PMS and Cramping
Hormonal imbalances can seriously affect your quality of life.
Most of us associate PMS with mood swings and cramping, but many other symptoms may be related. These include:
• Poor concentration
• Joint or muscle pain
• Headaches and migraines
• Acne (especially around the chin and neck for many women)
• Changing bowel habits, including constipation and diarrhea
• Water retention and weight gain
Traditional Treatments for PMS:
Many doctors will prescribe hormone-based birth control pills in an effort to regulate your cycle. These are often effective, and while many women do fine on them, there are some long-term consequences which you should keep in mind, such as increased risk of certain cancers and of stroke (especially for women over 35 who smoke). I am not completely against these though, and I do prescribe them from time to time.
If your symptoms are mild, you may be able to control the cramping and muscle pain quite well with over the counter anti-inflammatory medications such as Advil or ibuprofen. Although these too have their side effects with continued long-term use, once in awhile I see no problem with them for most patients, aside from the fact that they don’t address the reason the pain is there in the first place.
For water retention, your doctor may give you diuretics (to make you urinate more). They work, but again, they don’t deal with the reason you’re retaining water in the first place.
For severe PMS, you may be given antidepressants, which help not just with stabilizing mood, but also have been effective for reducing some of the other symptoms as well. Common side effects for these include GI disturbance, sexual side effects such as lowered libido, insomnia, and occasionally they can actually intensify feelings of depression.
Naturopathic Treatments for PMS:
PMS is usually associated with a high ratio of estrogen to progesterone. Although both hormones decline dramatically leading up to your period, if you have relatively more circulating estrogen than progesterone, you’re probably going to have an unpleasant week or so. We’ll address this from several angles.
1) For most conditions, I start with what you eat. I recommend a high fiber (fruits and veggies), low sugar, and low refined carbohydrate diet. I also have an anti-estrogenic diet plan if you have a very high estrogen to progesterone ratio.
2) Exercise is also very important: studies show that women who exercise experience significantly fewer PMS symptoms.
3) Next, we’ll want to make sure your thyroid is balanced. Your hormones are all interconnected.
4) We’ll support your liver and your gut, probably at the same time. You may have high levels of estrogen because “bad” bacteria in your gut keeps it from getting eliminated, because a backed up liver that can’t do its job properly, or a combination of both. At this stage there are also some nutritional supplements we can add in to assist with estrogen elimination, while we’re getting your gut and your liver back in shape.
5) In the meantime, to treat the symptoms:
- We’ll add in good oils (which function very much like Advil and ibuprofen, but without suppression) in order to decrease inflammation. Many women may also find that acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, or massage are very helpful for this.
- Certain vitamins and nutritional supplements can help loosen muscles, regulate hormones and bowels, and decrease fluid retention.
- A number of botanical medications work wonders for hormone balancing.
- A well-chosen homeopathic remedy can sometimes improve all of the symptoms at once!
- Neurotransmitter balancing may be necessary for women who experience severe mood symptoms or insomnia.
6) On extremely rare occasions, I may prescribe bioidentical hormones for PMS and cramping. Most of the time this isn’t necessary but it will get the job done, and with far fewer side effects than those sometimes encountered with certain birth control pills.
I love seeing patients for PMS and cramping because it’s usually a fairly quick and easy fix. Are you ready to reclaim a week or two out of every month of your life? Make an appointment today!
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