Women have between 350 and 500 periods in a lifetime. If your monthly period is five days long, each year you spend 60 days menstruating. You spend one or more years out of every ten years of your life bleeding. If you bleed from the time you are twelve years old until 52 years of age, you can spend four to five years or more of your life shedding menstrual blood!
Menstruation is a sign of good health. Sometimes that is hard to believe when there are over one hundred different symptoms that are associated with PMS. Prior to and during menstruation, more than 70% of American women experience PMS symptoms at some time in their life. The medical research around PMS is inconclusive. Every woman is different and there is no decisive medical etiology of why women have PMS. There is not an agreed upon cause, treatment or theory and the standard medical approach of cause and cure is not working for women.
The menstrual cycle is NOT a sickness. The menstrual cycle is the nurturer and giver of life. Without menstruation there would be no human life. It was not meant to be riddled with suffering and trouble. There are many cultures where women don’t experience the PMS symptoms that we do. Why then does our menstrual cycle cause us so much pain?
Take a look at the most common PMS symptoms – and how to ease menstrual cramps comes down to the right combination of key vitamins, minerals and herbs:
Cramping: You know the feeling of cramps all too well. The gripping pain in your pelvis and lower back that makes your double over in agony. For many, the pain is so severe that they can barely get out of bed for days. Prostaglandins, certain molecular compounds, are released during your period. These compounds cause the sharp uterine contractions that women fear. The best treatments for these cramps are anti-inflammatory agents and pain killers. Niacin is a great B vitamin that can help ease cramping. Also, take advantage of herbal solutions like White Willow Bark, which has been used as a natural pain killer for centuries.
Bloating: Bloating is another symptom that women can look forward to during that time of the month. Do you suffer from a swollen abdomen, ankles, or legs as a side effect of PMS? Many women retain so much water that they feel like they can barely fit into their clothing. Think about how much of a blow to your ego this is. You already feel so emotional. Never mind that fact that you won’t be able to wear anything but sweatpants! But there is hope. Dandelion and Vitamin B-6 is a tried and true remedy that regulates fluid retention. Calcium, too, helps with bloating and a variety of other PMS ailments.
Changes in Mood: Do you feel like a stranger to yourself during this time of the month? Can your moods shift from happy, to anxious, to depressed, in minutes? Your emotions shift because your body is crying out for help. Your hormones are all out of whack. The fluctuating progesterone levels, and the sudden release of prostaglandins in your body wreck havoc with your emotions. However, certain vitamins and herbs are powerful weapons in this hormone war. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that provides relief from moodiness. Plus, extract derived from the chasteberry flower is a proven ingredient to combat moodiness.
Acne: You probably already feel unattractive when you suffer from PMS. You’re body feels like a stranger. You’re moody. Now add acne to the mix. It’s like you’ll never feel desirable again! Acne is due to fluctuations in your hormones. It’s also common knowledge that stress causes acne. And of course you’re stressed out! Think of all that your body is going through. But did you know that omega fatty acids can help beat those breakouts? Natural remedies like Evening Primrose are chock full of omega-6 fatty acids. Of course, it is well known that vitamin E is an important antioxidant that promotes clear skin.
Decreased Sexual Desire: Thanks to PMS, you’re a mess of emotional and physical problems. You don’t feel attractive, so of course your sex drive goes down the drain. Decreased libido is actually due to a mixture of emotional and physical factors. Sure, your self confidence is probably at an all-time low. But did you know that female libido is due to estrogen and progesterone levels within your body? And you guessed it—these are the two hormones that are out of whack during your time of the month. It’s important that you add remedies that regulate your hormones to your diet. Add damiana to your diet, which has been prized by native Mexicans for centuries as a sexual stimulant.
Migraine Headaches: On top of the debilitating cramps and body aches, you might suffer from migraine headaches. These aren’t just your average headache. They can last for days and even bring with them nausea, diarrhea, and vision problems. All of this, thanks to your body trying to cope with imbalanced hormones! Decreasing stress levels and relaxing in dark rooms can certainly help, but these aren’t exactly easy remedies for busy women. Your body is crying out for anti-inflammatory agents and anything that can help ease your fluctuating hormones. Try adding more folic acid to your diet, which helps relieve your PMS tension. Black cohosh been prized by Native Americans for its ability to help relieve headaches.
Breast Swelling and Tenderness: For many women, breast enlargement is an uncomfortable byproduct of monthly hormonal changes. Evening primrose can bring you relief from your sore breasts. Although the levels of breast swelling and tenderness vary among women, the National Institutes of Health states that all women feel the effects as estrogen and progesterone levels rise during the menstrual cycle. Ayurvedic doctors often give shatavari — a female hormone balancing herb of the asparagus family — when PMS causes breast ducts and milk glands to become painfully enlarged.
Food Cravings: You know how much you crave sweet or salty foods when you experience PMS. Some women avoid the grocery store or restaurants, for fear that they’ll eat everything in sight! Did you know there is actually scientific evidence that supports these cravings? When you suffer from PMS, your body’s level of magnesium drops. Magnesium is an important nutrient that regulates how your body breaks down sugar. Once your body detects a lack of sugar, those cravings for chocolate and other fatty foods kick in. Luckily, a straight-forward remedy for this is adding a magnesium supplement to your diet.
Weight Gain: Closely tied to your food cravings is the cold hard truth that women gain weight when they suffer from PMS. Think about how vulnerable you are during this time of the month. You’re emotional so you eat. Then you gain weight, making you more distressed. It’s a never-ending battle! This is again tied to your body screaming because of a magnesium deficiency. What’s worse is that the refined sugar in sweets can actually increase your magnesium deficiency, creating a vicious cycle. You can finally put a stop your PMS weight gain by increasing your calcium intake. But did you know that you need to up your magnesium intake to be able to fully absorb the calcium that will help you keep those pounds off?
Sleep Pattern Changes: Your sleep cycle is so sensitive. It’s all tied to your mood, stress levels, and hormone variations. When your PMS symptoms are at their worst, you just want to escape with a good night’s sleep or a nap. St. John’s Wort and Valerian Root are traditional herbs that have been used for centuries aid sleeping and relieve sleeplessness. But if you’ve ever experienced a night of staring at your ceiling, unable to sleep, you know just how frustrating this PMS symptom is. Your irritability increases your stress levels, which makes it difficult to sleep. Without enough sleep, you’re even more stressed! Lower levels of serotonin during this time of the month are the culprit that causes your sleep troubles. Red Raspberry is a medicinal plant that helps you flush excess hormones out of your system, allowing you to find restful sleep.