Balance - Menstrual problems and PMS
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is considered a menstrual disorder in a broader sense. Often the symptoms begin in the second half of the cycle, in other words, after ovulation. They can last from 4 days to up to 2 weeks and typically end with the onset of menstruation. A few days before the start of the next menstrual period, they present again. The severity of these symptoms can vary from cycle to cycle.
Approximately 80% of women suffer from premenstrual symptoms to some degree. Normally, premenstrual syndrome subsists until menopause, at which point it then disappears entirely.
Of those women who experience PMS symptoms, around about 3 to 8% report that PMS significantly interfered with their abilities in their social and professional environments, due to the severity of their symptoms. In cases such as these are referred to as premenstrual dysphoric syndrome (PMDS).
There is an enormous spectrum of ailments which women may be afflicted with during the two weeks prior to their monthly menstruation. The severity of these afflictions also varies greatly from woman to woman. Some women are plagued by only one or two symptoms, while others may experience a dozen.
Around 150 different symptoms have been associated with the menstrual cycle, which is why this frequent, naturally occurring process is sometimes considered a temporary illness.
Complaints associated with PMS can purely mental or physical in nature or present as a combination of both, and often occur with different frequency and intensity.
Below some of the common mental symptoms are listen:
Mood swings (rapid changes in mood often triggered by slight stimuli).
The physical symptoms of PMS vary greatly and can present at different degrees of intensity. Particularly commonly occurring symptoms:
Pain and/or tightness in breasts
Head and back pain
Changes in complexion.
Weight gain prior to menstruation occurs as a result of increased tissue water retention (edema).
Some women also report suffering from food cravings and excessive desire for sweets. Other women, however, complain of loss of appetite and/or bloating.
Nausea preceding the onset of menstruation is often misinterpreted as a sign of pregnancy. Morning sickness is typical during pregnancy, while PMS-related nausea prior to a monthly period usually lasts through the whole day and may worsen after eating.
The exact causes of premenstrual syndrome are not yet clearly understood. However, the cycle of changing hormonal levels- specifically increased levels of estrogen and decreased levels of progesterone in the blood – seem to play important roles.
In many women, too little progesterone is produced by the ovaries. Progesterone is known as the corpus luteum hormone, since it is produced by the corpus luteum in the ovaries.
Progesterone plays an important role in a woman’s cycle as well as fertility. Furthermore, progesterone is the counterpart to estrogen. Both hormones must be within a certain ratio to one another in the body in order to maintain a harmonious balance between the two.
However, if too little progesterone is present, estrogen can exhibit strong effects. The result is referred to as estrogen dominance.
This imbalance also affects neurotransmitter metabolism in the pituitary gland. It can interfere with serotonin levels, which are partly responsible for positive emotions, but also the normal fluid balance in the body. This can manifest itself in the form of swelling and/or breast tenderness. Insufficient levels of serotonin may also contribute to symptoms such as fatigue, food cravings, and sleep disorders.
Certain factors from our daily lives can take their toll on PMS as well. Thus, issues such as stress, domestic disputes, or an unbalanced diet are regarded as risk factors which may increase discomfort during PMS. A family history of mental illness (e.g., depression) influence the development of premenstrual dysphoric syndrome (PMDS).
Natural remedies and their effects
Many of the symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome can be alleviated with the help of naturally occurring substances.
Many studies have demonstrated that, in some cases, pharmaceutical doses can either be reduced or even replaced completely through supplementation with micronutrients and treatment with high doses of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and essential fatty acids. Thus, individual treatments can be established which are more effective and include fewer side effects.
Unsaturated fatty acids such alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which can be found for example in flax seed oil, combined with lignans (found in flax seeds) can significantly mitigate the severity of PMS symptoms.
It has been shown that PMS symptoms, such as breast tenderness, can be significantly reduced by compensating a lack of polyunsaturated fatty acids and phytohormones by supplementing one’s diet with flax seed and lignans. The body becomes less sensitive to the fluctuations of prolactin (the hormone prolactin prepares breast tissue for the production of milk), which is suspected to play a major role in the manifestation of premenstrual syndrome symptoms. An adequate supply of omega-3 fatty acids such as ALA may provide a good foundation for emotional stability and, thus, also alleviate the psychological symptoms of PMS.
