Three out of every four women, typically between their late twenties and late forties, struggle with PMS. PMS symptoms run the gamut from severe headaches, irritability and cravings to fatigue, insomnia and cramps. Every month women with PMS give up a week or more of their lives to symptoms because they’ve spent years thinking their frustrating symptoms are just a normal part of life you have to accept.

But PMS symptoms are not a normal part of life! Symptoms are generally warning signs from our bodies that something is out of balance. More and more women are struggling with PMS because two major factors — diet and stress levels — have changed in our modern lives. Stress levels are at an all-time high for women and never before have there been so many pre-packaged, low-nutrient foods available. These shifts have led to practitioners prescribing birth control pills, antidepressants, and pain-relievers in an attempt to help women manage their symptoms instead of focusing on the root causes to resolve symptoms once and for all.

But there are more natural ways to address PMS by rebalancing your body and your hormones. And the best part is, these solutions work right at the source of the problem with results that last for the long-term.

Common causes of PMS

If we look closer at what really causes PMS symptoms, the solutions become very clear — and often some simple dietary and lifestyle changes are all you need.

Imbalanced hormones. Every month estrogen and progesterone wax and wane to prepare the uterus for a potential pregnancy. However, these hormones affect more than just the uterus. They can influence our moods, digestion, sleep, cravings, and much more. Progesterone has a soothing effect on the brain, but right before our periods, progesterone drops off, which explains why we can sometimes feel irritable during this time. Noticeable symptoms arise when these hormones begin to fluctuate more dramatically.

Unstable blood sugar. Blood sugar and insulin can take huge spikes and dips when we eat a high-carbohydrate diet (this includes alcohol and, of course, sugar). Insulin is one of the major hormones in your body, and since all of your hormones work together through a brain-body axis, imbalanced insulin can lead to dramatic imbalances in estrogen and progesterone. Insulin imbalance can also lead to intense sugar cravings, agitation, shakiness and dizziness.

High burden of stress. Physical or emotional stress can lead to increased levels of the hormone cortisol. This is another major hormone in your body that can disrupt the normal ebb and flow of estrogen and progesterone. A difficult job, unstable relationships, trauma from the past, or even an ongoing food allergy all create stress in your body, upsetting the hormonal brain-body axis, known as the HPA (hypothalamic pituitary adrenal) axis. This is the same axis that manages your sex hormones, your thyroid hormones and more. High cortisol can not only increase cravings and cause weight gain, but it can also lead to anxious and depressed feelings.

Nutrient deficiencies. Vitamins and minerals serve as important co-factors in the manufacturing of hormones and neurotransmitters in your body. The nutrient-deficiencies most connected with PMS symptoms include: calcium, magnesium, vitamin K, vitamin B6, and vitamin E. If these vitamins have been in high demand in your body for years, it will certainly lead to intense PMS symptoms in your thirties and forties. Nutrient deficiencies can cause muscle cramps, achiness, poor sleep, and low energy.

Don’t just live with PMS — choose a better way

If you begin to track your symptoms, what you eat and what you do on a daily basis, your PMS symptom triggers may become very clear. If you can avoid those triggers, you will likely see good results. For most women, taking three simple steps can make all the difference.

1. Make dietary changes. Eat a diet of whole, fresh foods including protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates at every meal. It’s especially important to eat protein with every meal and snack. Avoid alcohol, sugar, and refined carbohydrates like white bread, pasta and white rice. Some women also report greater success by avoiding dairy and gluten as well. Above all else, find a high-quality multivitamin/mineral complex like our Essential Nutrients to cover all your nutrient-bases — your body needs these every day in consistent supply.

2. Address stress. Stress-relief is essential to balancing the HPA axis. Each woman has individual relaxation preferences, but you might try a regular exercise routine (preferably outside), massage therapy, a hot bath, regular naps, yoga, or meditation. If you are struggling with a food sensitivity or previous emotional trauma, make a plan to investigate resolutions and commit to following through with it. Scheduling time for stress relief is often difficult for busy women to even think about, but just five minutes a day dedicated to deep breathing, meditation, or a quiet walk in nature can make a tremendous difference in how you feel each month.

3. Support your hormonal balance. Changing your diet and your stress levels will help your sex hormone balance, but there are also effective herbs available to protect your body from dramatic fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone. Black cohosh, wild yam and lemon balm help with irritability, anxiety and sleep issues. Maca is a great herb to boost mood. And chasteberry soothes breast pain, cramps and bloating. We offer an effective multi-herb formula, PMS Solution in our SHOP.

For the most effective relief of PMS symptoms, we recommend a combination approach. We offer an affordable PMS package, including our herbal PMS Solution, Essential Nutrients, e-Guide with a hormone-friendly diet and recipes, as well as phone support from women right here in Maine. PMS is not something you have to suffer through each month. You can make simple adjustments and change your life in the best way possible, including your monthly schedule, and your outlook on your period! We’re here to help.