When I was a teenager struggling with mood swings and acne, I was told that diet had nothing to do with balancing my hormones. Well, wasn't that a far cry from the truth. In this post, Natcha – a holistic nutritionist and health researcher – shares how she healed severe PMS with food and other smart, simple steps. ~Emily
If you're like me, you once thought a ‘healthy diet' meant following the food pyramid (which also made TV dinners and canned soups look healthy). I ate a lot of whole grains and conventional meats while using conventional skincare products and makeup that contained hormone disruptors.
It wasn’t until I started paying attention to how my hormones work and fixing problems from the root cause that all signs of severe PMS completely vanished.
Now, my PMS is gone. The mood swings are non-existent. And I can't remember the last time I needed a heating pad for cramps. Wondering how I did it? Instead of relying on one pill or remedy, I changed the things that were throwing my hormones off.
Six ways to support your hormones and eliminate severe PMS
#1 – Take the leap, go paleo
If you have PMS, your diet could be sabotaging your hormones. Especially if you are eating a conventional diet.
The solution: Switch to a paleo diet. I personally experienced the most positive impact on my hormones when I took the leap and went full on paleo. The paleo diet can help to:
- Stabilize blood sugar – Your hormones and stress response are closely linked to your blood sugar. A paleo-style diet that is high in protein and fat with some whole-food sources of carbohydrates can help to stabilize blood sugar.
- Reduce toxins – This includes pesticides, artificial hormones, and antibiotic residues. Switch to pasture-raised meats and organic produce. This removes much of the toxic burden and hormone disruptors from your food.
- Boost hormone-balancing nutrients – Your hormonal system needs a lot of micronutrients to run smoothly. Nutrient-dense, hormone supporting foods include grass-fed red meats, organ meats, egg yolks, and vegetables.
- Give you good fats – The right kind of fat is important for hormone balance. Replacing nutrient-void vegetable oils with more nutrient-dense fats will give you more fat-soluble vitamins as well as cholesterol, which is the building block for your sex hormones. Good fats also help to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, helping to eliminate severe PMS.
#2 – Only eat food that does your gut good
Your body relies on natural inflammation to shed the uterine lining. Therefore, it is normal to have an increase in inflammation during the last few days of the month. What's not normal are the troublesome cramps, migraines, soreness, anxiety, and depression associated with severe PMS.
The source of this inflammation often has to do with your digestive system and diet. Other times, inflammation is lifestyle-related.
The solution: Give up inflammatory foods and heal the gut. Start by eliminating caffeine from your diet. Next, reduce the amount of sugar you eat during the second half of your cycle. If severe PMS is still a problem, you might want to dive deeper into the paleo diet and follow the autoimmune protocol.
#3 – Donate plastic storage containers and ditch the perfume
Hormone disruptors are chemicals that act like hormones or interfere with your hormone metabolism, causing an imbalance. The most common hormone disruptors include:
- Triclosan or other antibacterial products
- Several constituents of perfume
Unfortunately, these chemicals are everywhere. You might eat them, inhale them, or put them on your skin. Breakdown products from plastic containers (even the BPA-free ones) and Teflon cookwares can also disrupt your hormones.
The solution: Switch over to safer, non-toxic brands or experiment with making your own products from simple ingredients from your kitchen. Learn to read labels on your makeup, skincare, body care, and home care products. To learn more about this, check out the Environmental Working Group.
#4 – Say “no” when you need to
Stress causes hormonal imbalances, so it is important to manage stress to heal signs of severe PMS.
The solution: Directly address the stressors in your life by saying “no” and establishing boundaries. While it is not possible to completely eliminate stress, allowing time to decompress and pamper yourself can increase your stress resilience.
I learned the hard way that being stressed out is bad for my hormones. Now, being able to saying “no” and focus on the important things means that I am healthier, hormonally balanced, and more productive. In addition to practicing gratitude and meditation daily, I make sure to get in a massage or acupuncture session every week.
#5 – Give your medicine cabinet a makeover
If you have PMS, you may have some nutrient deficiencies or hormonal imbalances.
The solution: Key vitamins, minerals, and herbs can help to balance hormones and eliminate PMS. For example, supplementation with magnesium, B vitamins, and vitamin B6 can help to relieve severe PMS.
The herb chasteberry or Vitex has been researched to help with PMS (source). However, chasteberry is not without side effects, so you should consult a qualified herbalist before starting on it. In my experience, I would need to take Vitex every day for 3 – 4 menstrual cycles in order to see a full effect on my hormones.
#6 – Get acupuncture and bliss out for an hour
Acupuncture is a safe and effective way to treat severe PMS, as well as to manage pain and inflammation (source). By correcting the appropriate deficiencies and blockages, your hormones can be brought back to balance.
The solution: In order to address my hormone imbalances and get rid of severe PMS, my acupuncturist advised me to commit to seeing her weekly for at least 3 – 4 menstrual cycles. In addition to balancing my hormones, acupuncture is an extremely powerful way to manage stress levels, helping me calm my mind and feel more focused.
Do you have severe PMS? Any natural remedies that have worked for you? Please share in the comments below.
Natcha Maithai is a cancer researcher turned “health detective.” She helps investigate mysterious health problems for her clients and demystify relevant biomedical research for the general public. She is passionate about helping women become masters of their bodies through fitness, nutrition, hormone balancing, functional medicine and quantified-self technologies. Find her at natchamaithai.ca.