PMS, also known as premenstrual syndrome, occurs when there is a drop of progesterone levels in a woman’s body, just prior to the onset of her menstrual period.
Common emotional symptoms of PMS are irritability, rage, feeling overwhelmed, depression, anxiety, mood swings, and reduced self-esteem.
PMS also triggers a variety of physical symptoms, such as bloating, weight gain, swollen, painful breasts, cramps, headaches and food cravings, such as cravings for sugar (especially chocolate), and carbohydrates.
As a woman transitions through the various hormonal phases of her life, PMS can become a significant problem, particularly when she reaches her mid to late thirties when progesterone levels begin to fluctuate erratically as she enters perimenopause.
Some women complain of anxiety, depression, and irritability throughout their monthly menstrual cycle, and erroneously assume it is also PMS. However, this is not true. Actual PMS symptoms are cyclical and directly correlated with the change in the levels of progesterone during a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle.
True PMS symptoms occur just prior to the onset of a woman’s period when her progesterone levels drop significantly. Once she gets her period, however, progesterone levels begin to rise, the symptoms disappear, and she feels normal again.
If you are suffering with similar symptoms that do not disappear when you begin to menstruate, you are likely dealing with a chemical imbalance in your brain and/or stress and nutritional issues instead of actual PMS.
Getting relief from these symptoms is contingent upon understanding the difference. While hormone therapy can help a woman experiencing PMS symptoms balance her hormones to find relief.
Mood disorders related to a chemical imbalance in the brain, which may also be exacerbated by stress and nutritional issues, are better treated by addressing those issues before considering hormone therapy.
The Serotonin-GABA-PMS Connection
When women complain of PMS symptoms, they expect their symptoms are related to the fluctuations of their monthly hormone cycles, and they are correct. Additionally, some studies have pointed to a link between PMS symptoms such as anxiety, rage and irritability, and low serotonin levels in the brain, an important neurotransmitter directly responsible for regulating mood.
Declining levels of progesterone not only trigger cyclical PMS symptoms and disrupt serotonin in the brain, but it also leads to low levels of GABA, another brain neurotransmitter which the body releases to calm excessive nervous tension and stress.
So when a woman is suffering with PMS symptoms, she is not only suffering from an imbalance of progesterone in her body, but she is also lacking the necessary brain chemicals responsible for her sense of calm and well-being as a result.
Introducing progesterone is necessary in order to effectively treat PMS symptoms. Because the symptoms are directly related to dropping progesterone levels prior to the onset of your period, it only makes sense to raise the levels of progesterone during the PMS phase to alleviate the symptoms.
It’s important, however, to use bio-identical progesterone which your body biochemically recognizes rather than a synthetic progesterone drug which your body does not recognize. Using bio-identical progesterone will insure that you balance your hormones naturally with no unwanted side-effects such as an increased risk of breast cancer, stroke or heart disease which are associated with synthetic progesterone.
Nutritional support is also quite helpful when dealing with PMS. Supplements like magnesium, B6 complex, and 5-HTP have all been proven to increase serotonin levels which promote muscle relaxation and a sense of calm. For the last 20 years, Mia Lundin has used the following protocol in her practice with great success:
- Progesterone cream – 1 pump twice daily, apply to inner arms, day 16-28 of the menstrual cycle (first day of bleeding is day 1)
- Twice Daily Multi Vitamin – 1 caps twice daily
- Homocystein Supreme – 1 caps twice daily
- Calcium 200mg/ Magnesium 100mg – 1-2 caps twice daily
- Ultra Pure Fish Oil 360/240 – 1 caps twice daily
- Vitamin D3 – 1 caps daily
- 5-HTP – 100mg at bedtime every night
Finally, getting enough sleep, being kind and compassionate to yourself, and recognizing the power of your attitude when dealing with PMS is also crucial. The mind-body connection is powerful in health and wellness and should not be underestimated. This holistic approach will not only give you a sense of empowerment, but it will insure relief from those nasty PMS symptoms!