PMS has been defined by more than 150 symptoms, ranging from mood swings; weight gain to acne. The symptoms vary from woman to woman and cycle to cycle. The symptoms may be mild, moderate, or so severe as to be incapacitating. The mental causes for PMS are created through thought patterns allowing confusion to reign—Not feeling good enough and giving power to outside influences and/or rejection of the feminine processes. PMS includes both physical and emotional symptoms. Common symptoms are:
• Nervous system symptoms: insomnia (sleeplessness), hypersomnia (sleeping for abnormally long periods of time), fatigue, lethargy, agitation, a change in sex drive, clumsiness, dizziness or vertigo, paresthesia (prickling or tingling sensation)
• Gastrointestinal symptoms: upset stomach, constipation, nausea, diarrhea,
• Cardio vascular symptoms: Heart palpitations (rapid fluttering of the heart), sweating, red flushing in face, neck and upper chest
• Fluid and electrolyte symptoms: bloating, weight gain, oliguria (reduced urination), appetite changes or food cravings, anorexia,
• Skin symptoms: acne, oily skin, greasy or dry hair
• Physical symptoms: headache/migraine, joint or muscle pain
• Mood-related (“affective”) symptoms: sadness, crying, anxiety, anger, irritability, tension, frequent and severe mood swings, lack of enthusiasm, low self-esteem
• Mental process (“cognitive”) symptoms: decreased concentration, difficulty remembering, indecision
The metaphysical way to eliminate PMS requires one to change thought processes about oneself in the scheme of life, replacing those thoughts with positive affirmations—
• I now take charge of my mind and my life. I am a powerful, dynamic woman! Every part of my body functions perfectly. I love me. I am balanced and peaceful in all changes of cycles, and I bless my body with love.
In addition to changing self-defeating thoughts, dietary changes provide significant relief for PMS, peri- and menopausal symptoms.
It is a known fact that Japanese women tend to suffer with menstrual symptoms or hot flashes only about 1/3 as often as American women. Women on vegetarian diets also complain of hot flashes far less than women who eat meat. Of course, you don’t have to give up those steaks–but doctors and nutritional professionals suspect that the difference is largely due to the use of soy products in the diets of these women, and many women have realized that by incorporating some soy in their diets, their menstrual symptoms and menopausal symptoms have abated considerably.
Other important supplements are:
Flaxseed: High in phytoestrogens (especially lignans), flaxseed also is high in omega-3 fatty acids — a key helper in fighting heart disease. And, like soy, it’s a good all-round helper in your body. It’s high in phytoestrogens, flaxseed can help minimize symptoms like hot flashes. Studies have shown that it can help lower LDL (the “bad”) cholesterol. Studies have shown that it helps fight breast cancer and other cancers. It can help prevent heavy bleeding — a common symptom when you’re first beginning to enter premature menopause and going through erratic periods. Because it’s high in omega-3 acids, it help ease symptoms like breast tenderness, cramping, and other PMS-like discomfort.
Red Clover (available under the brand name Promensil) is another phytoestrogen high in bioflavonoids. Like other phytoestrogens, red clover has been shown to reduce hot flashes, help fight osteoporosis, and generally minimize other menopausal symptoms. But there have recently been other studies that found that it wasn’t as helpful as initially believed. As with so many other supplements, the jury is still out.
Vitamin E and Citrus Bioflavonoids: This combination is a hot-flash buster — with studies showing that taking these two supplements together helps combat hot flashes. 400 IUs of Vitamin E along with 1200 mg of bioflavonoids taken in the morning and again before bedtime has been shown to reduce the frequency and severity of hot flashes. (One note: Vitamin E isn’t safe for everyone. If you have rheumatic heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes, or take digitalis drugs, Vitamin E can be harmful. So be sure to check with your naturopath about the appropriate dosage.)
One study (conducted in the 1960s. . . unfortunately there have been few more recent studies) found that, after only one month, over 50 percent of the 94 participating women taking 1200 milligrams of bioflavonoids along with 1200 milligrams of Vitamin C stopped having hot flashes completely and another 34 percent had a drop in hot flash frequency and intensity. Studies have also shown that bioflavonoids also appear to help relieve moodiness, anxiety, irritability and other emotional side effects of menopause — and can help fight vaginal dryness. Vitamin E helps with vaginal dryness (you can even use it as a vaginal suppository — just putting the capsule in your vagina.)
Vitamin A or Beta Carotene: If you’re suffering from vaginal dryness — or if you’ve noticed a change in your skin texture, a drying or loss of elasticity, Vitamin A or beta carotene can help. Vitamin A (which is what beta carotene converts to in your body) helps maintain tissues, skin, and mucous membranes—help fight against vaginal dryness and skin changes that often come with low estrogen levels.
B-Vitamins: This family of vitamins helps in coping with premature menopause, both in terms of helping combat symptoms and fighting negative long-term risks. B vitamins can keep your energy levels up; support your liver function ( a definite plus if you’re on HRT, as oral estrogen is broken down by your liver); prevent vaginal dryness; increase your resistance to infection; help maintain your adrenal gland function — which is where the precursor to estrone (the form of estrogen still produced by your body after menopause) is produced. B vitamins are considered stress fighters — so can help you to deal with the emotional symptoms that crop up during premature menopause such as: anxiety, irritability, mood swings, even insomnia.
