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General characteristics

General characteristics

Pre-menstrual tension (PMT) or pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) refer to the physical and/or emotional changes that happen to some women just before they menstruate. PMS is the most commonly used term nowadays. The symptoms are thought to occur in response to fluctuating levels of hormones (such as oestrogen and progesterone) and also poor liver function and vary greatly from woman to woman. See menstruation for information on hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle.

Common symptoms of PMS include sore or tender breasts, lower abdominal bloating, water retention (ankles, abdomen for example), diarrhoea, constipation, decrease or increase in appetite, food cravings, emotional sensitivity ( e.g. agoraphobia, nervousness, anger, weepiness etc), tiredness, aches and pains, increased/decreased libido, skin changes (spots, pigmentation, etc), lower backache, fluctuations in body temperature, sleep disturbances and clumsiness.

These disturbances seem to stem from an imbalance of hormones (particularly low progesterone and high oestrogen levels) coupled with a greater work load on the liver (the liver being responsible for producing and deactivating many hormones), nutritional deficiencies (particularly low magnesium, B vitamins and omega 3), a poor diet that is high in sugars and processed fats and oils, fluctuating serotonin levels (low levels before menstuating contribute to depression, anxiety and anger) and stress.

Healing objectives are to adopt a healthy diet to correct any nutritional deficiencies and aggravating foods, tone the liver function, balance the hormones and relieve any symptoms.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Generally avoid foods high in sugars and refined carbohydrates and processed oils and fats including fried foods.

Eat organic animal and dairy foods wherever possible to avoid additional hormone ingestion. Cows milk and related products contain many hormones produced by the lactating mother that us women could do without, especially approaching menstruation.

Eat a homemade muesli for breakfast including hormone balancing flaxseeds, vitamin E rich wheatgerm and oats which are rich in B vitamins.

If you suffer regularly with PMS symptoms, avoid alcohol as this can add a further burden to an overworked liver.

Increase your intake of omega oils by eating good quality wild oily fish (farmed fish usually contain hormones and other unwanted substances), seeds (especially flax or linseeds) and nuts.

Increase your intake of magnesium rich green leaves, broccoli, beans and whole grains.

Many women find that cutting down on dairy and wheat can help prevent symptoms of PMS.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

For water retention the diuretic herbs such as dandelion root, parsley, buchu, celery seed and nettle can be taken in tea form to increase the output of urine. Use a teaspoon of the mixed herbs per cup, 2 cups daily.

Support the heart also with tinctures of motherwort and hawthorn berries. A teaspoon of each twice daily.

Agnus castus can help to ease hormonal disturbances. Take a teaspoon of the tincture twice daily for several months to see results.

Milk thistle seeds or powder can be added to food to help to detoxify and strengthen the liver and its functions. Holy thistle dried herb has similar health properties.

Chamomile tea can help to soothe anxiety, moodiness and digestive disturbance and also relieves painful cramps. Take 3 cups daily using 2 teaspoons of chamomile per cup.

St Johns wort, sage, passionflower and skullcap tinctures can also help with many of the symptoms of PMS, particularly depression and anxiety. Take a teaspoon of a mixture of equal parts  tincture up to 3 times daily.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Evening primrose oil can help to balance hormones and alleviate many symptoms such as breast tenderness. Take up to 1000mg a day in capsule form.

Try keeping a diary of your PMS symptoms and menstrual cycle to see if and when any changes you have made are taking effect.

Many women find relieve by taking a teaspoon of cider vinegar (raw, unfiltered) in water once or twice a day, just before symptoms usually appear.

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