Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can be extremely irritating and uncomfortable. From snapping at someone over something insignificant, to crying for no reason or feeling like you can't fit into your pants — not to mention headaches, depression, acne and just feeling all around icky — PMS is not fun.
It is estimated that one in two women suffer from PMS — a result of hormonal imbalance. But did you know that you have the power to shift that hormonal imbalance?
As a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), specializing in women's health and fertility, I use acupuncture along with dietary and lifestyle modifications to help manage my patients' hormonal imbalances, eliminate their premenstrual symptoms, and guide them to overall better health.
Here are five holistic methods you can do right now, to help restore your body to a state of optimal health and hormonal balance.
1. Try acupuncture.
As an acupuncturist, I've seen firsthand the effects that acupuncture can have on improving the overall functioning of the body. Those tiny, thin-as-hair needles (that usually don't hurt at all) 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.
Clinical 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% of women undergoing acupuncture treatment experienced less PMS symptoms within 24 hours after receiving the treatment. To find a qualified acupuncturist: look for one who is certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) in Acupuncture and Chinese herbology.
2. Eat leafy greens.
You should try to eat cooked, leafy green cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, kale, spinach, bok choy, and Brussels sprouts on a daily basis. Get in a few servings (about the size of your palm) of these vitamin B-rich foods, to balance the estrogen and progesterone levels in your body to ease PMS symptoms.
The key here is to eat these vegetables cooked, not raw. A green juice made from raw vegetables a few times per week is just fine, but cruciferous raw vegetables contain oxalic acids, substances which can have negative effects on your thyroid. If you consume them every day, they could not only worsen your PMS but also have detrimental effects on your thyroid — which could affect your entire body and even your fertility. If I feel like a green juice, I blanch my spinach or kale by dropping it into a pot of boiling water for 30 to 45 seconds and then juice it, as this cuts down the oxalic acids.
3. Skip the soy.
In both of my books, I go into detail about why you should avoid soy-based products — soy milk, soy cheese, soy yogurt, protein bars with soy protein, and any other processed, packaged food containing soy oil or soy flour. The bottom line is: these products should be avoided because they are overly processed foodstuffs that are from genetically modified sources, that will only exacerbate any hormonal imbalances you may already 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 three to four ounces per week. 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.
4. Get plenty of omega-3s.
Omega-3-rich foods, such as wild salmon, flaxseeds, pastured-organic eggs (with the yolks!), grass-fed or pastured red meat and butter, pumpkin seeds and walnuts, will really help balance out hormone levels in your body.
In my practice, I recommend that 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. 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 one teaspoon daily.
5. Practice meditation and mindfulness.
Being more present can help you eradicate your PMS! Mindfulness and meditation are what I view as "nutrition for the mind." It is a key ingredient to optimal health. 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.
In addition to these five tips, it's also important to stress that you 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.
So eat well, rest up, get acupuncture, be mindful and watch your PMS start to fade away.