conventional medicine Irritability, cravings, cramps, menstrual migraines — these symptoms (and more!) plague three out of four women of childbearing age every month. Yet, most conventional practitioners won’t even address PMS or offer assistance apart from pain-relievers, birth control pills or prescription antidepressants. From six-minute doctor appointments to a healthcare system set up to focus mostly on managing symptoms rather than solving the root imbalances that cause them, it’s no wonder women feel helpless!

PMS is still a new “disease” in conventional medicine

As surprising as it sounds, PMS (premenstrual syndrome) is still a relatively new concept in the world of conventional medicine. It was only in the early 1950’s that a woman physician by the name of Katharina Dalton pioneered studies of premenstrual syndrome, challenging the belief that the symptoms we’ve come to know as PMS were all in a woman’s head. Another 40 years passed until 1994, when the American Psychiatric Association officially recognized premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a severe form of PMS where women are slammed with depression, irritability and tension prior to getting their periods. This relative novelty of PMS may be why conventional medicine hasn’t yet even tried to develop additional solutions.

Another problem for PMS sufferers is the fact that most medical schools still offer more instruction on pharmacology than they do on nutrition and the effects of healthy lifestyle changes — both of which can influence PMS. Premenstrual syndrome is a system-wide imbalance, which often means it requires a system-wide solution. It isn’t a “disease,” but it also isn’t just “all in your head.” PMS is caused by real hormonal imbalances, endorphin changes, and often nutritional deficiencies.

Is it PMS or PMDD?

Do you have symptoms of ordinary PMS or do you have a more severe form of PMS, known as PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder)? Take a look at the common symptoms below and see your doctor if are concerned about PMDD.

Common symptoms of PMS

  • Fatigue and insomnia
  • Food cravings
  • Breast tenderness
  • Bloating and cramps
  • Headaches
  • Acne
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Tension, anxiety and irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating

Common symptoms of PMDD
All of the above symptoms of PMS are also common with PMDD, in addition to:

  • Feelings of sadness or despair (even thoughts of suicide)
  • Panic attacks
  • Lack of interest in daily activities and relationships
  • Lasting irritability
  • Feeling out of control

A natural approach to PMS works!

The truth is, PMS is not something you have to endure each month. In fact, severe PMS is primarily a sign that several important hormones are imbalanced. Estrogen and progesterone are important players (this is why many doctors prescribe birth control pills), but imbalances in insulin and the stress hormone cortisol also contribute to PMS symptoms. Insulin spikes and plunges can make your blood sugar unstable leading to intense cravings and dizziness. High cortisol levels can also amp up cravings and leave you feeling anxious and depressed. Because conventional medicine as we know it grew out of emergency care and quick fixes for life or death situations, it hasn’t quite evolved to a whole-body perspective — yet. It will get there eventually and in the meantime, you can take a whole-body approach to PMS by balancing your hormones with herbs and dietary changes, taking a high-quality multivitamin, and getting the exercise and sleep you need.

Some of the most helpful herbs for PMS symptoms include: lemon balm, black cohosh, burdock, chasteberry and maca. Vitamins and minerals also have crucial roles in hormone production and overall energy levels. Low calcium, magnesium, vitamin E, vitamin B6 and vitamin K are most often connected to PMS symptoms, so be sure to get those in your daily multivitamin. Cutting sugar, eating protein with every meal and snack, and getting lots of vegetables can help stabilize blood sugar and insulin, which will make an enormous difference in cravings, weight gain, and irritability prior to your period.

Taking the lead on PMS with your doctor

Some women decide not to discuss PMS with their doctors because they’ve already had frustrating and unsatisfying conversations or because they don’t believe their doctors can help. Others simply take the prescription for birth control or antidepressants without feeling listened to by their doctors. Of course your doctor is genuinely trying to help you, but may not have all the information he or she needs to do so. You are the only one who can truly decide what is best for your body.

Often simply letting your doctor know that you’ve done some research and feel strongly about solving your symptoms naturally is enough to get your doctor on board. Though your doctor may not have a “natural” plan for you to follow, she may be open to discussing your ideas, offering advice and partnering with you to resolve your symptoms and the imbalances that are causing them. When it comes to PMS, taking a holistic view works to get you back to feeling your best every day, every month. We’ve made it easy with our PMS herbal solution, multivitamin and diet and lifestyle guide. Take a look in our SHOP for PMS relief options today!