PMS and PMT refers to the physical and emotional symptoms that occur cyclically between ovulation and the onset of the menstrual period. Research suggests that it effects up to 80 % of women, with 5-10% being severely debilitated by it-
The Symptoms of PMT can vary among women, and considerably from cycle to cycle. The range of symptoms includes but is not limited to:
- Physical symptoms may include-Headaches, fluid retention leading to abdominal bloating and swollen breasts, increased pain, and inflammation, altered bowel pattern (constipation and diarrhoea).
- Energy and vitality can drop resulting in fatigue and social withdrawal.
- Brain and mood symptoms can include over sensitivity, irritability, anger, low mood, tearfulness, anxiety, difficulty concentrating or brain fog, and sleep disturbance.
- Appetite changes and food cravings -This can include increased desire for sweet and carbohydrate dense foods, food binges and cravings for chocolate.
What causes PMT
The causes of PMT are hormonal. Many theories have been put forward to explain the cause of PMT such as excessively high oestrogen levels or low progesterone. However, research has failed to show any consistent differences in hormone levels between women with PMS and those without it. More recent research has suggested that PMS sufferers have an exaggerated response to the normal rapid monthly fluctuations in hormone levels which may be due to each individual women’s unique neurochemistry.
When progesterone levels fall in the days before the period its effect on GABA is reduced. GABA is a molecule in the brain which relieves anxiety and generates happy and relaxed feelings in the body. This can lead to increased feelings of anxiety and tension.
Oestrogen levels also fall in the days before the period. This leads to a decreased production of:
- Serotonin - This helps good sleep, relieves anxiety, and helps appetite control.
- Endorphins - These Lift mood and control pain.
- Dopamine - Feelings of bliss and pleasure, controlled motor movements and co-ordination, mental focus.
This may be the reason for poor sleep, increased pain sensitivity, low mood and poor concentration at this time.
Natural Approaches to PMS
There are several effective Nutritional and Herbal approaches to PMS.
Chaste Tree or Vitex Agnus castus. In several Clinical studies, chaste tree helped reduce PMT symptoms including breast tenderness, fluid retention, irritability, and low mood.
Valerian Root– A effective calming herb helpful for tension and poor sleep. Helps to support GABA.
Magnolia Root -Effects serotonin and GABA receptors and helps to relax the nervous system
Passionflower -Helps the body relax and sleep better, Supports GABA.
Dandelion Leaf– Is a potassium rich mild diuretic. Effective for premenstrual fluid retention
St John’s Wort -A helpful herb to support the amount of circulating serotonin
Calcium, magnesium and B6 – These Nutrients have been well researched and can help with PMT symptoms. Magnesium is particularly effective for combating chocolate cravings! a sure sign of low magnesium.