PMS Prevention Plan: 10 Tips For a Happy Menstrual Cycle

by Dr. Mahalia Freed, ND


Umm, happy? Isn’t that taking things a bit far? No, no it is entirely possible and reasonable. Read on. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is not inevitable or unavoidable. PMS is common, but it is not “normal”.
 
Did you know that PMS can include over 100-300 different symptoms? While mood changes like anxiety, depression, irritability and lability (moodiness) are the most recognized, other common symptoms include breast pain or swelling, bloating, bowel changes (e.g. constipation, diarrhea), insomnia, headaches, migraines, food cravings, acne, back pain, fluid retention in the legs, and fatigue. For some people, PMS takes the form of increased clumsiness and brain fog. For others, it means less vocal range (an issue if you are a professional vocalist!), or even seizures. Finally, many women notice that their immunity is decreased at this time of the month. It is a time when cold sores or genital herpes might erupt, when asthma symptoms may flare, or when a yeast infection could make itself known. It is considered PMS if the symptoms occur in a cyclical pattern, related to the menstrual cycle, over several months. Symptoms may begin at ovulation (around day 14), or 1-2 days before the period begins.
 
The majority of women will experience PMS symptoms at some point in their lives.
 
So, shouldn’t we all know how to stay healthy, happy and stable in the face of Premenstrual Syndrome?  

Here are my Top 10 Tips for PMS Prevention:

 

  1. Nourish yourself with food. Eat lots of vegetables, eat home-made, eat clean protein. Eat organic whenever possible (in this case because xenoestrogens in pesticides impact your hormone balance). Remember that organic junk food is still junk food. Enjoy your treats.

Careful with caffeine. Most of us have figured out the therapeutic power of good chocolate, and I won’t be the one to take this away, but caffeine does make breast tenderness worse, and it can destabilize mood and worsen digestive symptoms. Consider cutting down on coffee.

  1. Cut the sugar. Refined sugar and processed foods aggravate pain and mood issues, even though they seem like a good idea in the moment. (Except a bit of good, dark chocolate).

 

  1. Move your body. Regular movement of any kind is effective, but yoga stands out in its efficacy in the clinical trials.

 

  1. Increase target micronutrients with supplementation:
  • B6: especially helpful for mood symptoms, B6 is essential for the metabolism of estrogen. Take it as part of a good-quality B complex.
  • Cal-Mag: Both calcium and magnesium are proven effective for managing premenstrual symptoms, from fatigue to depression to cramps. Consider supplementing with one or both.
  • Fish Oil (especially EPA): while more researched for other health concerns, fish oil is known to be effective for mood balance, and for shifting physiology to decrease inflammation. Thus, it is a good choice for certain types of PMS.

 
5. Work with an herbal ally or few

  • Herbs to consider for PMS include: St John’s Wort, Vitex agnus-castus, gingko, black cohosh, kava, motherwort, skullcap, passionflower. The specific herbs best for you will depend on your particular symptoms. Some people use combination formulas, while others see great results with only one or two herbs. Ask me for a personalized herbal prescription.

 

  1. Regulate your sleep schedule. Women with a regular sleep routine have more stable hormone levels than those whose sleep patterns are all over the place. Go to bed at the same time every night. For maximum benefit, go to sleep well before midnight, and sleep in total darkness (see melatonin, below).

 

  1. Increase your melatonin. You know how it feels like your hormones are crazy when you have PMS? Well, in fact the only hormonal difference scientists have found between women with severe PMS and controls is melatonin levels. That’s right, no estrogen excess or deficiency, no progesterone excess or deficiency. The other hormone issues are believed to stem from changes in hormone receptor sensitivity. But, this is still theory. In the meantime, you can increase your melatonin naturally:
  1. Sleep in complete darkness (blackout curtains, an eye mask if light is unavoidable)
  2. Start sleeping sooner. Melatonin production is higher before midnight.
  3. Ensure you give your body the building blocks. Pumpkin seed is a great source of tryptophan, the amino acid precursor to serotonin and melatonin. The reaction requires B6 (see above).
  4. Alternate nostril breathing can stimulate the pineal gland to increase melatonin production (and generally promotes calm when done before sleep).
  5. If you have been diagnosed with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), consider supplementing with melatonin. Start with 3 mg per day before bed. And, contact me for more (nonprescription) options.

