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PMS: Calming the Hormonal Storms

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PMS: Calming the Hormonal Storms

PMS: Calming the Hormonal Storms

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About the Author

Asti Renaut

Asti Renaut (BHSc. Comp Med, BA, Adv Dip Nat, Adv Dip Herb Med, MNZAMH)

Asti Renaut is a degree-qualified medical herbalist and naturopath with over ten years clinical experience. Asti practices in Christchurch, New Zealand, treating a wide range of health issues. She especially enjoys working with infants and children, and finally has one of her own to practice on! One of the cornerstones of Asti's practice and philosophy is the importance of education and sharing information. She believes that empowering clients to understand their own bodies and health, and giving practical tips and tools to use from the garden and kitchen are just as important for wellness as qualified professional care. 

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Some women feel like they live on a tiny boat with no sea charts and no weather forecasts; they are frequently overwhelmed by stormy waters that come out of the blue, and then suddenly everything calms down and the sun comes out again. Many women feel at the mercy of their hormones, and have an instinctual knowledge that their hormones are ‘out of balance’ but not a clear understanding of what this really means, or more importantly what can be done about it. Herbal medicine has long been an ally to the menstruating woman, and there is, thankfully, plentythat can be done about it!

PMT stands for Pre-Menstrual Tension. PMS stands for Pre-Menstrual Syndrome. The mood swings that worsen just before a woman’s period are just one of a list of possible unwelcome symptoms. Other physical symptoms may include: breast tenderness, bloating, sugar cravings, increased appetite, constipation, fluid retention, headaches, just to name a few. The emotional imbalances can vary from anxiety and irritability through to tearfulness and depression. Like many things in health, and in life, there are varying degrees of severity.

Some of the factors contributing to PMS are:

  • Hormonal imbalance- too little progesterone, too much oestrogenic activity
  • Nutrient imbalances
  • Poor dietary choices
  • Stress
  • Stress
  • Stress
  • Everything that comes with stress- poor sleep, overloaded work/home/life schedules, nervous tension, mood imbalances, etc.

Good Ovulations Promote Good Progesterone, Naturally

Good progesterone production starts with a nice healthy ovulation, so having a regular rhythmic cycle is the very first thing to look at when addressing hormonal balance. Progesterone naturally enhances our mood and feeling of wellbeing when it is in the right balance, as well as helping with reducing fluid retention. There are two huge factors threatening our progesterone balance these days; too much stress and too much oestrogen!

Stress Hormones Block Progesterone Receptors!

And also, if your body is busy making cortisol (a stress hormone) it doesn’t have enough building materials left for progesterone. Stress literally steals your progesterone away. Herbal medicine is brilliant for balancing stress hormones and improving our ability to cope with stress. Some key herbs for this are Withania and Lemon Balm. Withania is used to improve our ability to cope with stressful situations; it improves our resilience, stamina, performance, and feelings of calm. When coupled with the calming effects of Lemon Balm and the nervous system replenishment of B vitamins, you have a perfect stress support tonic like StressCare to help you sail through the storms.

Oestrogen Overload

Without getting too doom and gloom about things, it is worth acknowledging the fact that we are living our modern lives in a chemical soup! Many of the synthetic chemicals used in all aspects of our lives (manufacturing, food production, packaging, industrial chemicals, building supplies, cleaning products, cosmetics, etc) can interfere with our natural and subtle hormonal balance. Some chemicals specifically act like oestrogen in the body, and not in a good way. These are sometimes called xeno-oestrogens or environmental oestrogens, or hormone/endocrine disruptors. Reducing the negative impact of these means firstly minimising our exposure, and secondly supporting our body’s ability to eliminate them.

Loving Your Liver for Hormonal Balance

Supporting good liver function enables the body to efficiently breakdown and eliminate hormones, including oestrogens and oestrogenic materials (like the environmental oestrogens outlined above). Herbal medicines like Liver Cleanse excel at supporting the health and regeneration of the liver while enhancing its detoxification abilities. Chief among these botanical stars are St Mary’s Thistle, Globe Artichoke and Dandelion Root. Always choose an organic formula when treating your liver, otherwise you’re just adding to its burden with extra pesticides and chemicals to be processed! The other key component to supporting the liver to clear hormonal material is to eat a fibre-rich diet. Soluble fibre is of specific benefit.

Menstrual Pain

While menstrual pain or period cramping (aka dysmenorrhoea) is not usually a part of PMS, it is worth outlining some options here for herbal support. Just last week I was reminded that herbal remedies can be both simple and delicious when a regular client came for her appointment feeling low and exhausted due to period pain. I offered her drink, which she declined, but after hearing she was feeling so bad I made her a hot cup of Ginger & Kawakawa Syrup. She loved drinking it and halfway through our appointment reported that she was feeling so much better and her cramping had significantly eased. I sent her home with a little bottle of this for some hot toddies. Ginger and Kawakawa are both warming herbs that help to improve circulation and ease spasm and cramping.

Simple tips for improving hormonal balance:

  • Avoid exposure to xeno-oestrogens (substances that act like oestrogen in the body) such as soft plastic drink bottles, microwaving food in plastics, etc
  • Keep your liver in tip top shape with bitter greens and herbal tonics to promote detoxification
  • Reduce caffeine and alcohol- especially alcohol
  • Reduce animal fats in your diet and buy organic meat where possible
  • Avoid the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides on your own property, and eat organically where possible
  • Keep up your fibre intake to helps bind oestrogens and remove them from the body
  • Add 1-2T LSA (Linseeds, Sunflower and Almond Mix) to breakfast or smoothie daily
  • Increase your brassicas- foods in the cabbage family such as cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale etc as these contain phytochemicals that support the healthy metabolism of oestrogens
  • Use organic unbleached cotton tampons and sanitary products (there are so many more on the market now available at reasonable prices)
  • Nutrients that may be of use include magnesium, vitamin B complex (especially B6), zinc and omega-3 oils
  • Nourish your mind and body in every possible way- good food, good thoughts, good times
  • Reduce stress in all areas of your life in whatever ways possible - massage, exercise, laughter, friends, fun, and of course utilise our wonderful herbal allies!

There is so much that can be done to calm the hormonal storms and restore normal weather patterns. There will still be waves, but instead of being swamped by them you’ll be surfing them! 

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