The PMS Solution: 3 Steps to Hormonal Resilience
This condition can wreak havoc, but there are some tips that can help relieve it.
Lara Briden is a naturopathic doctor in New Zealand with a focus on women’s health and her books ‘Period Repair Manual’ and ‘Hormone Repair Manual’ provide practical solutions for period and hormone problems.
I find her work practical and inspiring so if you are struggling with PMS, I am happy to share her thoughts below on how you can deal with it.
PMS is my favorite thing to treat because it responds so well to natural treatment. I love to hear patients say: “I was surprised when my period just arrived. I didn’t even feel it coming.”
No irritability. No headache. No food cravings. It is possible.
The first step to easy periods is to value female hormones. Both estrogen and progesterone are powerful assets, and not something to be switched off with hormonal birth control.
For example, estrogen boosts serotonin and oxytocin. It improves mood and libido, and enhances insulin sensitivity. Progesterone is soothing and calming because it connects with GABA receptors. It’s also anti-inflammatory and supports thyroid function.
It’s precisely because your hormones are so beneficial that you feel it when they rise and fall and fluctuate. But fluctuation is not a bad thing. Hormones fluctuate because they’re made in a cyclic pattern with ovulation, and that is the only way they can be made. If you’re going to have female hormones, they’re going to fluctuate.
The PMS solution is to be physiologically adaptable to the natural, necessary fluctuation of hormones. I call this “hormonal resilience”.
The PMS Solution:
1. Enhance Progesterone
A common feature of PMS is that progesterone drops away too soon, just when you need it most in the week or so before your period. You want a robust supply of progesterone so it can deliver its soothing GABA support all the way to your period.
The only way to make progesterone is to have a strong and healthy ovulation every month.
Support ovulation and progesterone with magnesium, zinc, selenium and vitamin B6.
Correct any underlying health issues that interfere with ovulation such as thyroid, insulin or stress.
A good hormone health herb is agnus-castus to promote ovulation and boost progesterone naturally in the body. It also has a direct calming effect by interacting with opiate receptors.
Consider taking bioidentical progesterone as a cream and it works best at low dose, and taken during the second half of the cycle (luteal phase).
A point of clarification here: Natural, bioidentical, progesterone is a completely different thing from the synthetic progestin drugs of the Pill and HRT.
2. Reduce Estrogen Excess
I love estradiol, our strongest and most stimulating estrogen. But estradiol is like an interesting and charismatic friend. She’s great to have around for a while, but she can eventually overwhelm.
If you experience premenstrual irritability and breast tenderness, then you need to set some boundaries around estrogen.
Ensure adequate iodine, which stabilises and down-regulates estrogen receptors.
Keep your intestinal bacteria as healthy as you can because they play a major role in metabolizing and detoxifying estrogen. My patients often report worsened PMS shortly after disruption of intestinal bacteria by antibiotics.
Supplement vitamin B6 and DIM (diindolylmethane) to assist with estrogen detoxification For more treatment ideas, please see my Estrogen Excess post.
Low Estrogen Variant of PMS: If you experience depression and insomnia before your period, then your estradiol is dropping away too quickly. You could benefit from estrogen-enhancing herbs such as tribulus and shatavari.
Bioidentical progesterone also relieves symptoms of low estrogen.
3. Reduce Inflammation
Chronic inflammation interferes with hormonal health on every level. It impedes ovulation and depletes progesterone. It also impairs estrogen detoxification, blocks progesterone and GABA receptors, and hyper-stimulates estrogen receptors.
Chronic inflammation is the perfect storm for PMS.
Avoid inflammatory foods such as junk food, gluten, desserts, alcohol, sweet drinks, and dairy.
Supplement with natural anti-inflammatories such as magnesium and turmeric.
Keep your intestinal bacteria as healthy as you can because they have a strong influence on your immune system.
Tip: Histamine intolerance is a common cause of PMS. Please see: The Curious Link Between Estrogen and Histamine Intolerance.
Bioidentical progesterone has long been used for PMS and PCOS and if your symptoms indicate you also have low oestrogen then you may be better with a cream that combines both hormones such as 20-1.
For more information, please see Lara Briden’s book Period Repair Manual. Chapter 8 is all about The PMS Solution and you will find more information on her website as well as an article below on dealing with PMS.