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June 20, 2018  |  Login
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.D.

Premenstrual syndrome, more commonly known as PMS, is a disorder that affects high numbers-almost 75 percent-of menstruating women. It usually occurs a week or two before bleeding begins and is characterized by a wide range of symptoms, including (but not limited to) bloating, breast tenderness, emotional changes, cramps, and fatigue. Some women with PMS experience just one or two of these symptoms and find them quite mild and tolerable; others are hit with several symptoms, each so intense as to be incapacitating. Most women's symptoms exist somewhere between the two extremes, producing a moderate level of discomfort and at least some disruption of daily activities.

Because so many women experience PMS, Western medicine long considered most PMS symptoms a normal part of womanhood. If a woman had debilitating PMS, she was likely to be dismissed-to a Western doctor, her symptoms were clearly "all in her head." We now know that PMS is a physical disorder-and a highly treatable one, at that.

Each month, a woman's hormones follow a predictable cycle of change. Some fluctuation is absolutely normal and necessary, but when the ups and downs become severe, or when the different kinds of hormones needed to regulate body functions are knocked out of balance, the result is water retention, cramps, fatigue, or any of the other symptoms of PMS. Hormone imbalance is a common problem with PMS. While excessive estrogen and progesterone deficiency (or an imbalanced ratio between the two) are believed by many practitioners and researchers to be the key imbalance, there can also be issues with elevated prolactin (pituitary hormone), increased aldosterone (adrenal gland dysfunction), serotonin deficiency, and thyroid abnormality (usually, low thyroid). One must also consider the role of the liver with PMS, as it is responsible for metabolizing hormones. Improving liver function with natural therapies often helps to lessen the symptoms of PMS.

Poor diet and nutritional deficiencies can be root problems of PMS as well. One must also consider the role of "hormone disrupters" in the environment, such as pesticides and herbicides.

In addition, PMS can be caused or aggravated by food allergies, seasonal affective disorder, stress, and depression; a wise course of treatment will address each of these potential triggers. If you have severe PMS that is not resolved by using the home treatments suggested here, consult with a holistic doctor. You may have an underlying disorder, such as hypoglycemia or an underactive thyroid.

Next: What are the Symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome

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