Do you deal with irritating and uncomfortable premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms each and every month? If you answered “yes,” you are not alone. Many women I see in my clinics experience PMS as a result of hormonal imbalance—and they have a week or two each month when they are bloated, irritable, and tired. At the same time, many battle acne, depression, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, chocolate cravings, and poor concentration. Basically, those women—and many others—just feel plain old icky and not themselves. I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to suffer from PMS. You can do many things to help get your hormones back in balance and manage your PMS symptoms—because you deserve to feel great all month long! A body in optimal health should not have monthly PMS.
As a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine specializing in women’s health and wellness, I use acupuncture along with dietary and lifestyle modifications to help manage my patients’ hormonal imbalances and eliminate their premenstrual symptoms.
It doesn’t have to be difficult to manage PMS—or (dare I say it?) to rid yourself of symptoms completely. To keep it simple—I know simple is key with our busy, hectic lives—here are six things you can do right now to help restore your body to a state of optimal health.
As an acupuncturist, I often say to my patients, “Acupuncture works by aggravating the body to function better.” By this I mean that those tiny, thin-as-hair needles penetrate your body to help improve circulation and blood flow, induce a state of deep relaxation and calm, and bring your body—and its hormones—back into balance. Research has shown that acupuncture is one of the best modalities for treating PMS. One study published in the Archives of Gynecology and Obstetrics found that 78 percent of women undergoing acupuncture treatment experienced less PMS symptoms within 24 hours after receiving the treatment. Additionally, look for an acupuncturist who is also certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) in Chinese herbology; this can benefit you because there are many specific Chinese herbal formulations that are wonderful at balancing your hormones and ridding your body of PMS. Go to NCCAOM.org to find a certified acupuncturist and herbalist near you.
>>Eat Cooked Leafy Greens
Eat cooked (not raw) leafy green cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, spinach, bok choy, and Brussels sprouts on a daily basis. Get two to three daily doses of these vitamin B-rich foods, which will balance that estrogen-progesterone scale in your body to ease PMS symptoms. In fact, a study by the University of Massachusetts showed that women who eat plenty of leafy green vegetables cut their PMS symptoms by 40 percent. However, please keep in mind that the key here is to eat these vegetables cooked, not raw. I know green juices are all the rage right now, and a green juice a few times per week is just fine. But a green juice that contains cruciferous vegetables, such as spinach and kale, can have negative effects on your thyroid if you drink it every day, and it could not only worsen your PMS but have detrimental effects on your entire body and your fertility. Aim for a few daily servings of cooked green vegetables and have a raw green juice only a few times per week.
>>Skip the Soy
Although some health experts claim that phytoestrogenic foods (foods that contain plant-based estrogens) such as soy can help balance your hormones, I do not recommend consuming any soy-based products. In both of my books, I go into details about why you should avoid soy-based products—soymilk, soy cheese, soy yogurt, protein bars with soy protein, and any other processed, packaged food containing soy oil or soy flour—but the bottom line is, these products should be avoided because they are usually overly processed foodstuffs that will only exacerbate any hormonal imbalances you may have. If you need to have soy on occasion, make sure it is organic, non-genetically modified, and preferably in fermented form (such as tempeh or miso). Be sure to limit soy intake to no more than 3 to 4 ounces per week. And, lastly, if you have a known thyroid condition you should avoid all soy products (including the organic, non-genetically modified kinds) because soy is a known thyroid disruptor.
Include three to four doses of omega-3 rich foods in your daily diet. These foods, such as wild salmon, flaxseeds (choose fresh ground flaxseeds, not flaxseed oil, because the oil can go rancid quite easily), pastured-organic eggs (with the yolks!), grass-fed or pastured animal products such as red meat and butter, pumpkin seeds, and walnuts, really help balance out hormone levels in your body. In my practice, I recommend women get three to four servings per day of these omega-3 rich foods in addition to taking a daily dose of fermented cod liver oil. Fermented cod liver oil is nature’s best source of omega-3 essential fatty acids as well as vitamin D and preformed vitamin A. Studies have shown that supplementation with both omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants such as vitamins A and D, as provided by fermented cod liver oil, offers promising results in the treatment of women suffering from hormonal imbalances. I recommend that you consume cod liver oil that delivers 2,000 international units (IUs) of vitamin D daily. (My favorite brand is Green Pasture Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil—take 1 tablespoon daily.)
Meditation is what I view as “nutrition for the mind.” It is a key ingredient to optimal health. Remember: A body in optimal health does not have PMS. Take time every day to sit quietly, breathe deeply, and relax. I like to refer to meditation as “chill out and check in time.” It is the time when you can slow down and check in with your body, mind, and soul. Studies show that women who meditate regularly have less symptoms of hormonal imbalance. Do your body good and take five to 10 minutes per day (or be extra zealous and go for 20 minutes!) to sit, breathe, chill out, and check in. For a guide on how to meditate, check out my “How to Meditate” video on my YouTube channel.
Start off each day with a mug of hot water and squeeze the juice from half a lemon into it. Drinking this hot lemon water concoction on an empty stomach assists your body in detoxifying itself. When your body is holding on to toxins, it will likely have imbalanced hormones and PMS symptoms.
In addition to these tips, it’s important to stress that you should eat foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Your diet should have little to no processed and packaged foods, and you should keep your added sugar intake—the kind that is added to foods, not the kind that occurs naturally such as in fruit—to fewer than 15 to 20 grams per day. Buy organic foods, particularly animal products, because nonorganic foods may contain pesticides known to disrupt hormones. Lastly, to really maintain a state of optimal health and minimal PMS symptoms, you should be getting seven to eight hours of restful sleep each night. Sleep is the ultimate remedy for any ailment. Eat well, rest up, relax—and watch those troublesome symptoms fade away.
By Aimee E. Raupp