Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a complex constellation of unwelcome symptoms that affects nearly every system in your body. We have hormones to thank (or curse) for PMS and the long list of symptoms that come with it: anxiety, depression, bloating, fatigue, cravings, breast tenderness, constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, irritability, moodiness, sleep disturbances, poor concentration, stress, tension, headaches, backaches, muscle aches, & hormone-related acne.
PMS can make us feel a little rundown or full-on sick, bringing even the most powerful people you know to their knees. But things aren’t hopeless. You’re not stuck with your symptoms and you don’t need to “just deal with it.” If we can understand our PMS symptoms, and the underlying causes, we can work to improve them and be on our way to a symptom-free cycle.
Let’s get started by answering the following questions:
- Why do some people get PMS?
- What’s healthy in terms of PMS?
- What does it mean if you don’t get PMS?
- What do your symptoms tell you?
- What can you do to avoid and improve PMS symptoms?
Why do some people get PMS?
It all starts with hormones. As you get closer to your period, your body’s hormonal makeup starts to change. Estrogen peaks midway through the second half of your cycle and then starts to fade out. As your estrogen levels are declining, progesterone and testosterone (yep– we’ve got that too!) ramp up. The result is a hormonal soup that puts your body under a ton of stress. Essentially, when your body is stressed out, your defenses are low, and PMS wreaks havoc on the systems in your body that are the weakest.
What’s healthy in terms of PMS?
Here’s the thing: as common as it is, PMS is not part of a normal healthy cycle. When all of your body’s systems are working well, you won’t experience PMS.
What do your PMS symptoms mean?
If you do experience PMS, you’re not alone. Experts estimate 80-90% of people with periods suffer from PMS, and it affects all of us differently. The specific symptoms you experience are telling you something important about your body and your health. Let’s decode their messages…
When PMS messes with your digestion, you may experience constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, bloating, cravings, and/or fatigue. These symptoms indicate that your digestion system is a little weak, you’re not consuming enough nutrients, or you have food sensitivities.
(Note: “period poop” is different and linked to prostaglandins. We’ll talk more about that in a future article.)
When PMS plays with your emotions, you may experience anxiety, depression, irritability, moodiness, mood swings, and even outright anger. The hormonal stress that PMS causes can often be the straw that breaks the camel’s back when we’re already overworked, short on sleep, and stressed out. Consider mood-related PMS symptoms as your body’s not-so-gentle way of asking you to decrease stress in your everyday life.
PMS is also behind a bunch of other weird hormonal stuff that happens right before your period, like acne, breast tenderness, hormonal headaches, migraines, fatigue, and even pain on the sides of your body (aka flank pain). These symptoms tell us that your liver needs a little extra love. After all, it’s your liver that’s in charge of helping to break down excess hormones and remove them from the body.
How can you work towards a cycle free from PMS symptoms?
PMS shows us where we’re weakest, but that doesn’t mean that we’re stuck accepting the symptoms. Just like you can whip your abs into shape by doing crunches, you can strengthen your internal systems by doing the following:
To avoid or lessen digestive symptoms, work on fortifying your digestive system, eating more whole, nutrient-rich foods throughout the month, and avoiding foods that don’t make you feel good. If you’re already doing that and still have PMS-related digestive issues, your digestive system might need a tune-up to help your body access the nutrients you’re consuming (try eating congee!). If you strengthen your overall digestive system, you’ll be less likely to suffer from these symptoms when PMS comes knocking.
If you’re dealing with emotional symptoms caused by PMS, find ways to reduce stress in your day-to-day life. The best way to reduce stress varies for everyone but the trick is to find something you love so that you’ll actually stick with it. Maybe it’s meditation, or maybe it’s exercise, cooking, drawing, spending quality time with friends, etc. If you’re less stressed and more rested throughout the month, you’ll have extra emotional bandwidth to deal with (or ward off!) PMS when that time of the month rolls around.
To avoid those ‘other’ hormone-related symptoms, you need to detox and reduce systemic inflammation – this will give your liver a much-needed boost so it can do a better job cleaning up the hormonal mess you deal with each month. Our PMS Support Formula includes a blend that promotes detoxing and supports your liver (shameless promotion, but we wouldn’t be making it if it didn’t work!). Whether or not you take our formula, you can help reduce the hormone-related symptoms by incorporating more anti-inflammatory foods into your diet (like turmeric, leafy greens, blueberries, oranges, fatty fish, olive oil, almonds and walnuts) and cutting back on ones that cause inflammation (like sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, refined carbs and alcohol).
Regardless of your PMS symptoms, there are steps you can take to improve your cycle. Because everything is interconnected, addressing your overall health will improve your PMS symptoms. Here are the key tips we recommend for all people with periods.
Tying it all together
Remember, your PMS symptoms tend to shine a light on the systems in your body that are the weakest. While we agree that PMS sucks, we are also thankful for the messages it sends us. Once you’re aware of an issue, you can take action to fix it and improve not only your PMS symptoms but also your overall health.
The same goes for what is often the most painful part of periods: cramps. Are you ready to unpack what your cramps are telling you?