Painful Premenstrual Syndrome:Root Causes & Remedial Actions
Premenstrual syndrome is something we’ve all faced at one point of time or another!
Premenstrual syndrome made me paranoid, irrational, weepy, angry, tired, sleepy, having insomnia, skin breakouts, constipation in rotation and not being being able to do anything about it. It’s frustrating for you, isn’t it? I get it!
At one time, premenstrual syndrome was so bad, that my migraines were crazy! My head felt like it was going to explode. I used to walk around with a cloth dipped in cold water tied to my forehead because nothing helped! Perhaps your work involves creativity and you find yourself stuck in a rut! How much more frustrating can this get?
The people around you make those remarks to lighten the situation for themselves and it just gets you mad! Perhaps there’s been cultural implications that impact your association with your period. I know that if I had to feel like a taboo during my period and made to change things like where I sit or where I go, then my association with my period would be uneasy as well.
So, let’s dive a little deep into different kinds of premenstrual syndrome, since each of us is unique and chances are that your symptoms are not the same as your best friend.
What is menstruation? It’s role is to flush out the thickened lining of the Endometrium, when fertilisation hasn’t taken place. The thickening of the endometrium requires energy and oxygen, and recycling it gives your body a chance to flush out.
There are four phases in your menstrual cycle, which are the menstrual phase, the follicular phase, the ovulatory phase and the luteal phase.
In simple terms, the follicular phase is from the time of your period to the time of your ovulation. The luteal phase is the time between your ovulation and your period. The menstrual phase is the duration of your period. I don’t want to go too deep into the physiology of the menstrual cycle today. This article, is about premenstrual syndrome.
The simple truth is that 90% of us have some symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome, reflected as physical changes, emotional changes or both. 40% of us have pain that is so severe that it’s impact is felt in every area of our life! It can put us out of circulation for the entire time of our period. 5% have debilitating pain, where they are blinded by the pain and rely on strong medication, many of which do not even work.
Premenstrual syndrome refers to absolutely any symptoms you have throughout your cycle, during the luteal phase, which is anywhere between ovulation and your period. I’ve broken down premenstrual syndrome into a few different categories, and it might help you to understand which you fall into, so you understand a little bit more about how you can help yourself.
Anxiety related premenstrual syndrome
If you have debilitating anxiety, it’s painful to struggle through premenstrual syndrome. If you have challenges with anxiety overall, the phases of your menstrual cycle can make you oscillate between coping reasonably to overwhelming anxiety. Often times, you never reach a state where you are totally past anxiety.
This can be so upsetting and you might find yourself struggling to cope with your work and your relationships. If you have anger, anxiety, severe mood swings, depression, a tendency to blame, highly sensitive to criticism or just feel overwhelmed, your PMS is anxiety related. Since there might be no pattern, you might nt even connect it to your menstrual cycle.
This kind of premenstrual syndrome is usually related to severe imbalance in hormones. Perhaps you are estrogen dominant or testosterone is elevated. There might be also be challenges with blood sugar balance and adrenal function. Think about whether you are stressing your body with a restrictive diet or excessive exercise.
The single most supportive change you can make towards improving this kind of premenstrual syndrome is to eat five regular meals that stabilise blood sugar and adrenal rhythms.
Craving related premenstrual syndrome
This premenstrual syndrome is one that you might all be familiar with. Some of you run to chocolates. Some of you just have to see the person around you eating fried food and you simply cannot resist. Some of you might crave doughnuts! You feel like you have no control over what you eat. You can literally go crazy with food and eat all that you shouldn’t eat and find yourself frustrated after your period.
You might then try to compensate with over exercising. If you have cravings and cannot resist carbohydrates expecially the ones which are not great for you, your premenstrual syndrome is different. Your appetite increases dramatically and you have blinding headaches or migraines. You might also feel severe fatigue or palpitations. Your blood pressure drops excessively low.
This kind of premenstrual syndrome might be associated with your adrenal glands and this is my niche area so I can tell you all about the adrenal glands. You adrenals sit on top of your kidneys. They release cortisol, aldosterone and adrenaline. If you have excessive stress, your adrenals get overworked.
The single most supportive change you can make towards improving this kind of premenstrual syndrome is to eat meals that are rich in fibre, healthy fats, clean proteins and complex carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes or lentils.
Water retention related premenstrual syndrome
It’s frustrating to retain water isn’t it? Who likes to hear that well meaning family member asking you sweetly if you’ve gained weight? No matter how fit you are, if you have this kind of premenstrual syndrome, you’re bound to bloat. It can be severe to the point where you retain water no matter how much you drink water, your breasts swell up, your ankles and fingers swell until rings won’t come off.
