What Causes PMS?
From a naturopathic perspective, the main causes of PMS are poor diet, lack of exercise, and liver and bowel congestion.
Many different chemicals from many different sources—including our food and water supply and body care or household products—resemble human estrogen, and these hormone imposters cause estrogen dominance in both men and women. Some forms of PMS are due to estrogen excess. Low thyroid function (hypothyroidism) has also been found to be a cause of PMS in some women.
There are different forms of PMS (you may be a combination of types):
- PMS-A (Anxiety) affects 65–75 percent of women with PMS. It’s usually caused by estrogen dominance.
- PMS-C (Cravings) affects 24–35 percent of women with PMS, usually due to blood sugar imbalances.
- PMS-D (Depression) affects 23–37 percent of women with PMS, often due to estrogen dominance.
- PMS-H (Hyperhydration) affects about 60 percent of women with PMS. It’s often caused by an increase in adrenal stress hormones.
7 Natural Remedies for PMS Symptoms
Although there is no “one size fits all” remedy, the following supplements have proven to be helpful for the majority of women with PMS over my 25 years in clinical practice.
- Indole-3-carbinol (I-3-C), diindolylmethane (DIM), and calcium D-glucarate help with the breakdown of harmful estrogens. Milk thistle and other herbs to support removal of toxic byproducts are also helpful.
- Chasteberry, also known as vitex, is the No. 1 botanical remedy used in Europe to treat PMS symptoms. Its action in the body increases progesterone levels relative to estrogen levels.
- Vitamin B can be very helpful for the relief of PMS symptoms such as edema, bloating, breast pain, depression, and irritability. Some women find that increasing vitamin B to 150–250 mg per day one week prior to menstruation helps.
- Prebiotics and probiotics are important for keeping the microbiome healthy. Probiotics, a type of good bacteria, help to restore the gut microbiome. Prebiotics are fermentable fibers that provide a source of food for gut microorganisms, and they are at least as important as probiotics in maintaining microbiome health. This is crucial not only for hormone health, but also for mental health because the majority of serotonin is produced in the gut, which also affects our toxin and hormone balance—approximately 50 percent of the estrogen “couples” formed in the liver are excreted into the intestines via bile. The successful journey of these “couples” through the intestines requires healthy microflora.
- Omega-3 fatty acids block the formation of an inflammatory prostaglandin that promotes inflammation and pain. Fish oil is also effective in controlling cravings. Try 2–4 Tbs. of flax oil daily or 2,000–3,000 mg of fish oil.
- Evening primrose oil, when taken monthly at least three to five days prior to the usual onset of symptoms has been shown to be extremely effective in the treatment of PMS. Take 1,000–2,000 mg daily.
- Magnesium can be very helpful for PMS symptoms such as anxiety, depression, irritability, and headaches. Some studies show lower levels of magnesium in women with PMS.
Diet and Exercise to Control PMS Symptoms
To minimize symptoms of PMS, avoid or reduce your intake of dairy products as much as possible.
There are many different foods that can make symptoms of PMS worse, and diet is critical not only for PMS but also for most hormone imbalances. Generally, it has been found that PMS sufferers consume more refined sugars and carbohydrates, salt, and dairy products than women who do not experience PMS. In addition to supplements, the following dietary and lifestyle changes can help minimize the symptoms of PMS:
- Exercise—studies show that women who exercise regularly do not suffer from PMS as severely or as often as those who lead a sedentary lifestyle.
- Avoid or reduce your intake of dairy products such as cheese and milk; organic yogurt in moderation is fine.
- Increase your intake of high-fiber foods such as brown rice, quinoa, millet, and barley.
- Try to purchase hormone-free animal products.
- Avoid caffeine and chocolate, particularly a week or so before PMS would normally start.
- Avoid bad fats—heated oils, margarines, fried foods, etc.
- Avoid excess salt if you suffer from water retention.
- Drink at least 1.5 liters of filtered water daily.
- Avoid refined sugars and carbohydrates.
- Be aware of sources of estrogen imposters (xenoestrogens) in foods, makeup, and household products. The Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) is a good source of information.