According to researchers, there are more than 200 possible PMS symptoms including irritability, bloating, cramping, cravings, headaches, breast tenderness, and on and on.

Whether you’re suffering from one painful symptom or 100, I want you to know you have the ability to change how you’re feeling. At Women's Health Network, we’ve seen that the majority of women suffering from PMS can reduce or even prevent symptoms by addressing the root cause — hormonal imbalance.

menstrual cycle

Please click image for larger view.

What causes PMS symptoms?

While some monthly hormonal fluctuations are perfectly normal, others set off PMS symptoms that can range from mild to severe.

The chart to the right shows the natural rise and fall of estrogen and progesterone, two of our key sex hormones, during a 28-day cycle.

However, it isn’t difficult for the natural rhythm of our hormones to be disrupted by a number of factors. And if estrogen and progesterone become imbalanced, you experience symptoms.

Lifestyle factors contribute to hormonal imbalance and PMS symptoms

The kinds of food you eat, the amount of nutrients you get, and the levels of stress you face are all key lifestyle factors that can influence hormonal balance and lead to more frequent and severe PMS symptoms:

Do you have unstable blood sugar?

If you feel like you’re on an energetic and emotional rollercoaster ride with PMS, it may be because wide fluctuations in your blood sugar levels are causing hormonal imbalance.

Some women are extremely sensitive to symptom-causing fluctuations in blood sugar during the premenstrual period. But all women can reduce blood sugar highs and lows by reducing the amount of sugar and refined carbohydrates in their diets.

Unstable blood sugar causes:

  • Feeling shaky, dizzy or lightheaded
  • Emotional swings
  • Agitation
  • Uncontrollable sugar cravings (just before your period or throughout the whole month)
Do you have a high-stress lifestyle?

In one recent study, when women perceived their stress levels to be high during the early weeks of two consecutive monthly cycles, their chances of having PMS symptoms spiked — up to 25 times higher!

This is because the stress hormone cortisol can affect the balance of your sex hormones. Because cortisol is connected to the endocrine feedback loop in your brain, it can disrupt the way your ovaries make hormones. More stress often equals more premenstrual symptoms.

A high-stress lifestyle causes:

  • Poor response to stressful situations
  • Feeling on-edge, overwhelmed or out of control
  • Anxiety or depression
Do you need a nutrient boost?

Women who experience PMS symptoms may not be getting enough of specific nutrients – calcium, magnesium, and vitamins K, B6, and E. Without a daily supply of nutrients, our bodies must demand urgent attention by intensifying our PMS symptoms. It’s not uncommon for PMS symptoms of all kinds to escalate for women in their 40s, especially if they haven’t been getting enough vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients for years.

Lack of nutrients causes:

  • Poor sleep
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle cramps
  • Aches and pains
  • Cravings for chocolate

Changing the factors that contribute to PMS

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, see what simple changes you can make today to reduce your hormonal imbalance and PMS symptoms.

References

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2 Trout, K., et al. 2007. Menstrual cycle effects on insulin sensitivity in women with type 1 diabetes: A pilot study. Diabetes Technol Ther., 9 (2), 176–182. URL (abstract): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17425444 (accessed 09.20.2011).

3 Trout, K., et al. 2008. Insulin sensitivity, food intake, and cravings with premenstrual syndrome: A pilot study. J. Women’s Health (Larchmt.), 17 (4), 657–665. URL (abstract): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18447765 (accessed 09.20.2011).

4 Trout, K., et al. 2008.

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