What Causes PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)?
Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, is a condition that affects an estimated three quarters of women in their childbearing years. Symptoms occur within a week to two weeks before the beginning of their period, between ovulation and menstruation. These symptoms disappear just before or just after the beginning of menstruation.
There are a wide range of PMS symptoms, falling into three categories: Physical changes, mood changes, and mental changes. Physical changes include bloating, swollen and tender breasts, fluid retention, weight gain, cramps, constipation or diarrhea, backache, general aches and pains, acne, headache, insomnia, fatigue and food cravings.
Mood changes include irritability, anger, depression, mood swings, anxiety, and feeling overwhelmed or hopeless. Mental changes include confusion, forgetfulness and trouble concentrating
Most women experience more than one symptom, but fortunately it’s the rare woman who suffers from most or all of them. PMS symptoms tend to follow a predictable pattern in individual women, although their severity may vary from month to month. Stress can aggravate PMS symptoms. Symptoms are at their worst in women in their late twenties to early thirties.
Disabling PMS that severely impacts a women’s ability to perform her normal activities is known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Typically, troubling PMDD symptoms are irritability and anger, anxiety, severe depression, difficulty concentrating, low self-esteem, and feelings of hopelessness.
PMS is largely thought to be caused by monthly hormonal fluctuations, and disappears during pregnancy and following menopause. For example, the hormone estrogen causes fluid retention, and increased estrogen likely causes the temporary weight gain, breast tenderness, and bloating. Recent research suggests that women who experience PMS may have an increased sensitivity to the hormone progesterone.
Fluctuations in the brain chemical serotonin likely also plays a role, contributing to depression, mood swings, fatigue, insomnia and food cravings. Poor nutrition leading to low vitamin levels, alcohol and caffeine, and eating too many salty foods (causing fluid retention) may also be contributing factors.
Natural Remedy For PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)
Usually PMS-related pain (premenstrual syndrome) is due to the uterus cramping. Sometimes other pelvic muscles can be involved, and occasionally the intestines can get triggered too.
There are a number of effective natural PMS remedies you can use, so have a read and see which of these “twigs” your intuition. For severe menstrual cramps and spasming, you may even need to combine two or three of these. Effective herbal muscle relaxants for smooth muscle tissue include crampbark or black haw (black haw is stronger than crampbark). I find these easiest to use in tincture form. Just add one to two ml to some herbal tea (or to a few ounces of water), sweeten with honey or stevia if desired, and drink on an empty stomach, up to four times a day (as needed).
A handy tip to remember is that nearly all herbal extracts or tinctures are more powerful when taken on an empty stomach – 20 minutes before food, or two hours after food. I find taking herbal muscle relaxants to be more effective for premenstrual pain than just taking a painkiller. You can often find these herbs in a PMS blend, along with other beneficial herbs.
And since we’re talking about muscle relaxants, check and make sure you’re getting enough magnesium and potassium every day – as these important minerals are powerful muscle relaxants too. You can take these in either traditional powdered form, or my favorite: nanoparticle-sized form.
But if you also want or need a natural painkiller, you can take white willow bark.
If the pre-menstrual cramps and pain is very severe, a hot castor oil pack on your abdomen is also very effective. Cold-pressed castor oil sinks transdermally (through the skin) to relax smooth muscle. This simple mechanical action has a beneficial influence on all hollow organs, specifically the blood and lymph vessels, the uterus, fallopian tubes, bowels, gall bladder, and even the liver (which is not hollow but is filled with venous lakes).
A castor oil pack is placed on the skin to increase circulation and to promote elimination and healing of the tissues and organs underneath the skin. It is often used to stimulate the liver, relieve pain, increase lymphatic circulation, reduce inflammation, and improve digestion. Just remember to use a cold-pressed castor oil and 100% cotton flannel (or wool) – no synthetics. You can use either a hot water bottle or a heating pad as the heat source. Here are detailed instructions.
The other thing that is often responsible for period cramps, pain and headaches is a hormonal imbalance. An easy remedy for this is to put a dime-sized amount of Emerita Natural Progesterone cream on the soles of your feet and rub it in (once per day in the morning). If your PMS is hormonally-based, that can often greatly relieve, or eliminate the problem entirely. Then, after a few months of this, the estrogen-dominance is often balanced and you don’t need to continue.
If your thyroid is low, or you have symptoms of thyroid imbalance, then another good remedy to balance your endocrine system holistically is Thyroplex, developed by Jonathan V. Wright, MD.