PMS. Everybody has heard the acronym, and we most likely all know what it means. You may even mark your PMS days on your calendar or warn your partner to prepare for your symptoms. While the physical and emotional symptoms of PMS in the week prior to your menstrual period can be nothing more than an annoyance for some women, PMS can actually disrupt the lives of many others. Natural treatment for PMS can help!
PMS, whether it is minor or involves extreme suffering, is not normal or healthy. In fact, PMS symptoms may be a result of a hormone imbalance that also affects other areas of your health including your weight and energy levels. In many cases, stress is to blame. Undergoing chronic stress can result in low levels of progesterone, which subsequently upsets the ratio of estrogen to progesterone. Let’s take a look at a list of the symptoms that may occur when this female hormone ratio is unbalanced.
• Mood swings
• Changes in weight or appetite
• Easily brought to tears
• Lack of concentration
• Frequent or irregular menstruation
• Low sex drive
Experiencing one—let alone multiple—of these symptoms can be overwhelming for women during this week of their menstrual cycle. Some doctors may recommend an over-the-counter remedy for mild symptoms or a prescription birth control to ease extreme PMS. But these drugs simply mask the symptoms. They do not treat the underlying cause, nor do they prevent PMS from occurring. In other words, while a woman’s symptoms disappear or extreme symptoms are lessened, the cause of PMS is still present. Fortunately, there are natural remedies to not only treat the symptoms of PMS, but to restore hormone levels to optimal levels.
To understand how these remedies work, we must examine the role stress plays in creating a progesterone deficiency in the first place. When you undergo stress, be it emotional or physical, your body responds by signaling your adrenal glands to produce stress hormones called cortisol. When the cortisol levels exist in excess on rare occasion, this does not have long-term effects on the body. But when cortisol levels remain high for extended periods of time, it can wreak havoc in your body.
Notice that I said emotional or physical factor. This is because many people often associate stressors with external issues. Few people are actually aware that stress can come from inside as well. These are known as biochemical or internal stressors, and when left untreated, these stressors can lead to chronic stress. Some of the internal causes of stress are as follows:
• Diet or poor nutrition. It is essential to avoid sugar and sweetners, as well as foods high in starch like rice, pasta, and bread. Caffeine should also be avoided.
• Food intolerances. Learn what foods your body negatively reacts to and remove these foods from your diet. Some foods include gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, nuts, and grains.
• Intestinal issues. Problems you experience in relation to digestion can take a huge toll on your body. These include gas, bloating, indigestion, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation, and stomach pain.
• Lack of sleep or inadequate sleep
• Chronic inflammation such as joint pain, muscle pain, skin rashes and disorders, brain fog, and fatigue.
• Autoimmune disease such as hypothyroidism or Colitis
• Pushing your body to keep going even when you know it needs a break
Unfortunately, in today’s world, some of these stressors can rarely be avoided, and as long as you are experiencing stress, your body continues to signal your adrenals to produce cortisol. This high demand for cortisol production requires your body to steal resources from the production of other hormones—particularly your reproductive hormones including progesterone. When your adrenals take away necessary materials from reproductive hormone production, this is called “pregnenolene steal.”
With basic knowledge of how stress is related to and leads to progesterone deficiency, we are able to better understand and treat this hormone imbalance and prevent PMS.
A combination of acupuncture and herbs—two main practices in Chinese medicine—are the best tools to treat progesterone deficiencies and cure PMS naturally. Through the use of thin, disposable needles, acupuncture is able to target trigger points to unblock the pathways of energy—or qui—and, as a result, stabilize your oscillation of hormones.- Acupuncturist, Dr. Stefanie Bennett of Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach
Acupuncture also assists your body by promoting deep relaxation that helps to soothe the mind and ultimately relieve stress. To supplement the treatment of PMS through acupuncture, we recommend Chinese herbs to regulate the flow of qi and blood in the body. While both methods can work separately to treat hormonal imbalances, when acupuncture and Chinese herbs are combined in a treatment, they better stimulate the body’s natural functions and promote optimum balance.
It is also important to alter your diet. While acupuncture and Chinese herbs are effective in reversing hormone imbalances, it is also essential to monitor your food consumption to maintain your hormone balances and achieve lasting results. I recommend shifting to an anti-inflammatory diet to eliminate the stress your body experiences from trying to digest hard to break down foods. This diet will also help to restore gut health, heal chronic inflammation, and effectively manage autoimmune diseases—all of which increase internal stress in the body.
When following an anti-inflammatory diet, you should avoid foods full of sugars and highly processed grains. You also want to avoid foods that contain preservatives and GMOs. A rule I like to follow is that if the food does not rot sitting in your pantry, it is not safe for consumption. In other words, if the food cannot break down on its own, your body is going to have an extremely difficult time breaking it down in the digestive system.
Because it is important to consult with a doctor prior to making drastic changes in your diet, we encourage you to call our office and schedule a free consultation with Dr. Bennett. Her expertise will be able to guide you in not only making the appropriate food substitutions, but understand what diet is the best for your individual needs.
The third approach to restoring hormonal balance—and likely the most important—is advanced hormone level testing. This test, which we perform at Bennett Acupuncture and Functional Medicine, can give us insight into the physiological timing, distribution and production of the critical hormones like progesterone. Having this knowledge, we are able to devise a safe and effective treatment plan catered to each individual patient.
As part of your tailored plan, we may recommend nutritional supplements to ease the symptoms of PMS. When you come in for your consultation, we will ask questions about your current diet to determine if you are receiving proper amounts of essential.
Other helpful supplements include certain amino acids and neurotransmitters. But I want to caution you here, these supplements should only be taken when directed by a skilled doctor. I also do not recommend buying off-the-shelf versions of these supplements either, hence why I have not listed specific names here. A licensed health care provider is required to manage your amino acid and neurotransmitter supplements.
In the same regard, other nutrients such as magnesium, B6, and vitamin D3 are great for additional support to reduce the symptoms of PMS. But in order for these nutrients to work effectively, the supplements must be taken in the right amounts and in a certain sequence. It is essential that you get professional advice from a qualified and licensed expert.
If you are interested in reducing your symptoms of PMS or reduce premenstrual syndrome, call my office to schedule your consultation. We will discuss your options ranging from natural therapies to advanced functional medicine lab testing and get you the best care you need to alleviate PMS and restore a healthy, happy hormone balance.
**Please note: If you are prescribed antidepressants, consult your doctor BEFORE beginning any serotonin support regimen. Especially with dealing PMS and hormone issues always consult your MD. We practice co-management with other types of providers.
About Acupuncturist Dr. Stefanie M. Bennett, LAc, Ph.D. – Holds both a master and one of the few in the area with a doctorate in acupuncture and Chinese medicine, plus two diplomats. She has completed additional training in functional medicine, fertility, herbal medicine, and applied clinical nutrition. She has been practicing in Fountain Valley and Huntington Beach for over 13 years. Dr. Bennett also serves many people from Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Newport Beach, Costa Mesa, Irvine, Laguna Beach, Newport Coast, Tustin and Orange County. She can be reached at 714-962-5031 and new patients are welcome.
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