factor for PMS; if you struggle with unwanted symptoms every month, it is essential to incorporate stress reduction strategies into your weekly routine. Here’s some tried and tested ways to reduce stress:
• Mindfulness meditation – www.headspace.com is a great place to start
• Yoga, pilates and t’ai chi offer gentle exercise combined with relaxation
• Gentle exercise such as walking and swimming are proven ways to beat stress
• Connecting with friends and family and talking through problems is an important way to lessen the impact of stress
3) Boost your nutrient intake – Essential nutrients are often depleted in women suffering from symptoms of PMS so it’s worth starting a supplement regime to get your levels back up to scratch. Here’s the ones that are most commonly affected:
• Magnesium – Supplement at least 200mg daily in powdered magnesium glycinate form
• Calcium – Works with magnesium to support muscle health; opt for 50mg daily in the from of calcium bisglycinate
• B complex – B vitamins work together in the body so it is best to supplement as a complex rather than individually
• Vitamin C – Often depleted during times of stress; choose at least 500mg daily in the gentle form of mineral ascorbates
• 5-HTP – This natural precursor to serotonin can be a useful additional support if youtend to feel a bit blue before your menstrual period
• Starflower oil – A great source of the omega 6 fat GLA (gamma linolenic acid) which is often low in women struggling pre menstrually
• Omega 3s – For comprehensive essential fat support, add in a high quality omega 3 supplement that supplies EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in a pure and stable form.
4) Check you don’t have any neumusculoskeletal problems that are hampering normal pelvic function or causing cross-over pain that could be exacerbating your symptoms.
• Check with your Chiropractor or Physiotherapist to rule out any inflammatory based joint pain that is aggravated by changes in your hormonal cycle.
– Often women will consider these pains “normal” when really they are mechanical problems with their joints that only show up during hormonal changes or times of stress.
Many PMS symptoms locating to your pelvis and back can be vastly improved or eradicated by improving joint mechanics, muscle tension and overall spinal health. Both our Chiropractor and Physiotherapists at Active Health in Bath will be able to help identify musculoskeletal problems and treat them and in many cases help you with life-style management advice such as exercise and nutritional guidance and/or supplementation where appropriate to relieve your pelvic and back pain related to PMS. In some cases specific supplementation may help, for instance some women may benefit from taking myo inositol, but check first with a qualified practitioner before starting a program.