"And When She Was Good She Was Very, Very, Good, and When She Was Bad She Was Horrid."

You see it all the time: That crazy, cranky, above else hungry female character depicted in movies and TV shows for decades on end. It's an overused stereotype that unfortunately represents how a large section of our society sees women during 'that time of the month', even today.  

Why I find the depiction problematic is because it makes us believe that all of this is normal. We as women, also grow up believing that PMS is an inherent part of being a female and we are bound to suffer every month after month. Well, I am here to tell you, Its not true! PMS is a symptom of underlying hormone imbalance, which can be fixed and is totally preventable.

What the is PMS?

Even though it stands for 'pre'­menstrual syndrome, PMS doesn’t necessarily occur right before your period. The symptoms can present themselves any time between ovulation & menstruation, which is the second part of your monthly cycle- also known as your luteal phase. During this period a woman may experience everything and anything from bloating, ravenous hunger, acne or anxiety.

But let me tell you, PMS is not normal. Its a sign of underlying hormone imbalance which can be corrected. 

The cause of this imbalance is usually-

  • too much estrogen, 
  • coupled with low progesterone, 
  • and micronutrient deficiencies. 

All these coupled together can make your brain & body to go on an un­fun rollercoaster ride. Anything from imbalanced nutrition to unresolved relationships can disrupt the hormonal balance in your body. 

Despite the fact that many women now approach their doctors wanting to understand PMS and get help, there is still a belief among conventional practitioners that these symptoms are strictly hormonal or even worse psychological, and have nothing to do with a woman’s life, and that they can be “fixed.” 

They might simply prescribe oral contraceptives or antidepressants for women with PMS to control symptoms along with their cycles and emotions. However, it's important to understand the underlying problems by asking more questions about the woman's nutrition,personal & professional life. 

Symptoms of PMS

PMS involves a wide variety of symptoms. Here are the most common:

  • Abdominal bloating
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Accident proneness, coordination difficulties
  • Acne, hives
  • Aggression, rage
  • Anxiety, irritability, suicidal thoughts
  • Asthma
  • Back pain
  • Breast swelling and pain
  • Bruising
  • Confusion
  • Depression, withdrawal from others, emotional lability
  • Edema
  • Exacerbation of preexisting conditions (lupus, arthritis, ulcers, herpes, etc.)
  • Fatigue, lethargy
  • Fainting (vasovagal syncope)
  • Food binges, salt cravings, sweet cravings
  • Headache, migraine
  • Heart palpitations
  • Insomnia
  • Joint swelling and pain
  • Nausea
  • Urinary difficulties

The key to making the diagnosis, however, the most important aspect is not the exact symptoms themselves, but the cyclic nature in which they occur.

What do I do about it?

Don't put your faith in pills and potions. They are no match for what is going on in your endocrine system . Further proof that there is no magic solution: Many women on birth control pills also struggle with PMS, even though they have the supposed cure all of synthetic hormones. I recommend a balanced approach to healing PMS, instead of just treating the symptoms. Many women are given symptomatic treatments for their PMS that, in the long run, do not work. To treat a woman’s headaches with painkillers, and her mood changes with antidepressants or antianxiety drugs is to ignore the underlying imbalance that leads to PMS in the first place. In addition, these treatments often have deleterious side effects of their own. There is no magic bullet for treating PMS, it needs a systemic and holistic approach.

  1. Take a balanced diet: Include leafy greens, sweet potatoes, coconuts and avocados in your diet.
  2. Eliminate caffeine. Even if you only drink one cup of coffee per day, eliminating caffeine can make a huge difference for some women.
  3. Get enough essential fatty acids in your diet. Nuts, seeds, Flax seed , evening primrose oil can help.
  4. Reduce stress. Women who practice meditation or other methods of deep relaxation are able to alleviate many of their PMS symptoms.
  5. Exercise. Get at least 20 minutes of aerobic exercise three times per week. Brisk walking is all that is necessary.
  6. Listen to Your Body. The truth is, if you ignore your cyclic nature, disconnect from your body's wisdom and try to function as a linear being with the same drives, focus, and attitudes day after day, PMS will often be the result, no matter what you take to try to control it. If you don’t pay attention to the issues that come up premenstrually during the years when your periods are regular, it is likely that your symptoms will escalate during perimenopause. That’s why it is important to understand that every premenstrual issue is potentially related to a larger, deeper need that is not being met or that has been ignored for a long time. 

Having treated hundreds of women with PMS, I know that such a rethinking is needed. When we don’t acknowledge our needs, our bodies have to scream louder to get our attention.

Wishing you a PMS FREE PERIOD!

Dr. Disha