 

  1. Honor the wisdom within you. If you are exhausted and feel irritated by anyone talking to you, maybe this is the time of the month to carve out a couple hours to curl up with a novel, or journal, rather than pushing yourself to maintain your usual pace. For those who experience intense shifts in mood, think of PMS as the time when the tide is out, and all the feelings and nagging thoughts that you can push down (under the water) the rest of the month are exposed. Sometimes PMS emotionality is just PMS, but often there are important nuggets of truth buried in the sad or mad or irritable state. Look for these truths and give them space at other times in the month. If the nagging thought is “this (job/relationship/etc.) doesn’t feel right”, then make space to explore that. Make changes. As things in your life shift in response to you listening to your inner voice, watch your PMS symptoms abate.

 

  1. Cultivate a happy microbial community:
  • Eat fermented or cultured foods regularly (e.g. unpasteurized sauerkraut, kimchi, kosher-style dill pickles).
  • Consider reseeding your flora with a quality probiotic supplement, especially if you have taken antibiotics.
  • (Good gut flora are associated with better mood, and good gut flora are also important for hormone balance)

 

  1. As always, I highly encourage you to seek out personalized naturopathic care to help map out the big picture, and tunnel down to the right supports for you. Constitutional homeopathy, acupuncture, flower essences, therapeutic nutrition and custom formulated herbal medicines can all offer incredible healing & resolution for PMS symptoms. With professional guidance and the advantage of an outside eye, meet your health goals faster, with less time lost to the contradictory information offered by Dr Google.

Contact me for information on becoming a client/patient.

Tired out by your cold? Ease cough and congestion during sleep with “Warming Socks”

(aka Cold Wet Socks that make you feel better)

I know what you are thinking. I mean, really, putting wet socks on when you are already feeling sick? But hear me out – this really works! AND, you don’t have to buy anything or ingest anything. Free, easy, at-home symptom relief from the congestion and coughing that often disrupts our sleep when we are clearing a cold. How great is that? Try it out, and tell me how it works for you.

Use:

At the first signs of a cold, especially with cough or congestion. Also useful for sore throat or any inflammation or infection of the throat, ear infections, headaches, migraines, and sinus infections.

Actions:

Reflexively increases circulation and decreases congestion in the upper respiratory passages, head, and throat. Sedating action: better sleep with the sock treatment! (And sleep allows us to heal, right?)

Directions:

  1. Take a pair of cotton socks and soak them completely with cold water. If you tend to be cold or have low vitality, try using cool water during the first treatment rather than cold water.
  2. Warm your feet if they are cold. The treatment may not be as effective if your feet are not warmed first. Warming can be accomplished by soaking your feet in warm water for at least 5-10 minutes or taking a warm bath for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Dry off your feet and body with a dry towel.
  4. Wring the cotton socks out thoroughly so they do not drip and place the socks on your feet.
  5. Put thick (dry) wool socks over the cotton socks.
  6. Get in bed. Cover well and sleep all night with socks on, it should be relaxing and not uncomfortably cold. If you are unable to sleep because of the cold socks consider removing the socks and soaking your feet again, this time using cool rather than cold water to wet the cotton socks. Your feet and the cotton socks should be warm and dry in the morning. If your feet are cool or the cotton sock is still damp, consider increasing the length of the hot foot soak.
  7. Note: for coughing or congestion, elevating your head by adding an extra pillow (on top of your usual) is also helpful and sleep-promoting.

Cold & ’Flu Prevention: Building a Healthy Foundation

By Mahalia Freed, ND

Maybe you are like me, and you have been wondering for years, “why do I always get sick in the fall?”. Maybe you are remembering the recent H1N1 ‘flu panic, or perhaps endless runny noses in your little ones. Maybe you are looking for a way to keep your family from passing colds back and forth this fall and winter. Read on, and learn how to nourish your body so that you are no longer susceptible to developing symptoms when you meet this year’s viruses.

While fall is a season best suited to inner focus, recharging, and retreating, it is often the time when we start new projects, and spring into action on things we have been planning over the summer. This conflict between being and doing, along with the physical change in weather, means that we are vulnerable to colds and ‘flus.

Terrain vs Germ Theory

It isn’t your exposure to a virus that determines whether or not you get sick, but rather how your body responds to that exposure. In other words, it is not the germ that causes disease, it is the terrain the germ finds itself in that either allows the germ to flourish, or quickly eliminates it from the body. Consider public transit, for instance: there is always someone coughing or blowing their nose on a bus or subway. Yet, despite close proximity and lack of fresh air to clear the viral particles away, we do not get every cold we are exposed to. Why?  Our own vitality – the health of our terrain – protects us.

It is entirely possible to stay healthy through cold and flu season. All we need to do is support our immune system to be as vital as possible, and cultivate our terrain optimally. Continue reading