So, it’s approximately day 14-28 of your cycle and you find yourself muttering the words “Here we go again” through clenched teeth. Clearly, you’re not excited as you begrudgingly welcome the same old grumpy mood that becomes a temporary resident of your mind for the next week or two. Feeling and looking just short of 6 months pregnant, and not in a cute way.
You’re curled up in a ball most of the day because it feels like you have a soccer match being carried out inside of your uterus, Yay! You’re moody but you have no “real” reason to feel down, well, beside the fact that you have several miniature land marks terrorising your usually spotless face. Oh, and to make matters worse you’re retaining so much water that a paper cut would turn you into a human sprinkler system. While an accidental graze to the breast has you screaming to the heavens for mercy, not that it helped the last 200 times you tried. A week after this hell kicks off you give a warm round of applause to the star of the show, your period! *your loved one’s cheer* because you’re likely to stop spitting venom over nothing now.
How exhausting?! I’m tired and I’m just writing about it. Glad those days are long gone for me! Aren’t you over this vicious cycle? You know it doesn’t have to be this way, right? Don’t cop the crud anymore ladies! Let us talk facts and easy solutions to this unkind collection of symptoms known as Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and period pain, shall we?
How about we start with a quick explanation on what you’re dealing with? And no, the answer is not that you have been possessed by some kind of fire breathing extra-terrestrial sent to wreak havoc on your life, as much as that may seem the case. You’re likely experiencing hormonal imbalances. Oestrogen and progesterone are the two most common culprits here. Symptoms can be related to either a relative excess or deficiency of either or both these hormones. For example, too much oestrogen can be a cause of uterine contractions, ie: period pains. To complicate things further these hormones, affect the chemical messenger’s that act in your brain, called neurotransmitters.
You may have heard of one called serotonin? Its responsible for your mood. Another is GABA, responsible for calming effects on the body. Oestrogen plays a key role in serotonin signalling, they are like Thelma and Louise. When one comes crashing down, so does the other. This may cause symptoms of depression, fatigue, food cravings and sleep problems. GABA on the other hand gets orders from progesterone. Progesterone is often low in PMS sufferers or it drops inappropriately around days 14-28 of the cycle. This has been linked to low mood, anxiety, and sleep disorders.
What are the common symptoms of PMS?
|EMOTIONAL SYMPTOMS||PHYSICAL SYMPTOMS|
Lower coping ability
Wanting to be alone
Reduced interest in work and social life
Bloating around the abdomen
Breast swelling and tenderness
Skin problems such as acne
Headaches and/or migraines
Poor coordination or clumsiness
Increase in weight
Constipation and/or diarrhoea
Aches and pains
Suffer from PMS and period pain? What can you do? Start by giving these ten tips a red-hot crack!
- Work your buns Hun: you’ve hear it time and time again, how amazing exercise is for, well everything. That’s because it essentially is. Exercise for pleasure with techniques like yoga or belly dancing, approximately 5 times a week for 30-45 minutes. It will help to improve your mood, reduce fluid retention and reduce period pain. Try it out! You’ve got nothing to lose, except unwanted fatty tissue.
- Relax Max-ine: Relaxation can greatly influence all the physical and emotional symptoms of PMS. Don’t know how to relax? Spend time in nature, cook if it’s what you love, read a book, sing, meditate or lay down – an example of a circumstance when the saying “you snooze you lose” doesn’t apply! WINNING!
- Speaking of snooze: Sleep! Routine good quality sleep, especially days 14-28 of your cycle will greatly impact the severity and frequency of PMS symptoms you experience. Aim for 8hr+ a night, rise and fall at the same time each day for best results.
- Massage Mondays: relaxation massage helps the body to deal with stress more effectively, improves sleep quality and improves mood thereby reducing PMS symptoms and period pain. Plus, they feel great! What are the reasons not to?
- Healing with heat: A hot water bottle, wheat bag or warm bath with Epsom salts can greatly help to ease cramping and pain. It does this by improving circulation to your pelvic area.
- Get real with food: indulge your senses with REAL, fresh and whole foods, vegetables and fruits daily. Vegetables and fruits provide an array of nutrients required for a healthy reproductive system. If you suffer from period pain focus on high fibre containing vegetables. Foods like cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli are also useful in PMS as they help to bind up excess oestrogen which can be a cause of period pain (hormone we spoke of earlier). Try not to overcook these foods, lightly steam or stir fry to keep their nutrient profile maximized.
- Kick the Caffeine: sure, coffee tastes good and “gives you a buzz” but at what expense? Consumption of caffeine is strongly related to prevalence of PMS. It depletes your body of calcium and calcium is beneficial to prevent PMS symptoms. You do the math!
- Sack the salt: If you suffer from fluid retention, excess salt in your diet can amplify this symptom. Reducing how much salt you eat can help to reduce breast swelling/tenderness, abdominal bloating and fluid retention.
- Ditch the deep-fried food: These foods are highly inflammatory and should be avoided at all costs. Inflammation has been linked to PMS, particularly abdominal pain. Aside from the inflammation caused, these foods are highly processed and provide little nutrients. A true example of empty calories.
- Sugar ain’t so sweet after all: It is common for PMS suffers to crave sugar around this time. Sugar can create low grade to moderate inflammation, making PMS symptoms worse. Choosing more nutrient dense foods will help to reduce symptoms and break the craving cycle. ie: pick a piece of fruit over candy and chocolate.
If these tips don’t resolve your issues than you might benefit from a helping hand. I recommend you seek assistance from a qualified Naturopath who specializes in women’s health, like myself. A good naturopath will investigate to ensure it is PMS your dealing with and not another undiagnosed condition like depression or endometriosis. Your naturopath should then investigate the causes of your PMS/period pain and treat you accordingly with dietary suggestions, lifestyle techniques and evidence based natural medicines which respect to you as a WHOLE person not just a physical body.
With wishes for your health and a beautifully balance life,
Katie Kalogirou BHS.c (NAT)