Many women think PMS (premenstrual syndrome) and horrible periods are a normal thing.  Heavy periods, bad cramps, breast tenderness, bloating, headaches, mood swings, cravings and sleep problems do NOT have to be a part of your monthly experience.  Read on to find out how to tame PMS and be the boss of your period…..

PMS symptoms are not necessary nor are they normal.  In general, PMS is caused by too much estrogen floating around compared to your progesterone.  This is also known as “estrogen dominance”. Now estrogen dominance is not about your ovary churning out outrageous amounts of estrogen. As a matter of fact, the main causes of PMS are all related to things that ultimately lead to increased inflammation in your body.    This is one of the reasons that I don’t love the idea of taking anti-depressants or birth control pills to manage PMS symptoms. First, they are only temporary measures to reduce your symptoms and second, they do nothing to change why you have the symptoms in the first place.

When are PMS symptoms not okay?

  • Are you missing days at work or school around the time of your period?
  • Are you popping tons of Ibuprofen or other pain medications just to make it through the cramps?
  • Do you laugh, cry or scream (or all three) when a certain commercial comes on TV or when someone has eaten the last pint of chocolate mint oreo ice cream that was hidden in the back recesses of the freezer behind frozen broccoli so that no one would find it but they did and then ate it leaving behind the empty shell of a carton?   It’s a for instance…
  • Do you gain 5 lbs of water weight overnight right before your period?  Does your bra size need to go up by a few letters each month? Or must you avoid any human contact for fear of the dreaded hug?
  • Is everyone around you annoying? (or more annoying than usual?)
  • Do sugar and chocolate become a food group around your cycle?
  • Do you get headaches that just won’t quit without some heavy duty pain killers?
  • Does your period look like a crime scene unfolding?

Well I could go on, but the point is, if the time before your period really disrupts your life and you’d like to be the boss of your cycle, then here’s what to do.  

Get rid of the “Big 3” Inflammatory Foods

PMS is basically a sign of inflammation.  Inflammation causes your testosterone to convert to estrogen and it’s breakdown products.  This creates estrogen dominance and you guessed it, PMS. How to reduce inflammation?

Solution: Ditch these 3 highly inflammatory foods for 1 to 2 menstrual cycles and see if you notice a change

  • Cow’s milk dairy — cheese, milk, yogurt, ice-cream, lattes
  • Sugar–read ingredient labels and beware of code words for sugar (wine and alcohol are sugars yo!)
  • Processed wheat products (bread, pasta, crackers, cereals, cakes, cookies, candy, pancakes, bagels, pretzels)  

Balance your estrogen with vegetables

Estrogen dominance can be due to a slow down in estrogen breakdown in the liver (our hormone detoxifier).  Indole-3 carbinol or I3C is a substance that supports liver detoxification of estrogens and reduces it’s toxic metabolites. These breakdown products of estrogen are associated with breast cancer and PMS symptoms.  How to help your liver get rid of excess estrogen?

Solution:  Eat more cruciferous vegetables.  

  • Eat 1-2 servings of foods a day high in I3C like broccoli, kale, cauliflower, cabbage, turnips and Brussel sprouts.
  • Eat 5 to 7 servings of vegetables a day.  1 serving is 1 cup of leafy greens or ½ cup of solid veggies like carrots, cucumbers, peppers, celery, etc.   Stay tuned for my next tip to find out how to pound out 7 servings for lunch.

Control your stress

Nothing creates hormone problems faster than imbalanced stress hormone levels.  When you are under constant stress, cortisol is constantly released. This interferes with the adrenal gland’s ability to release sex hormones in a balanced, healthy way.  

Solution: Work out the stress — Identify the What, Who, When, Where and Why  OR  “Life is not a dress rehearsal” — so stop acting like it is……

  • Say no to things that don’t serve you — Things you hate doing, places you don’t want to be, jobs that make you ill, and relationships that drag you down.   
  • Identify what is not nourishing and uplifting in your life and take it on, one thing at a time.  
  • Start making a plan to be where and with whom and doing what you want to do in life.  
  • Work with a life coach or therapist if the job seems impossible to tackle.  The point of coaching is to get better at what you are doing with yourself in ANY aspect of life.  Including life!!
  • Insert daily stress busting practices:  Yoga, meditation, breathing practices, exercise you love doing and doesn’t make you exhausted, walking in nature, petting your furry friends (hopefully this would be your pet and not some random squirrel who was just minding it’s own business) and hobbies that make you smile.  Try making a bullet journal. My daughter Rachel loves doing this, particularly when it allows her to avoid studying for exams, so THAT’s great.

