If I only knew then what I know now I would have suffered a lot less when I was coming of age! As it turns out, the discomforts relating to Premenstrual Syndrome can be greatly ameliorated once we understand what's happening in our bodies. Balancing our lifestyle choices has a profound effect on all of our physiological processes, especially the lady bits.
Consider this analogy: Each month that your body "cycles" Mother Nature is cueing up an automatic internal cleaning protocol. Despite our best efforts to go-go-go, nature has biologically programmed us to have this monthly period whereby we are forced to take extra measures to slow down and take extra care for ourselves. Don't fight it!
The first step is to understand our body's natural processes and the second step requires making an effort to assist the ole' girl in doing her thing with the greatest ease possible. Again, balance is key.
WHAT'S GOING ON?
In general most PMS symptoms are related to either progesterone deficiency or estrogen excess. The most common symptoms of PMS include anxiety, irritability, fatigue, depression, headache, breast pain, abdominal bloating, constipation, back pain and fluid retention. Menstrual cramps have almost become a cliche, but it's no joke: Severe cramping is exacerbated by nutritional imbalances and for some women these contractions occur as mild to severe lumbosacral, vulvar and/or anal pain. Why does this happen and how can we stop it? Our estrogen-progesterone balance is majorly affected by exercise, stress, diet and lifestyle. Crazy PMS cramping however is often due to what the chinese and ayurvedics call "congested blood flow" or clotting. Our lifestyle affects our hormonal balance-imbalance equation. Careless daily choices precipitate the over-production of fatty acids called prostaglandins which regulate the contraction and relaxation of smooth muscle tissue. Too much prostaglandin = much cramping. So you see why nutrition, exercise and herbal interventions can help the body to regulate itself?
Popping herbs and chugging tinctures isn't enough though. It's important to correct nutritional deficiencies. Adjust your diet to include plenty of fruit, fresh herbs and both raw and cooked vegetables. These plant foods contain phytonutrients that assist the body in it's natural processes. Heavy, processed and highly estrogenic foods will road block the body's ability to do it's thing, creating havoc for the undercarriage of your vessel. Avoid processed foods, sweets, fried food, too much meat and dairy and too much bread. If you make plant foods the focus of each meal, your body will thank you in more ways than just once a month. While we're at it, the basic physiology described here also helps explain many other female discomforts relating to menopause and pregnancy!
Remember that symptoms that occur during menses are your body's way of telling you whether it is in balance or not. If you suffer from massive migraines, cannot get out of bed, or your cramps are so severe that you cannot leave the house, it's a sure sign that something larger is at play. Before you reach for the Midol or Motrin, reflect on how you are treating your Precious Vessel and chart a better course.
COMMON CONTRIBUTORS TO HORMONAL HELL :
- Are you getting enough sleep?
- Are you managing stress?
- Are you eating processed foods, sweets, fried foods, meat and dairy?
- Do you use artificial sweeteners?
- Are you constipated?
- Do you have allergies?
- Do your joints ache?
- Are you drinking water?
- Are you partying too much?
- Are you exercising?
HOLISTIC HORMONE HELPERS
- LISTEN TO YOUR BODY - "UGH, not that old cliché!" Yep! Sometimes what we really need is a good old-fashioned nap 24-48 hours before the old cycle revs up. Sometimes we need to climb a boulder or hit a punching bag. Know when you're "supposed" to start flowing and choose activities that will assist your body in doing what it needs to do.
- REFLECTION - Both pre-cycle, menopause and pregnancy are Mother Nature's built-in way to remind us Go Go Gadgets Girls to slow the heck down. Carve out some Me Time to meditate, take a bath, do some journaling or catch up on some reading. Sounds hokey but if you don't make time for yourself, who will?
- MODERATE EXERCISE - Moderate means more than nothing and less than a marathon. Twisting, breathing, stretching, light weight lifting, and some cardio sounds lovely. If you work out like a crazy nut, you will likely create more inflammation in the body when it is already stressing as it attempts to manage the internal change of guard, so to speak.
- ABDOMINAL MASSAGE - That space between your ribs and your pelvis has A LOT going on! Think about it: ALL of your internal organs are in there, doing really important stuff! Those organs create cortisol, insulin, and your hormones are all contractile muscles. Hmmmm....think they could use some palpation? You bet! Get your super-squishy Coregeous abdominal massage ball here. It's excellent for relieving constipation, improving breath constriction, alleviating pelvic & back pain, and it's a must-have massager for the cycle-that-never-starts-on-time.
- BOOB JOB - Your breasts are tender because your soft tissues are contracting, you're retaining interstitial fluid and there's hormones filling them up. Play with your boobs, massage them and yes, you can shmoosh them around with the Coregeous ball - either against the wall or on the floor.
- HYDRATE - This comes up on every list, but most of us still manage to "forget" to dring enough water. It has a LOT to do with the fluid retention part of the equation!
- MAGNESIUM - It's a muscle de-contrator, a vaso-dilator and a nerve-relaxer. There's more but need I say more?
- SUPPLEMENTS - There are dozens of herbal tinctures, teas, and vitamin combos that can do wonders for toning the reproductive system. Many supplements indicated for womens' health are adaptogens, meaning they help your body do what it's supposed to be doing. Some herbs support mood regulation, some reduce water retention (bloating), and others support the ovaries or clear the blood. NOTE: There's a very long list of contra-indicated herbs for pregnancy so if you are pregnant be sure to consult with me or another qualified professional prior to taking herbal remedies.
- CHASTE TREE BERRY TINCTURE helps increase progesterone by effecting the pituitary gland's production of the hormone prolactin. If you were to only take one herb, my vote goes here.
- DONG QUAI, RED CLOVER and RASBERRY LEAF can increase progesterone production and all help break up blood stagnation.
- BLACK COHOSH, KAVA and BLACK HAW relax the uterus and ease cramping
- EVENING PRIMROSE helps the body make the fatty acid GLA which aids in hormone production
- WOMEN'S SUPPORT FORMULAS are available in capsule, tincture and teas.
Now off you go. Enjoy the flow!