By Elnaz Moghimi RHN
WOW! Weight Loss Contributor
For many women, the onset of their period is marked by a time of terrible physical and mental pain. Such symptoms can range from bloating, indigestion, uterine cramps, back pain and fatigue all the way to irritability, moodiness, aggression and depression. The more severe form of PMS is known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which in 2013 will be recognized as an illness by the diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (DSM-IV). Currently, research is being driven more towards understanding this syndrome and most schools of thought agree that it is strongly associated with a combination of genetic factors, hormonal imbalance as well as stress. Though there is no known cure for PMS, there are most certainly natural ways women can alleviate the symptoms associated with this syndrome.
1. Vitex: Also known as chaste berry, this is a type of plant that is normally dried and administered in capsule form. It works to balance hormones in our body such follicle stimulate hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) which contribute to PMS. Because an excess of estrogen has been linked to aggravating PMS symptoms, vitex works to elevate progesterone levels to balance the estrogen surplus. A 2008 study amongst Chinese women showed that vitex was able to significantly reduce PMS related symptoms compared to those on a placebo.
2. Passionflower and chamomile: These are plants that can be found in dry-form in any bulk or health food store. Replacing coffee (which can worsen PMS symptoms) with these herbal teas is a great way to reduce stress and release tension. Not only is chamomile great for hair and skin, but it is also has a significant calming effect on the body. Enjoy a cup with raw honey prior to going to sleep for those who have PMS-associated anxiety. Passionflower is used frequently amongst those suffering from insomnia as well as stress. It works very rapidly and can also be used as a form of aromatherapy.
3. Omega-3 fish oils: Breast tenderness, cramps and back pain that occur in PMS sufferers is a result of inflammation. Omega 3 has a very strong anti-inflammatory action on the body and can also lubricate our digestive system which can promote better digestion and reduce bloating. Consumption of salmon, halibut and tuna are great ways to load your body with Omega-3. However, due to water pollution, caution must be exercised as larger fish have a strong tendency to retain pollutants within their body (particularly PCB’s and mercury) that can seriously harm us. Limit consumption to no more than twice a week. For those who choose to obtain their Omega-3’s through supplementation, always select products that specifically outline their purification process or opt for smaller fish such as krill or anchovies.
4. Water: This is the single most important ingredient not only to reduce PMS symptoms but to drive us towards good health. Our bodies are largely comprised of water (as much as 50-60% which reduces with age) and so it is it is only natural to feed our body what it needs to exist and sustain. Proper hydration can improve acne breakouts, increase energy, reduce pain and inflammation, remove toxins from our body and help with proper digestion. It is best to drink 6-8 cups of water a day but from experience I believe that approximately 3-4 L has the best outcome. Also, it is best to drink water in a warm state of approximately 37˚C (blood temperature) which not only relaxes the body to reduce stress but is the most efficient way that our cells can hydrate.
5. Exercise: The most natural thing to our body, exercise can reduce depressive symptoms and junk food cravings and drive us towards optimal health by stimulating our organs. It also works to remove bodily toxins through sweating. Yoga and tai chi teach proper breathing techniques which can work exceptionally work for those who need to release tension and anxiety. Going for an afternoon jog outside is a great way to not only increase blood flow and circulation to promote repair but can also release endorphins and dopamine, hormones largely responsible for making us feel happy. Furthermore, spending just 15 minutes in the sun allows you to obtain your daily vitamin D intake which can reduce depression and moodiness.
6. Vitamin B’s: Vitamin B’s can be obtained through foods such as brewer’s yeast, seaweeds such as spirulina and kelp, fortified cereal and breads and meat/dairy sources. This family of vitamins help increase energy, reduce moodiness and depressive symptoms by helping to synthesize “feel-good” brain chemicals (vitamin B6), promote better digestion and can reduce food cravings. B-12 in particular (found in fish, clams, oysters, a variety of other sea foods and eggs) is recommended for women suffering from anemia as a result of menstruation. For those who opt for supplementation, it is better to consume a B-complex rather than individual B vitamins as the complex works in sync to promote better absorption.
7. Balanced diet: A balanced diet should consist first and foremost of a colourful array of vegetables which can supply the necessary vitamins and nutrients to the body. Dark green vegetables (such as kale, asparagus and artichokes) are full of a compound known as “chlorophyll” which is a great energy booster for those who suffer from fatigue as a result of PMS. Healthy fats containing Omega 3 and 6 essential oils can be obtained from fish oil (refer to #3), flax oil, pumpkin or sunflower seeds. Try to avoid saturated and most definitely trans fats found in junks foods such as chips, cookies and fries. These fats can not only aggravate PMS symptoms but can contribute to heart disease and cancer. In terms of meat consumption, stick to fish and chicken. Red meat can create an acidic environment within the body and further contribute to inflammation. For those who live a fast paced life and tend to dine out often, it is not hard to obtain these foods. For example, instead of going for a cheeseburger and fries, opt for a healthy mixed vegetable and green salad topped with baked chicken breast with delicious balsamic vinaigrette.
He Z., Chen R., Zhou Y., Geng L., Zhang Z., Chen S., Yao Y., Lu J., Shouging L. (2009). Treatment for premenstrual syndrome with Vitex agnus castus: A prospective, randomized, multi-center placebo controlled study in China. Maturitas, 63(1): 99-103
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