As someone who is a clinically trained herbalist and someone who has suffered from severe PMS and other hormonal disorders, I can tell you with confidence that there are amazing natural and holistic ways to help PMS! Herbal medicine can be very complex and unsafe when used incorrectly, so it is important to see a professional before you start taking supplements or make dietary changes. In this article I am going to share with you 3 important points to understand when you want to start incorporating herbal medicine into your PMS care regimen.
- Know that your body is unique and deserves loving attention
- Journal your cycle
- Have a plan for PMS
1. Know that your body is unique
Instead of doing everything we can do to mask our cycles, we can take steps to get to know our cycles. Intense symptoms are often a sign that something is off balance. This imbalance can be caused by something present in our physical environment, chemicals in food and cosmetic products, or even lifestyle choices. Because a lot of us are more sensitive while experiencing PMS, it can be seen as a valuable time to notice and let go of things in life that are no longer working. By letting go of what is no longer needed and embracing more of what our bodies call for, we can begin to bring balance back into our lives.
PMS can be different for each person. One person may experience dull cramps with nausea and feelings of depression while another person may feel irritable with neck and shoulder tension and stabbing cramps. Our bodies are unique and that means our PMS is unique to us too! Because of the uniqueness, herbs and lifestyle choices that are said to be “good for PMS” may not necessarily be best for all of us. Keep this in mind when you hear that a certain herb is good for all people with periods, or that a certain herb is good for PMS. There are some amazing herbs that are useful to know and I will be covering them in an upcoming free webinar on PMS.
The key to helping PMS is getting to know our unique individual bodies, which leads us to our next important point.
2. Journal your cycle and know the phases
You do not necessarily need to take courses on anatomy and physiology but it can be helpful to have a general understanding of how the menstrual cycle works.
There are four phases:
- Menstruation – this phase usually lasts 3-7 days. The shedding of your uterine lining and subsequent drop in estrogen levels may result in feelings of relief. Symptoms like cramping and fatigue may occur. This is a good time to focus on resting and nurturing.
- Follicular – this phase lasts 7-10 days. This phase is when the ovaries are preparing to release another egg. This is a good time to brainstorm and prepare for new, creative activities.
- Ovulation – this phase lasts 3-4 days and is characterized by the egg being released into the uterus. There may be in increase in vaginal discharge. Fertility is at its peak and so are communication skills. Estrogen levels are heightened and so high estrogen related symptoms like acne may occur during this time.
- Luteal – this phase can last for 10-14 days.The body is signaled to stop producing hormones that release an egg. The halting of a certain hormones trigger the beginning of the period. Energy declines and PMS-related symptoms may start to appear
Journaling what happens to us and what we are feeling during each phase can be a very enlightening process. It can help us prepare ahead. This brings us to the third important point:
3. Have a plan for when you are experiencing PMS
A lot of the work I do with herbal medicine is about prevention. I like to help people prevent suffering and pain during the various cycles and transitions in life. Sometimes if we are already having bad PMS, we need a plan to help it because it is too late for prevention. Next week I will have another article with tips and recipes for dealing with PMS while it is occurring, stay tuned!
We cannot wait until we feel awful to try to come up with a care plan. This is why journaling our cycles is so important. We can get to understand when things are worst for us and predict when we will need to take it easy and take better care of ourselves. Here are some tips for taking care when symptoms are worst (and remember to stay tuned for part two as well!):
- Reach out for help when you need it. This is so important.
- Drop things that are unnecessary (without burdening yourself with guilt!)
- Get plenty of rest, you need it
- Try to eat nourishing foods. Your body needs nutrients during this time and your liver also needs help because of elevated hormone levels. Even if you are going to have an entire pint of ice cream, make sure you get in some dark leafy greens.
- Make it as easy as possible for you to take care of yourself. Have water in the tea kettle already, have your PMS supporting herbal tea pulled out, and a teacup ready
- Have healthy foods already prepared (dark leafy greens already cooked and ready to eat, seaweeds, foods high in iron, magnesium-calcium, and other important nutrients.
- Meal planning can be an essential step to make sure you are getting the nutrition you need and keeping some unwanted symptoms at bay
- Note things that bother you during PMS. If the same things upset you, it may be time for some life changes
Having a good relationship to your own body and understanding these 3 points can help prepare a healthy foundation to support the use of herbal medicine. Stay tuned for more articles about PMS and what to do about it! Part 2 (PMS self-care) will go over more ways to stabilize your hormones and your cycle.