Symptoms related to PMS are irritability, anxiety, depression, breast tenderness, diarrhea, edema, headaches, body aches, fatigue, loss of concentration, changes in libido, changes in bowels, food cravings, clumsiness, bloating, insomnia, and skin eruptions. The symptoms may present in single or complex forms, but they tend to recur with every period.
Sounds like fun, right?
The good news is that with Chinese medicine (herbs, nutrition, and acupuncture), these issues are fairly easy to fix.
Chinese medicine believes that the syndrome is due to a periodic flush of abundant blood in the Conception and Thoroughfare Vessels (acupuncture Meridians) that lead to a temporary disturbance of the blood inside the body. In other words, when more blood is shunted to the uterus in preparation for the period, the relative deficiency of blood in the other tissues causes the problems.
Other factors in PMS include
- emotional strain (in Chinese medicine we say this causes Liver Qi Stagnation)
- a diet with too much phlegm-producing foods (dairy, gluten, sugar, fried food, alcohol…cause Liver Stagnation and Speen weakness)
- over-work or not enough rest (leading to Kidney and Liver Yin Deficiency)
Some things to consider with PMS:
Caffeine – can cause breast pain and fibroids, anxiety, irritability, and emotional instability, consume B vitamins stored in the body, and cause you to use more energy than you have to give. Seriously, if you’re so tired that you feel compelled to drink cup after cup of coffee, you need to figure out how to get more rest because you’re wearing out your adrenal glands in the process. Craving caffeine is a sign of adrenal fatigue and also anemia (iron deficiency).
Dairy – a small amount of quality dairy (unpasteurized, full-fat) with a diet full of vegetables is OK. If you’re experiencing symptoms of phlegm (sinus drainage, skin eruptions, manic behavior, aggressiveness), it’s a sign you should cut back on the dairy.
Chocolate – a small amount of dark chocolate is good; it contains magnesium which is why we tend to crave it around the time of our periods. Too much chocolate, like most things that can be overdone, is not good. It will cause more sugar cravings and weight gain, and make you more phlegmy.
Sugar – is a frequently under-looked source of PMS. Try to cut it WAY back, if not completely out. If you’re having a hard time cutting the habit, try an herb called Gymnema and read this article.
Alcohol – affects the liver, which is the major organ we’re considering with PMS: it consumes B vitamins and minerals in the body, destroys carbohydrate metabolism and produces excessive estrus hormones. I’m a fan of using a small amount of alcohol to ease tension, but it’s a fine line between a medicinal amount and too much. If you’re not able to control that, just cut it out completely.
High-sodium foods cause edema and breast tenderness. Instead, cook your food at home with quality sea salt.
Foods and Herbs that we use for treating PMS include:
Magnesium – naturally found in whole grains, nuts, seeds, and green vegetables, most Americans are deficient in it. Supplement if you need to.
B6 – naturally found in pork, chicken, turkey, fish, peanuts, wheatgerm, oats, bananas, and milk.
Essential Fatty Acids – naturally found in coldwater fish (and their oils) and flaxseeds and walnuts.
Dang Gui – (angelica root) is a major herb for gynecology in Chinese medicine. Almost all gynecological formulas contain at least some Dang Gui. It nourishes your blood supply and promotes blood circulation.
Astragalus – is an herb that stabilizes your Qi. If you’re tired, have a pale and puffy tongue, this may be an important herb for you.
Bupleurum – is an herb that eases tension and promotes Liver circulation. It should only be a small portion of an herbal formula; it’s rarely taken by itself.
Ginger – is an herb that warms the blood and eases pain; ladies with heavy bleeding due to internal heat shouldn’t use it.
Peony – eases tension and blood circulation; usually combined with Dang Gui and Astragalus for overall tonification of the blood and Qi.
Licorice – is an herb that’s in most Chinese herbal formulas. It eases the digestive system and helps the adrenal (“Kidney”) function, and is usually only used in small quantities.
Mint – also encourages movement of the Qi to dispel stagnation, pain, and irritability. Too much mint will lead to dryness, so use with a little discretion, as with most herbs.
Rehmannia – an herb we add in if the patient has more deficiency signs like fatigue, poor memory, insomnia and a pale tongue (or red tongue with NO coating). Rehmannia helps your adrenal glands adapt to stress and it nourishes your Liver blood.
Chrysanthemum – an herb we would use in combination with other herbs to ease the stress on the Liver and clear heat. It’s a calming herb.
Gou Qi Zi – (gou qi berries) are also used to nourish the Yin of the Liver to help with irritability, insomnia, dry or red eyes, headaches, and fatigue.