PMS, a common challenge women often have, is something now accepted as a normal part of womens “health”. PMS is seen as a long list of symptoms, including negative emotional states, increased appetite for high calorie/fat foods, fatigue, poor memory and or clumsiness, headaches, breast swelling and tenderness, bloating, edema, and lower back or pelvic pain, all of which can be experienced as mild to extreme. Women may experience a single one of these symptoms, combination of, or the whole list of them for anywhere from 1-13 days before the onset of menses, and then subsiding over 1-5 days at the onset of menses. Being multi-layered beings, there is a multi-layered approach to working with the issue at hand. I will start with some lifestyle suggestions and work into herbal allies that can help us find relief.
Firstly, I’d love to look at a multitude of these “symptoms” on this list with full spectrum light
What if we were to shift our thoughts around the negative emotional states into opportunities to take some time from our interpersonal relationships, so that space is created around developing our relationship with our selves and our spiritual growth? Perhaps when we are feeling ‘cranky’ it is simply a message from within, telling us it is time to go deeper.
What if the increased appetite for fat and calories was accepted as a natural tendency to maintain a healthy weight, in order to be an optimal vessel to carry a child. Whether the desire is there or not to carry a child at this time, or in your lifetime, our bodies are designed to do so, and so working with those natural rhythms goes with the flow of a womans existence. Being mindful of what high calorie foods and fats we put into our bodies is key! Choose natural, high quality options, such as organically grown nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, and coconut oils during this time. These choices will work with your needs, as opposed to resisting until the moment when the body desires these foods so strongly that we find ourselves subconsciously reaching for the low nutrient dense, high calorie/fat foods that have been subliminally pushed into our societies psyche over a lifetime.
When feeling fatigued, take some time off as soon as possible, trusting that you will come out of this rest feeling fully rejuvenated and replenished. When the body receives the rest it needs, it is incredible at doing it’s job in keeping homeostasis.
Poor memory and clumsiness are both related to linear ways of thinking, and during the second phase of the lunar cycle it is our natural time to be immersed within the intuitive, feeling side of our selves. Save the intellectual work you need to do in life as best you can for the first two weeks of your cycle (starting day 1 with the first day of your menses). This will keep you more in tune with your cycle and allow you to make clearer decisions and have more mental/emotional clarity during all times of your moon phase. You will notice that surrendering to your intuition, or ‘hunches’, during delicate times you will come up with fantastically intellectual responses, as the answer comes from within an inner knowing that is tapped to the cosmic knowledge of life.
We’re now going to switch gears for the next symptoms of PMS, which will heed good results working with the physiological aspects of the body!
Starting off with a cleanse (with specific focus on re-generating the liver to it’s most optimal function), is how I often work with the imbalance. The liver processes the hormones that run through our bodies, and if it is not in an efficient running state, hormones are liable to get backed up and build up in our systems. Therefore, improving the function of the liver will help to pack up and move out excess hormones from the body. Some great herbs to help assist the liver function at it’s best are Milk Thistle (Silybum marinarum), Dandelion root (Taraxicum officinale), Burdock root (Arctium lappa), Maitake mushroom (Grifola frondosa), and Schisandra berry (S. chinensis).
With pelvic pain (lower back or abdominal), and breast swelling/tenderness, using pelvic decongestant herbs have shown great results. Some examples of these are: Ladies Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris), Black Cohosh (Cimifuga racemosa), Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis), and Yarrow (Alchillea millifolium). Drinking a tea made of the above ingredients on a regular basis for 3-6 months should help relieve these discomforts. If you find the taste unpalatable, adding the best source of honey you can find to your tea is ideal.
Headaches, like many PMS discomforts, are often rooted in excess estrogen amd low progesterone. Following all of the guidelines listed in this article will help bring hormone levels back to normal. Adding Turmeric (Curcuma longa) to the diet in larger amounts (1-3 tsp daily) can help any pain related symptoms as it does a wonderful job to bring down the inflammatory response.
Bloating and edema are a common sign of systemic backup, often within the lymphatic system. The most effective way to kick start this channel is through exercise. Moderate exercise is a good middle path as you want to get enough movement in the body to engage the muscle pump action which stimulates the flow of lymph but not too strenuous as to burn excessive fat (it is recommended that women who wish to conceive retain around 25% body fat), and especially not too strenuous during menses, which can contribute to pelvic disorders and menstrual pain. Also, drinking a regular cup of tea made with Cleavers (Galium aparine) keeps lymph flowing freely.
I strongly recommend to any woman that seeks hormonal balance to try and check off the following list
- Find an alternative to coffee, whether you cut it out completely, or use your alternative to cut back, it is known to create pelvic and breast congestion through it’s methylxanthine content, which can feed the estrogen accumulation in these areas. Excess estrogen is a common issue that women desire to address. Satisfying and beneficial options are Guayusa (Ilex guayusa), Chaga (Inonotus obliquus), or Gynostema (Gynostemma pentaphyllum)
- If you do partake in alcoholic beverages, keep alcohol consumption to a minimum (1-2 glasses per week). This can be beneficial to a plethora of positive ripples throughout a womans cycle and general overall health.
- Eat a largely plant based diet, including foods that help regulate hormones. Some great additions to eat regularly are beets, goji berries, seaweed (especially browns such as Kelp, Wakame, Bladderwrack, and Kombu), lentils, cruciferous vegetables, and leafy greens.
- Decreasing the amount of stress in your life directly affects your ability to produce proper levels of hormones in your body. I’m not suggesting that you avoid stressfull situations, as in life they are inevitable, but rather shifting your perception and finding the tools that work for you to deal with and disperse of stress and tension in a proactive way. Resilience is very much based on ones ability to go with the flow.
- Having a creative outlet, without any attachments to the unfolding of or manifestation of it’s outcome, is a powerful way to disperse stagnant energy in the reproductive system. Let imperfection weave it’s way through your creations, allowing you to focus your joy on the process!
Not only is it conducive to practice these actions throughout the entire moon cycle, as opposed to just the latter half or even during symptoms, but for a number of cycles, ideally 3-6 moons, and incorporating many of the lifestyle habits for a lifetime.
Of course, this is a broad spectrum recipe for a broad womens topic, yet following the basics are a solid foundation towards your personal experience of balance and well being. Once you incorporate the above suggestions into your life, you can begin to fine tune more specific areas you would like to address. Womens health is a vast topic with an infinite amount of combinations you can use to bring your body to a state of optimal health. Finding the right recipe that makes up your healthiest being is a path you are destined to follow.
*You can find a variety of herbs and superfood products to assist you on your journey of health at Harmonic Arts Botanical Dispensary (www.harmonicarts.ca), a provider of clean, high quality and much loved herbs, spices, superfoods, and more.
**If you have addressed all of the above aspects for a length of time, and still wish to work with ongoing hormonal symptoms that won’t subside, embarking on a personalized program with a qualified practitioner for guidance would be a recommended step to take.