Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Women are blessed and burdened with a complex and dynamic physiology.  Fluctuations ranging from the subtle to the sublime require their bodies to engage in an intricate hormonal dance, a balance often not supported by the stressors of modern day life.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is one of the most common imbalances suffered by women.   Approximately 75% of all menstruating women experience PMS and yet, it is still not fully understood by Western medicine, which defines it as a cluster of psychological and physiological symptoms connected to the luteal phase of the cycle (from ovulation to day 1) and is usually due to an imbalance in progesterone and estrogen.

Western doctors have only recently moved beyond the ‘grin and bear it’ stage to their current practice of prescribing medication:   birth control pills to stabilize estrogen and progesterone levels, diuretics to help with water retention, and repackaged Prozac (Sarafem) for anti-depression and the other emotional disturbances. While these offer   symptomatic relief, they do nothing to address the cause of the problem nor are they without side effects.
In Chinese medicine, the shifts in hormones that define the menstrual cycle are interpreted through the lens of Yin and Yang, the transformational process manifested throughout nature: night turns slowly into day and day eventually gives way to night.   These transformations can also be seen in a woman’s menstrual cycle.

The menstrual cycle begins with the decrease of progesterone/Yang initiating the shedding of the uterine lining and leading to an increase in estrogen/Yin.   As the cycle continues, the uterine lining thickens, the egg-containing follicles grow and estrogen/Yin builds in preparation for ovulation.  At ovulation, the main follicle has peaked, the uterine lining is full of blood, and Yin is at its apex, thus signaling its transformation into Yang.  Yang supplies the warmth and energy required by ovulation as levels of progesterone rise and remain elevated until the next period when Yang again returns to Yin and the cycle continues…

In PMS, Yin does not completely transform into Yang during ovulation, leaving a deficiency of Yang and an abundance of Yin.   Since Yang is the energy that moves our body’s life force, Qi, as well as blood and other body fluids, this imbalance causes the flow of Qi and fluids to stagnate.  This stagnation causes pain and further imbalances for the entire body.

Emotional stress and poor dietary habits are the main causes of this stagnation.

Healing comes from stimulating the body to regulate its naturally occurring hormones, thus helping to restore its normal hormonal balance.   When the body’s natural energy and blood are flowing and its hormones are balanced, much of the pain is eliminated allowing the patient to get back onto a regular, far more comfortable cycle.

Instead of masking these symptoms with Western medication, or even holistic modalities, the first step should be to create a compassionate space to listen closely.  Your body does not lie, and the pains and fears and frustrations can help you discover yourself and your vulnerabilities.   If your body is telling you to take it easy and chill out, pay attention.  Listen.  It is a starting point.  This is where you begin to heal.

Home Remedies for PMS

  • Exercise: Move your body. Move your blood. Move your Qi.
  • Reduce Stress: Deep breathing and relaxation exercises, meditation, yoga, massage and acupuncture are all excellent ways to engender the body’s relaxation response and counteract the harmful effects of stress.
  • De-sugar your Diet: Foods high in sugar and fat overwhelm the digestive system and cause Liver Qi to stagnate; cut back on sugar (this includes refined carbs)and eat whole, low-fat foods.
  • Avoid caffeine. It constricts blood vessels and increases tension.
  • Avoid Alcohol/Drugs: Over-consumption of alcohol, recreational drugs and some pharmaceuticals can overbuden the liver and cause Qi to stagnate.
  • Acupressure: Apply pressure with your fingers to the spot between your thumb and index finger on both hands and then between your big toe and second toe right below the webbing on both feet.  These points are called the Four Gates. They open the pathways for Qi allowing for its free-flow.
  • Supplements:  Try a high-quality calcium and magnesium supplement. A ratio of calcium citrate to magnesium glycinate of 2:1 for women is often recommended, but if your premenstrual symptoms are severe, you may want to try 1:1.  You also need adequate stores of vitamin D to efficiently process these minerals.
  • Rest.