Nutrition and Co.
An optimal diet should contain light, low-sodium, diuretic foods and include plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as grains and fiber (for example, like that found in flax seeds). Following these recommendations can help to avoid symptoms such as pre-menstrual, estrogen-related water retention. Approximately ten days prior to the onset of menstruation, alcohol and coffee consumption should be reduced. This is because, these substances negatively affect the body’s ability to absorb Magnesium and vitamin B which can result in increased breast tenderness.
Many women often crave sweet or greasy foods when on their periods. Carbohydrates can elevate mood temporarily by raising blood sugar levels and stimulating the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain.
An increased consumption of sweets carries a risk for becoming obese and accelerates the loss of magnesium, which may worsen the symptoms. Complex carbohydrates, such as those in whole wheat, wild rice, fruits, and vegetables, provide much more effective sources of energy. Because the body absorbs them slowly, they keep one feeling full longer than the sugar contained in sweets.
A healthy start to the day
In order to improve the energy state in all our cells, Dr. Johanna Budwig recommended a breakfast which is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and sulfur containing amino acids. The Budwig Cream combines high-quality flax seed oil with quark (cottage cheese may serve as a substitute.) Flax seed oil contains a remarkably high amount of the vegetable omega-3 fatty acid ALA. Low-fat quark, on the other hand, is rich in sulfur containing amino acids. Together they form a powerful unit: the positively charged amino acids from the quark and the negatively charged fatty acids from flax seed attract one another. In this unit, the quark acts as an "omega-3 protector." The omega-3 fatty acids from the flax seed oil are protected from oxidation and are thereby able to enter the human body to a large extent unchanged and, therefore, are much more available for use by our cells and their membranes.
A breakfast which includes flax seed oil – particularly one where valuable lignans have been added – provides sufficient energy in the morning and the foundation for vital processes such as cellular respiration and regulated hormone metabolism.
Take good care of your digestive tract!
Whether our cells actually benefit from the food we consume each day, depends largely on our intestinal health. The decisive factor is our intestines’ ability to absorb the nutrients that we eat. Dr. Johanna Budwig, thus, recommended daily consumption of fresh sauerkraut juice or sour milk to maintain our intestines and their intestinal flora. Furthermore, the regular consumption of dietary fiber plays an important role in healthy bowel function. Therefore, an integral part our daily diet should include 1-2 tablespoons of shredded and fortified flax seed, blended into a Budwig cream, made of quark and flax seed oil, or in Muttersaft (pure, unfiltered, unsweetened first-press juice of a fruit or berry) such as Fermentgold.
Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins
Researchers at the University of Pernambuco have recently discovered that taking a supplement containing a combination of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins for three to six months may significantly reduce the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS.
"The results of the current study demonstrate the positive effects gained from a supplemental intake of essential fatty acids in PMS patients," said Dr. Filho of the Federal University of Pernambuco. The study was carried out according to modern standards by monitoring 130 female patients. " The higher the dose of essential fatty acids and vitamins, the better the results. In particular, natural vitamin E together with omega-3 fatty acids seem to affect metabolism positively."
Dietary supplements containing omega-3 fatty acid and vitamins are recommended for PMS
A large proportion of the participants who received the supplement showed significantly fewer PMS symptoms over the course of the study. After three months, the first results could already be seen. After six months of regularly ingesting a supplement containing omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins, many women clearly reported experiencing fewer symptoms. PMS symptoms can often hinder the women’s daily routines- and that once every month. In contrast, a combination supplement of omega-3 fatty acid and vitamins can help many women and provide them with better quality of life.
Source: Reproductive Health , Volume 8, Issue 2, doi: 10.1186/1742-4755-8-2, “Essential fatty acids for premenstrual syndrome and their effect on prolactin and total cholesterol levels: a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study”, Autoren: E.A. Rocha Filho, J.C. Lima, J.S. Pinho Neto, U. Montarroyos