You’re likely already familiar with the term, but PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome. This refers to over 200 symptoms that women may experience with their menstrual cycle. Typically, PMS starts 1-2 days before bleeding starts and resolves shortly after. If symptoms are disrupting daily living or lasting much longer than 3-7 days, you may have a more extreme version of PMS called PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder). While these are separate disorders, there is some overlap in treatment approaches.
One connection with PMS is cortisol and the stress response. Cortisol is our main stress hormone and it can be depleted when we’re under ongoing stress or perceived stressful situations. Studies have shown that women with PMS tend to have lower levels of cortisol during the second half of the menstrual cycle, just before bleeding occurs. We know that the start of menses correlates with when estrogen and progesterone levels decrease. When there is a big shift in hormone levels, that can be perceived as a stressor by the body. Additionally, progesterone is a precursor to cortisol. So when progesterone suddenly drops as menses starts, we have less substrate to make cortisol to handle that stress. So supporting cortisol production and progesterone levels can provide overall support when these hormones shift with bleeding.
The other pathway that is important with PMS and hormone fluctuations, is liver detoxification. Dr. Lisa refers to some of this connection in our January newsletter article on detoxification. Essentially, the liver is where we recycle hormones or eliminate extra amounts of hormones. When one or more of the liver detoxification pathways aren’t working properly, an estrogen dominance can occur. Estrogen dominance can be responsible for many of the typical PMS symptoms and for growths in our estrogen sensitive organs (breast, ovary, and uterus). So, addressing this is an incredibly important piece of all hormone balancing.
Two simple ways to support your hormone health and reduce PMS are through stress reduction and diet. Exercise and meditation are excellent ways to reduce stress and produce endorphins which help the mood symptoms of PMS. One food category that helps hormone balance is the cruciferous vegetables, which include cabbage, cauliflower, kale, broccoli, and brussels sprouts. These foods contain a molecule called indole-3-carbinol which can help eliminate extra estrogen. Additionally, avoiding inflammatory foods has also shown to decrease PMS. The big inflammatory foods are processed foods, alcohol, and sugar. Many people find avoiding these 3 things, vastly improves a large variety of symptoms in the body.