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I can’t imagine what PMS actually feels like, but having heard the litany of miserable symptoms from thousands of my patients, it sounds pretty dismal. But just because I happen to be a male physician doesn’t mean I can’t offer help.
Trust me on this: most women can resolve the miseries of PMS on their own. But with the potential for two separate imbalances at play in PMS, one treatment definitely doesn’t fit all.
Step 1 is to find the symptoms that describe your PMS and follow my herbal recommendations for a natural, drug-free solution. Then, check out the four easy additional steps that will speed your PMS recovery.
Let’s start by looking at the two different types of PMS. Which group do you fall into?
• Symptoms of breast tenderness, headaches, bloating and fluid retention indicate you have too much estrogen relative to progesterone. If this describes your PMS, I recommend chasteberry, one of my favorite herbs because it’s incredibly effective. Chasteberry acts on your pituitary, the master gland, to correct your hormone imbalance and eliminate symptoms of estrogen-dominant PMS. Most of my patients report dramatic relief after two monthly cycles. Take 175-225 mg daily on an empty stomach when you don’t have your period. Since chasteberry changes your hormone levels, you shouldn’t take it if you’re taking birth control pills (because it can reduce effectiveness) or hormone replacement therapy, or if you’re breastfeeding or pregnant.
• Symptoms of irritability, mood swings, depression, brain fog, cravings for chocolate and other carbs, anger, and snarkiness occur because your plummeting estrogen during the days before your period is dragging down your feel-good serotonin, a brain chemical related to good mood. If you fall into this group, you need to shore up your serotonin with two supplements that act like mild antidepressants: the herb St. John’s wort and the amino acid 5HTP. Take 450 mg of St. John’s wort twice daily with food during the two calendar weeks before your period. In addition, take 100 mg of 5HTP before you go to sleep during these days.
• Yes, you can have both types of PMS going on at once. And also yes, PMS symptoms can begin as early as one week after your period ends. I call this Industrial Strength PMS. Treat this using everything in our natural arsenal above: chasteberry (or a PMS combination), St. John’s wort, and 5HTP.
To speed the process of getting rid of symptoms, follow these additional steps:
• If necessary, change your food choices. Drop the junk food, especially foods rich in saturated fats and sugars. Focus mostly on whole foods like fruits, veggies, nice lean protein, and whole grains. Replace refined, processed foods with high-quality carbohydrates: kidney beans, black beans, lentils, oatmeal, barley, and nuts. Buy bags of pre-washed baby spinach, cook lightly, and top with olive oil, lemon, and capers. I promise you that eating well makes a tremendous difference in your PMS.
• Exercise, every day. Women who keep moving have a lot less PMS. Try this for the next 60 days: brisk walking outside, 20 minutes a day. Start with that, and do more if you can. Work these walks into your commute by getting off the bus earlier, parking your car at the far end of the lot, or getting up 20 minutes early to walk outside. But do it every day.
• Reduce stress in whatever way works for you. Stress is central to many disorders, and surveys of women with PMS indicate that symptoms get worse during stressful times. My prescription for you: a hot relaxing bath once a day with no interruptions; a massage twice a week; a regular yoga class, where you’ll focus on stretching and breathing and nothing else for an hour. Reducing stress is essential.
• Try evening primrose oil, an essential fatty acid that increases your body’s levels of prostaglandins, a chemical involved in both kinds of PMS symptoms. Take 1000 to 1300 mg of evening primrose oil three times daily with food (to increase absorption). Or you can take two capsules with breakfast and one with dinner if that’s easier.