8 Weeks to Vibrant Health
Natural Treatments for PMS
Our mothers once called them “women’s problems.” Now we know that these mood swings and physical changes, from PMS to menopause, are all part of a delicate balance among our various hormones. In my years of practicing integrative medicine, I have helped hundreds of women overcome PMS and menopausal symptoms, naturally, and here’s how.
Let’s start by defining hormones. They are chemical messengers secreted by any one of the body’s endocrine (ductless) glands. They travel through the bloodstream, telling various systems what to do. Besides reproductive functions, hormones affect virtually every body system from digestion to metabolism to hair growth.
In this chapter, I’ll show you how the main female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone, and their cycles, can affect your mood and well-being.
All women have the same hormones but in varying quantities, making your own hormonal profile as unique as your fingerprint. When your hormones are in harmony, you will have predictable menstrual cycles — and moods. When out of balance, you will have irregular cycles and a host of symptoms, from bloating, cramps, weight gain, and acne to food cravings, irritability, and depression.
Perimenopause, the transition to menopause, which can start as early as your late 30’s, often causes an increase in PMS. In fact, many women report experiencing PMS then for the first time. Also common in peri- and menopausal women, is a loss of libido, due to a dip in testosterone which governs sexual desire.
For a full picture of your hormonal status. you need to check levels of estrogen, progesterone, DHEA-S, testosterone and pregenenolone in blood, salival, or urine, taken on day 19-21 of the cycle. For perimenopausal women, I also order FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone) tests to assess ovarian function.
If you’d like to try home testing with kits available online, take these tests on days 19-21 of your cycle, with day 1 being the first day of your period. If you are menopausal, it won’t matter when you take the tests. If you’re irregular, do your best to estimate the appropriate time.
If testing reveals that your hormone levels to be below the normal range, it may be due to perimenopause or other physiological factors. Faced with fluctuating hormones, doctors have traditionally prescribed synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT), such as Premarin (frompregnant mares’ urine) and Prempro (Premarin plus synthetic progesterone), to correct imbalances. The recent Women’s Health Initiative study showed that women taking this form of HRT had 27% more heart attacks, a higher rate of breast cancer, 38% more strokes and double the number of blood clots. There are safer ways to balance hormones successfully, ranging from using supplements and herbs to bio-identical hormone therapy.
Natural Ways to Balance Sex Hormones
The first step to balancing your hormones is a clean diet. Eat fewer animal products, and add raw broccoli and other cruciferous veggies to your salads. Reduce or eliminate caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and sugar. Reduce or eliminate high-fat dairy products. Eliminate as much processed food as possible. Reduce salt intake. Eat small, regular meals. Yoga and meditation are helpful for PMS sufferers because they work on the nervous system and help balance hormones.
Then there are specific supplements that I recommend, such as magnesium, borage oil, and B vitamins, especially B6 and folic acid. Herbal remedies include dong quai, Vitex agnus castus (“chaste weed”) , and wild yam extract. These can all be found in my one-stop formulation, PMS Balance. I have had many women report almost immediate relief upon taking this or a similar formula, while other women may take a month or two to feel the full effects.
With menopausal symptoms, I also add black cohosh and red clover extract, found in my Menopause Support formula. While there was a recent study that claimed that black cohosh didn’t work, it was in fact, flawed, and contradicted numerous well-dome studies that found it to be very effective. A newer product that has produced remarkable results, and with a blend of herbs that does not contain black cohosh is FemmePhase.
When the nutrients are not enough, I will prescribe bio-identical hormones. Made from highly purified derivatives of soy and wild yams they are carbon copies of your own, natural hormones. Prescription strength bio-identical hormones are available only from compounding pharmacies, and are prescribed by your doctor, based on your individual hormonal needs determined by your lab tests
You can also use over-the-counter Natural Progesterone Cream (up to 30 mg daily) for one week prior to your period.
This is a brief overview of a complex topic, but I trust that I’ve given you enough information to take care of your own PMS. As I say over and over – “you don’t have to live with PMS.” I have many grateful women, and their partners, for whom PMS has truly become a thing of the past.