In addition, if you’re on HRT, it’s a good idea to be sure you’re getting B-vitamins either through your diet (whole grains, beans and brewer’s yeast are all good sources of B vitamins) or in a multi-vitamin or B-complex supplement, since studies have shown that HRT may cause a deficiency in B2, B12, B6 and Biotin.
Calcium: A definite must to help prevent osteoporosis, calcium can also help lower blood pressure, reduce triglyceride levels (that sometimes rise in women on some forms of HRT.) Magnesium: Magnesium is a very important calcium helper — and also helps fight the crashing fatigue that often comes at the beginning of premature or early menopause by boosting energy levels.
Potassium: helps boost energy. It regularizes your heart beat, which can help if you get palpitations — a fairly common symptom of menopause. In addition, it can help you cope with water retention and bloating, both of which are side effects with certain forms of HRT, particularly progestins such as Provera.
Black Cohosh: helps cut down on hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, it help with cramps, heavy periods and other menstrual irregularities. Studies conducted using black cohosh have shown that it appears to be quite effective, especially for hot flashes. And some researchers believe it may help prevent osteoporosis and reduce bone resorption, although no long-term studies conducted on humans have substantiated this.
Chasteberry (Vitex agnus castus): This (like black cohosh) appears to act like a progesterone and has been used in Europe for many years to alleviate PMS symptoms as well as menopausal symptoms. It may help diminish both LH and FSH and appears to affect your pituitary function. Different studies have found that it reduced menopausal symptoms, particularly hot flashes and irregular bleeding. It is helpful for breast tenderness, primarily because chasteberry suppresses prolactin production. Typically, it takes about three to four weeks to notice results. One note, however: While chasteberry is widely used in Europe, there have been no double-blind placebo studies conducted on it.
Evening Primrose Oil: A good source of GLA (gamma linoleic acid), evening primrose oil has been used by many women to help fight PMS symptoms — many of which are the same as menopausal symptoms. It’s a good bet to help prevent bloating, water retention, breast tenderness, cramps and vaginal dryness.
St. Johns Wort or Sam-E: If you’re finding yourself more easily depressed, St. Johns Wort or Sam-E may help. Widely touted as a natural tranquilizer, this herb helps relieve irritability, depression, and fatigue. Over 23 different studies have found that it’s effective in fighting depression — when hormone levels plunge suddenly.
Kava Kava: Helps in reducing anxiety, fighting depression, and leveling mood swings, kava kava has been shown to be quite effective. One recent study found that women with menopausal symptoms taking 100 mg of kava kava three times a day reported a difference after only one week.
Valerian: If you’re suffering from insomnia, a common symptom, valerian may help. It’s used widely in Europe to treat sleep disturbances, as well as for nervousness and menstrual problems. It’s also known as an anxiety reliever — so may help with mood swings and tension.
Altering your diet in small ways can have the greatest positive effect on your body. For instance, by staying away from hot drinks, you’re not giving your body reason to “heat up” and produce a hot flash. At the same time, reducing your caffeine intake (which often comes in the form of hot drinks, including coffee and tea) will naturally help you sleep better at night, which will keep your mood and mental state healthy.
Lastly, replacing these drinks with water and juice will keep your bones and muscles well-lubricated, prevent osteoporosis from settling in, and temper your general aches and pains. We know it’s no easy task to give up coffee, but think of the endless benefits of this one relatively minor change to your diet.
One of the most commonly complained about symptoms of menopause is the weight gain that seems to come along with it. Put simply, your body isn’t burning calories in the same way it once was, so if you don’t change your diet–even if it’s already a healthy one – you’re bound to gain a few pounds around the waist.
Changing your diet now, simply by avoiding a few foods that are bound to make other symptoms worse, while increasing the foods high in certain vitamins while remaining low in calories, will help you to maintain your figure while giving your body the nutrients it needs to fight off the worst symptoms of menstruation or menopause.
For instance, foods high in potassium, including most fruits, will help you keep your mind sharp while promoting healthy water flushing throughout your body (which will reduce cramps and bloating), while keeping your muscles and bones lubricated and strong – including your needy joints and your thinning vaginal walls. In short, this is the time in your life when “an apple a day” couldn’t ring more true!
Oily fish–including salmon, tuna, and vegetable oils, are often recommended by nutritionists for anyone wanting to keep their minds sharp. But these oils are also useful in helping keep your muscles from drying, while helping your digestive system.
Everything from Vitamins C and E to herbal remedies such as Dong Quai and Wild Yam Root are superior to abating the menstrual and menopausal symptoms than any pharmaceutical. You can explore the countless ways in which these small changes or additions to your diet will not only combat the unique symptoms you’re going through, but the ways in which you can identify these symptoms quickly to lead a healthy life during your menstrual years and long after menopause.
Soy is a mystery to most Americans. Many of us would buy a chunk of tofu, which, let’s face it, is somewhat tasteless. However, you don’t need to move to Japan to figure out how to add it to your diet. You don’t need to give up eating cheeseburgers to enjoy the occasional veggie burger, but adding some soy to your diet has abated the negative symptoms of menstruation and menopause for millions of women. If you’ve not eaten many soy products, don’t turn up your nose yet–in addition to abating your negative menstrual, peri- or menopause symptoms, you may find that you actually like it! Not to mention soy is a lot less expensive compared to prescriptions, surgery and negative aftereffects.