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Premenstrual Syndrome – What to do?? Get into the flow!!

Many years ago, when my not-yet-husband and I were having a quarrel, he commented that I was being moody because I was premenstrual. Being infuriated at this insensitive comment, I said that his moodiness had no cyclic nature, and he was just a jerk. That was the last time he accused me of having PMS.

I think that often a woman’s anger or irritability or tears are dismissed as being hormonal, when in fact we have good reason to be angry or moody. But it’s also true that many of us are more sensitive prior to our periods. In fact, up to 80% of menstruating women experience some symptoms one to two weeks prior to their menses, which include feelings of depression or sadness, headaches, bloating, weight gain, breast pain. If symptoms are severe and consistent enough, it is called Premenstrual Syndrome. When they affect mood dramatically, leading to severe swings that impact work or school or other activities, it is known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

What causes PMS?

It’s not completely known. Certainly, it has something to do with the surge of hormones in the latter half of the menstrual cycle which can, in turn, impact serotonin. From a traditional Chinese Medicine aspect, PMS occurs when the liver’s job of smoothing out and circulating energy (QI) is impaired. This is known as liver qi stagnation. Liver qi stagnation is common in the Western world where we do not respect the cycles of nature, the seasons, sleep, and our emotions. We become overwhelmed, stressed out, eat on the go, don’t get enough exercise or daylight. We lose our flow.

It makes sense that our livers are unable to process the fluctuating and increasing hormones that occur during the second half of our monthly cycles.

So, what to do?

Research shows that regular exercise, meditation, and healthy eating will help. In addition, reducing caffeine can dramatically decrease breast tenderness.

Calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B6 can improve mood swings. Herbal support like black cohosh, chaste tree and evening primrose oil have shown to be helpful in studies. There is a Chinese formula called Xiao Yao San, which translates to “Free and Easy Wanderer” that many women find helpful.

Seed cycling helps a woman get in touch with her cycle, adds essential fatty acids and lignans which improve detoxification, inflammation, and hormone balance. Of course, acupuncture is wonderful for PMS. If severe enough, a woman may benefit from an antidepressant.

Whoever you are, recognizing cycles improves flow: day/night, seasonal changes, emotional shifts, moon phases, hormones, whatever. Where are you out of sync?


By Dr. Jennifer Means, ND, LAc

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