Many women experience pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS).

While it is considered a normal part of the menstrual cycle, it never used to be. Historically, women did not experience PMS like they do today. There are many reasons why women have such severe PMS today, and some of these include environmental factors, exposure to xenoestrogens, autoimmune conditions, poor dietary choices and being sedentary.

The symptoms of PMS vary for each woman, with differing degrees of severity. From a holistic perspective, there are 5 categories of PMS, and many women experience symptoms from all five.

PMS-A (Anxiety)

Symptoms of PMS-A include: anxiety, weeping, irritability, mood swings and feeling paranoid. There is an increase in prolactin and oestrogen, with a relative reduction in progesterone or alterations in the progesterone receptors. The menses may be heavy, sudden and clotted.

PMS-C (Cravings)

PMS-C causes the following symptoms: Powerful food cravings (especially chocolate and sweets), increased appetite, fluctuations in blood glucose regulation, headaches, fatigue, moodiness, irritability and vertigo. A prostaglandin imbalance is often seen in PMS-C.

PMS-D (Depression)

Signs of PMS-D include: depression, forgetfulness, confusion, tearfulness, clumsiness, confusion, insomnia and withdrawal from normal activities. There is a reduction in serotonin and oestrogen.

PMS-H (Hyper-hydration)

PMS-H is characterized by: fluid retention, sore and tender breasts, swelling, bloating and increased weight. Aldosterone, oestrogen and prolactin levels increase, progesterone reduces and there are irregularities in dopamine and serotonin.

PMS-P (Pain)

Symptoms of PMS-P are: reduced pain tolerance, joint, lower back and abdominal pain and headaches. Oestrogen and prostaglandins are higher.

What are all these hormones?

Progesterone is a steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands, ovaries and placenta, and helps to maintain a pregnancy. It helps stimulate the uterus to prepare for pregnancy.

Oestrogen is another steroid hormone assisting in development and maintenance of female characteristics. There are 3 types of oestrogen called E1 (oestrone), E2 (oestradiol) and E3 (oestriol). Excess oestrogens are problematic for many women, and one of the main causes of PMS. They are found to be elevated in breast, ovarian and uterine cancers, fibrocystic breast disease, infertility, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, headaches and cervical dysplasia. They may also cause low libido and fatigue. Oestrogens are stored in adipose (fat) tissue.

Prolactin is released from the anterior pituitary gland and stimulates milk production in pregnancy and lactation. In non-pregnant women, prolactin helps regulate the menstrual cycle.

Prostaglandins promote uterine contraction. They have a role in the generation of inflammatory responses dealing with injury and inflammation, control blood flow and help form blood clots.

Dopamine is one of the “feel-good” or reward neurotransmitters, and secreted by the hypothalamus. It also prevents prolactin production in non-lactating women. Many things alter dopamine production and uptake, or the blocking of dopamine receptors, which cause a rise in prolactin.

Testosterone is secreted from the ovaries, adrenal glands and formed through conversion of other ovarian and adrenal hormones. Testosterone produces a hormone called Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) and may result in acne, increased hair growth and hirsutism.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter and found in the brain, blood platelets and the bowel. It assists in mood regulation, and when deficient, may cause feelings of depression and low mood. Most of the body’s serotonin is produced in the gastrointestinal tract, and the remaining small amount is found in the brain.

How to regulate hormones

A few simple tips to help manage and reduce symptoms of PMS, and regulate hormone imbalances.

  1. Regular exercise. Exercising can help shift hormones and regulate moods. It helps in the production and release of more “feel-good” hormones and also assists in maintaining a healthy weight. Excess oestrogens are stored in adipose (fat) tissue, and exercise can help in removing these hormones through the reduction of fat.
  2. Eat your greens and cruciferous vegetables. Green leafy vegetables are considered bitters. They help to improve liver function and in the excretion of excess hormones. They help to keep skin clear and healthy and provide much needed nutrition to the body. A substance known as I-3-C (indole-3-carbonyl) is converted to DIM and helps regulate oestrogen levels.
  3. Include seeds in your diet. Sunflower, sesame, flax and pumpkin seeds are not only rich in nutrients, phytoestrogens and essential fatty acids, they also help regulate hormones throughout the menstrual cycle. Bean sprouts and legumes are also excellent sources of nutrients to help in hormone regulation.
  4. Ensuring an adequate fibre intake is important to help remove excess hormones from the body in faeces. Some good fibre sources include wheat bran, chia seeds, psyllium, and of course, fresh fruit and vegetables.
  5. Water intake is required to help keep blood flowing, maintain hydration and aid in elimination processes.

It is important to ensure you seek advisement from a qualified health professional that can create a “big picture” for you, and bring all of the pieces together to restore balance.

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