Got cramps, irritability and insomnia? Crank up the magnesium.

Magnesium is an awesome mineral that does a lot for you.  It helps sleep, reduces anxiety, and is a muscle relaxer. The uterus is a muscle.  Let’s relax the uterus. Your neck and shoulders have muscles that can lead to tension headaches.  Let’s relax those muscles.

  • Start with 200 mg tablets of magnesium glycinate, threonate or citramate daily at bedtime.   These are absorbed better than magnesium oxide or citrate varieties.
  • Increase to 600-800 mg of magnesium daily starting one week before your period or whenever PMS symptoms begin.   
  • Beware that you may get easier bowel movements, a win for you constipated types, not so much for you diarrhea people.   Try a transdermal magnesium lotion. I like Magnesul by Xymogen or Ancient Minerals oil.  Or back off on your dosing.

Lower your Insulin

Insulin is a very important hormone.  We can’t live without it.  But in our world of food available 24/7 and the constant snacking and the processed, high carb, sugar bomb foods we eat all the time, our insulin levels have collectively gotten out of control.  Even fruit, known as “nature’s candy” can drive insulin levels too high.  The mantra I want to share with you is this:  “Insulin makes me Fat and Inflamed”. 

High levels of insulin can increase estrogen levels in a variety of ways.   It creates more body fat, which causes insulin resistance and the need to make more insulin to control blood sugar.  It causes an increase in aromatase activity, an enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen. And it also can promote the release of inflammatory signaling chemicals in the body.  

Solution: Reduce insulin resistance.

  • Eat balanced meals of healthy protein, plenty of healthy fat, reduced amounts of complex carbs.  Favor vegetables and fiber. Avoid eating a carb by itself.  Instead of an apple, how about an apple with almond butter? Or hummus with veggies? Or nuts with berries? Or organic uncured bacon wrapped in goat’s milk cheese and a lettuce leaf? I said it!!!
  • Avoid snacking — every time you eat, you bump insulin.  Unless you are eating fat by itself – then this will not bump your insulin.   Try to keep to 2 to 3 meals/day and cut the snacking. 
  • Give intermittent fasting a try, unless you think your adrenals (stress hormones) are in the toilet and you are super fatigued.   Check out my prior post on intermittent fasting.
  • Try to avoid all refined grains and sugar.  Even too much fruit can be a bad thing.  Grapes and bananas are the highest glycemic content fruits, so avoid eating them in bunches.  Foods high in grains, sugar and carbohydrates really raise insulin which is a signal for inflammation.

Give these lifestyle tips a try.  If you don’t find this is helping your PMS, then consider getting evaluated by a functional medicine practitioner to help you find your underlying cause.  And remember – no more chocolate chip mint oreo ice cream!

How to eat 7 servings of vegetables at one meal.  

Drumroll…..The DIY chopped salad. I have discovered a home chopper called the “Checkered Chef double bladed Salad Chopper” and it is awesome!!!  I posted a picture of my chopped salad yesterday on my facebook page, and fortunately for you people, I figured out how to regale you with that photo in this post.  Here is what I had for lunch regarding servings of veggies…..

Remember 1 cup of leafy greens or 1/2 cup of solid veggies = 1 serving and we are looking for 7 servings/day of veggies minimum

  • A boat load of mixed greens (4 to 5 cups)
  • Shredded carrots, a persian cucumber (½-3/4 cup)
  • Red cabbage slaw with lemon, olive oil, salt, red onions and cilantro. (½ cup)
  • Olives (not a vegetable, technically a fruit but tons of healthy fat)
  • Riced cauliflower that I made the other night (1 cup)
  • Sardines (but add in whatever 3 to 4 ounces of protein you want)
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • Real Salt (sea salt with tons of minerals)
  • GET YOUR AGGRESSION OUT and CHOP THE HECK OUT OF IT and Ta-Dah!!!! 7 servings of veggies for one meal.

The key is of course having these little extras in your fridge — olives, riced cauli, prepared slaw, pre-shredded carrots, etc, but if you have it, you can throw it together all week long.   And why pay 12 bucks for a salad you can make for like 4 bucks when you DIY!!

Go forth and CHOP my friends….oh!! I figured it out!!!

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For more information about my wellness programs and my practice, check out my website  Look! You are already here. Ready for the legal disclaimer? Information offered here is for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. As with any health recommendation, please contact your doctor to be sure any changes you wish to consider are safe for you!