80% of women report experiencing premenstrual symptoms of some kind. PMS symptoms can be emotional or physical and occur monthly, only1-2 weeks before period bleeding starts. 5 % of these women feel that their PMS symptoms adversely affect their lives. There are over 150 different symptoms associated with PMS; including anxiousness, depression, irritability, mood changes, fatigue, breast tenderness, food cravings, bloating, headache and digestive complaints.
Many research studies have tried to get clear answers as to the cause of PMS symptoms but nothing conclusive has been found. Some research studies suggests that women with PMS have lower serotonin levels after ovulation than women who report NO PMS symptoms. A few of these studies point to the metabolism of fluctuating sex hormones that are influencing serotonin levels. While other research points to nutritional deficits and blood flow as major contributors to PMS symptoms. And yet other studies suggest social and cultural influences, stress and pre-existing depression affect how women experience PMS. A meta- analysis (a study of all the studies) done in 2012 by researchers at The University of Toronto claim that PMS does not exist because research on PMS has given so many different conclusions.
So….. is PMS just a myth? Or are the causes of PMS so varied, complex and different from person to person that the double-blind, placebo controlled research model cannot pin point the cause?
Although we have no divine answer as to the cause of PMS, there is a thread that runs through the information research has been able to provide. That thread is that one body system is having a direct affect on another.
Nutritional deficits and blood flow will effect how well our endocrine system functions. The endocrine system has an effect on the neuroendocrine system which affects mood, fatigue, food cravings, and can then influence blood flow and endocrine function. The balance of the sex hormones; estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, most likely are NOT a stand-alone cause of PMS symptoms.
So regardless of the cause of a woman’s PMS, affecting and improving blood flow, nutrition and endocrine function is likely to improve PMS symptoms. It is very important to see your doctor if PMS symptoms are interfering with your daily life and to rule out any underlying medical conditions.
Exercise and massage are two easy ways to improve blood flow. Exercising has many health benefits and ncreasing blood flow is one of them. Massage, like exercising, improves blood flow by compressing the soft tissue to pump blood through the body but also loosens soft tissue to decrease constriction of blood flow. Increased blood flow improves oxygen and nutrient delivery to cells and increases waste/toxin removal from the body.
Women can improve nutrient intake by improving their diets, a simple answer that leads to a challenging task. MANY clinical studies have shown that avoiding refined sugars, processed food and diary significantly improve the PMS symptoms that women experience.
Improving Endocrine function. What does that mean? Our endocrine system includes, but is not limited to, the thyroid gland, adrenal glands, and the ovaries (testes in males). We can support our endocrine system by making sure the glands get the nutrients they need to function properly by eating a nutritious well balanced diet and upporting proper blood flow. We can also supplement certain nutrients and herbs that support gland function, such as B vitamins, Vitamin C, and Ashwagandha for Thyroid and Adrenal Gland function.
There are many ways to improve PMS symptoms and first-line treatments should focus on blood flow, nutrients, and endocrine function. Treatments will vary depending on specific PMS symptoms, either physical or emotional. Whether or not PMS is a myth, it is something that most women experience associated with their menstrual
cycles. PMS symptoms can be managed through lifestyle changes and natural therapies. Women should discuss their PMS symptoms with their doctor to determine what route of treatment is appropriate for their symptoms and to rule out any underlying medical conditions.