Your face swells up until you look like Moonface from Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree! You can actually feel heavier and think that you’ve gained weight, when in fact you’re just retaining water.
This kind of premenstrual syndrome is rooted in estrogen dominance. Aldosterone which manages sodium and potassium levels in your body could be increased. Most definitely it is related to elevated cortisol, so believe it or not, finding ways to deal with stress can reduce bloating! It can also be due to low levels of progesterone.
The single most supportive change you can make towards improving this kind of premenstrual syndrome is to have enough movement every day. Find forms of exercise that do not stress you out but which actively move your lymphatic system. The best form is yoga, where inversions, movement and stretches get your lymph flowing.
Other symptoms of premenstrual syndrome
It’s frustrating that you might have so many symptoms. If you didn’t find yourself falling under any of those categories, you could still have other symptoms like constipation or diarrhoea, increased vaginal itching, increased pain and inflammation, nausea or acne.
Who wants to keep using those acne creams right? I had severe issues with acne and I know that it is dejecting. Those acne creams are loaded with toxic stuff and you just don’t want to be using them forever! It’s important that you do the work within your body. Premenstrual syndrome is a vast topic.
Let’s now look at some triggers which could be root causes and triggers that aggravate premenstrual symptoms.
Triggers of premenstrual syndrome
- Blood sugar imbalance– Since blood sugar balance is the root of adrenal balance and sex hormone balance, if your blood sugar is swinging all over the place, your adrenals can’t balance and subsequently, your sex hormones can get imbalanced.
- Deficiencies– If you have deficiencies of any kind, caused by a restricted diet or a poor diet, it can put tremendous strain on your body, and could make your body overwork, leading to that cascade of hormonal imbalance.
- Elevated Cortisol– Stress of any kind can cause Cortisol upheavals. If you do have premenstrual syndrome, it’s ideal that you avoid practices like intermittent fasting, which can raise Cortisol and impact hormones. Find ways to cope with emotional stress.
- Lack of sleep– Lack of sleep is a major stress on the body. You can read a lot more about this in my articles about sleep.
- Over exercise or lack of exercise– As long as your body is having these symptoms, both over training or having no exercise can impact symptoms further.
- Immune stress– Food allergies, sensitivities, infection and inflammation can stress the adrenals and in turn aggravate hormonal issues. Look at really supporting immunity.
- Electronic stress– If you’re spending too much time on social media, you can upset Melatonin and Progesterone levels.
Now that we’ve explored so much on the types of premenstrual syndrome and what can be negative triggers, let’s conclude with some overall takeaways, which might help you. first of all, identify the category under which you fall.
I’ve described symptoms under each in detail as well as what could be the root of each of the categories. To go into each category in depth would require several more articles, podcasts and videos. Let’s just look at some quick takeaways which can support overall.
Steps to help premenstrual syndrome
- Avoid gluten, dairy and refined sugar– In order to restore balance, you need to clean up the body and reduce overall inflammation.
- Eat colourful foods– Circle around the vegetables and fruits available in your locality and eat versatile. The more colour you eat, the more antioxidants you get. Try a colourful smoothie that is created for hormone balance with healthy fats, clean proteins and lots of fibre.
- Avoid stimulants– Caffeine and alcohol affect blood sugar balance and Cortisol regulation. These then become the root of other hormonal dysfunction
- Eat nuts– Nuts contain so many minerals that can support hormones. Avoid them if you have problems breaking them down or if you seem to have allergies to them.
- Stay away from processed foods– I cannot stress again and again about this. Never fall for labels that say healthy. No food is healthy if it is not freshly cooked whole foods.
- Drink plenty of water– Not drinking water can lower your blood sugar and blood pressure and upset multiple systems. It also leads to constipation, whichleads to estrogen dominance.
- Check Omega-3– Omega-3 plays a very big role in hormonal balance, as inadequate levels causes inflammation.
- Correct deficiencies– Again, if you have a restricted diet of any kind, imposed culturally or because you cannot tolerate many foods, chances are that you could have multiple deficiencies. Work with a skilled practitioner to understand this.
- Practice yoga– Slow yoga can regulate the immune system and the adrenal system. Avoid power yoga, teachers who contantly do 108 sun salutations or any intense yoga practice which could stress the adrenals even more
- Find “Me time”– It’s very important to set aside time for yourself everyday which is free of all roles and responsibilities. Don’t worry if it’s just ten minutes
- Journal– Writing away your frustrations and anger can help greatly
- Hug someone– Whether it’s your partner or a friend, hugging releases oxytocin which makes you feel calm and relaxed
Finally, remember that the body is interconnected deeply. In order to balance something, many other systems have to be balanced. But this also means that if you start to balance a few things, many things can come back to balance. Good luck!