PMS Relief with Traditional Chinese Medicine
PMS is a disorder characterized by a set of hormonal changes that trigger disruptive symptoms in a significant number of women for up to two weeks prior to menstruation. Of the estimated 40 million suffers (between 50% and 70% of women, or more than 1 in 2), more than 5 million require medical treatment for mood and behavioral changes. Often symptoms tend to taper off with menstruation and women remain symptom-free until approximately two weeks prior to the next menstrual period. These regularly recurring symptoms from ovulation until menses typify PMS.
What is PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome)?
It is believed that there are about 150 physical and emotional symptoms that women may experience. However, the most commonly reported symptoms are:
Physical Symptoms of PMS:
- Abdominal Cramps
- Breast Tenderness
- Generalized Aches and Pains
- Joint Swelling
- Weight Gain
- Intense Food Cravings
- Skin Problems
Emotional Symptoms of PMS:
- Sadness, Tearfulness
- Mood Swings
- Panic Attacks
- Poor Concentration
The number, type and severity of symptoms experienced can vary from woman to woman, and from month to month. Symptoms increase about 7-10 days before the onset of the period, then immediately decline. Symptoms are not experienced throughout the menstrual cycle. If a woman reports experiencing symptoms throughout the menstrual cycle, it is not PMS.
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) occurs in about 2-5% of all women. PMDD is when the symptoms are so severe that they interfere with normal daily activities.
Causes of PMS
There are various theories as to the cause of PMS. These include:
- Hormones – PMS symptoms can be triggered by menstrual hormones such as estrogen and progesterone
- Metabolism – Some PMS symptoms may be caused by the inability to properly metabolize fatty acids
- Calcium – Some researchers believe the cause of PMS may be linked to a calcium deficiency
- Environment – Factors such as the increased use of chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides may be linked to an increase in rates of PMS
- Combination – PMS symptoms are possibly brought on by a combination of diet, stress, and mineral and vitamin deficiencies
The lives of women today are very different from those of women 100, 50 or even 20 years ago. Constant physical and emotional demands combined with environmental and societal factors can offset a woman’s equilibrium and leave her experiencing symptoms of PMS.
PMS in Traditional Chinese Medicine
Balanced nutrition is crucial for overcoming PMS. Certain foods such as alcohol, caffeine, cold temperature foods, sugar, salt, and animal fats exacerbate symptoms of PMS and should be avoided. In addition, commercial red meats and poultry, which have a residue of steroids composed of female animal sex hormones, should be eliminated from the diet. Food necessary for a harmonious menstrual cycle include: plenty of organic vegetables, small amounts of fruit, whole grains, legumes (especially soy), seaweed, small amounts of lean hormone-free meats, and fish (especially salmon, tuna, trout, and mackerel).
Exercise plays an important role in the treatment of PMS. Thirty to forty-five minutes of cardiovascular exercise at least three times per week improves blood circulation and significantly helps reduce symptoms.
In addition to diet and exercise, some form of meditation can be very helpful. Our emotions and hormones influence each other, since they are registered in the same part of our brain. Stress can cause hormonal imbalances and therefore worsen the symptoms of PMS. Some quiet time everyday helps bring emotional and physical equilibrium.
Chinese medicine offers even more tools to address premenstrual syndrome. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the basic energetic imbalance that causes premenstrual syndrome is “liver qi congestion,” meaning that the qi’s free flow in the body is compromised. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs often provide enormous relief from PMS. Acupuncture removes energy blockages and in turn stabilizes hormonal fluctuations. It also provides deep relaxation that helps to calm the mind. Chinese herbs work together with acupuncture to regulate the flow of energy and substances in the body. Together they stimulate the body’s natural functions and encourage it to establish optimum balance.