Demystifying PMS

Hello ladies (and interested gentleman.)  Does this post have your name on it?  It has ours.  I originally wrote this blog about eight months ago after leading the first of four Nutrition Roundtable teleseminars that look deeper at some specific and, might I say, wildly interesting health topics and their relationship to nutrition.  We talked hormones for a full hour {which really could have been 4!} – chatting it up about the necessary minerals for thyroid hormones T4 to convert to T3 {things as simple as selenium and zinc} to adrenal stress and the role of blood sugar balance in supporting those glands… all the way to PMS and other reproductive type concerns.  Sounds like a wild night, doesn’t it?

That class lead to a series of questions and today I wanted to re-highlight one of the biggest – “cravings & water retention as they relate to PMS, what are they caused by and how do we prevent them?” 

The lock and key…  
So, PMS – a term that lumps together almost any and everything related to how women feel prior to menstruation.  Well, it’s actually a crazy interesting topic and here are a couple keys to those pesky locks you might not know about.

How about 4 kinds of PMS?  Integrative Medicine {because they individualize treatment} has individualized PMS a bit for us. Big yay.


PMS – A : stand for anxiety-related symptoms
PMS – C : stands for craving-related symptoms
PMS – D : stands for depression-related symptoms
PMS – H : stands for hyper-hydration or water retention related symptoms

Now that we have our 4 kids of PMS – here’s a bit more about ’em: 

A & D share a lot of the same symptoms {anxiety, depression, irritability, tension, anger, blaming behaviors, mood swings, insomnia, low self-esteem, high sensitivity to criticism and feelings of overwhelm} and therefor have a couple common denominators as we look at combatting these types of PMS.  Here might be a case of excess estrogens – especially in the second  half of the cycle.  Special attention to the liver to detoxify those estrogens is key.  B vitamins are big here as well as remedies like castor oil packs and high fiber foods.  High fiber foods {flax/chia seeds} really help draw away excess estrogens.  You can’t forget to look at serotonin and melatonin when talking about anxiety & depression.  Ways to boost those are by adding great tryptophan containing foods: lean proteins, salmon, eggs, asparagus, broccoli, pumpkin seeds are some examples! And a secret tip for sleep and melatonin production is wild cherry syrup.  And need not pass by the power of EMF’s – turning off ALL electronics in the room – sleep is key and EMF’s emitted by electronics actually cause hormone interference.  No joke.

C is for CRAVINGS and holy hannah do we hear about those all the time!  Here we want to focus in on blood sugar support and some adrenal gland love : eating every 3-4 a balanced meal or snack {fiber, fat, protein}, good sleep {again!}, and you can bring in some special herbs like ashwagandha and rhodiola to back you up here!  Low serotonin causes cravings too so circle back and look at how the serotonin/melatonin players can be addressed.  

H is for hyper hydration – we are talking about retention, weight gain, breast swelling and tenderness and even swelling of hands and feet.  AHHHH! This brings us back to the likelihood that there is a disparity between progesterone and estrogen [aka] estrogen dominance going on – as well as some excess adrenal hormone circulation.  When we increase our sugar intake our insulin levels will rise and in turn affects sodium and water retention.  So back to that stinkin’ blood sugar control  –  managing blood sugar reduces our tendencies to go for empty sugar sources.  Get this: women with PMS consume diets that are 62% higher in refined carbohydrates and 275% higher in sugar.  Wowza.
With water retention, foods that have diuretic properties are great to add in here: watermelon, cucumbers, asparagus, celery, lemons, parsley, and dandelion all have wonderful properties to combat water retention.  A few superfoods that work to balance your potasium/sodium ratio are::
spirulina, chlorella , wheat grass  and celery juice!
EPO {evening primrose oil} is great remedy for breast tenderness.

So to recap, a whole foods diet is where you start all around – especially during PMS.  We cool down inflammation in this way.  A couple key nutrients that are important for women with PMS are vitamin B6 and magnesium. Vitamin B6 affects the metabolism of several hormones and neurotransmitters that have been implicated in PMS including estrogen, progesterone, prolactin, serotonin, dopamine, and the prostaglandins. Studies have found vitamin B6 to offer significant relief to 60-80% of women when taken at megadose levels. Magnesium works very closely with B6 in the metabolism of prostaglandins and is commonly deficient in women with PMS.  Great food and superfood sources come into play as well.

Whew.  So that just scratched the surface on a heavy topic.  Both Megan and I work with clients all the time on managing symptoms at the root and boy oh boy do we make some fabulous leaps and bounds.  

Here’s to some happier hormones.  We hope.
katie j

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