Around 25% of women of reproductive age suffer from moderate to severe premenstrual symptoms (PMS), which occur 1-2 weeks before menstruation.
PMS is caused by the imbalance of sex hormones, predominately progesterone and oestrogen. In women the balance between the two is critical. In the first half of the menstrual cycle a woman’s body produces oestrogen. Such dominance in oestrogen can induce PMS and conditions such as pain, depression, loss of sex drive, sweet cravings, heavy periods, weight gain, breast swelling, headaches, acne, dizziness, joint pain and water retention.
The production of oestrogen makes the lining of the womb grow ready to receive a fertilised egg. If the egg is released the remaining sac then produces progesterone which rises in the second half of the ~28 day cycle. This balance keeps the womb healthy. If no fertilised egg is implanted, the sac shrivels up and progesterone levels plummet. It is this that triggers the menstruation.
If a woman does not ovulate, no progesterone is produced and therefore there is a relative dominance of oestrogen. Such dominance has been associated with increased risk of breast cancer, fibroids, ovarian cysts and strong PMS symptoms.
PMS can be very unpleasant and whilst in the past was dismissed as “all in the mind”, thankfully today it is well recognised as a true health condition.
Pain during and immediately before menstruations is particularly common for teenage girls.
In short PMS can wreak havoc with every area of your life.
Balancing of all hormones in the body is essential to manage the natural processes that take place. Getting this wrong will effect a host of issues.
For example:- stress raises the levels of the adrenals hormone cortisol which competes with progesterone and lowers the levels of DHEA. DHEA is a precursor of testosterone which means men can also suffer from oestrogen dominance and testosterone deficiency. Men produce little oestrogen but all of us are subject to some high levels in our diet and products from the environment. The spraying of crops and the hormone injection of cattle for various reasons etc is a constant threat. As you can see hormone links and balances can drive the body, its functions and moods.
Cells can however be sensitised to hormones interactions by the presence of something called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins are made from essential fatty acids. Deficiency in fats or the essential nutrients needed to convert essential fats to prostaglandins can create the equivalent of hormone imbalance.
These nutrients in particular are: vitamin B3, B6, C , biotin, magnesium and zinc.
These nutrients plus EFA’s have proved to be very effective and helpful in relieving the symptoms of PMS and menstruation. Herbs like agnus castus, dong quai, black cohosh and St John’s wort have also had good success.
Several products from our suppliers are combination products that are well balanced in these nutrients and are well proven to help. These include:
- Nature’s Aid — Femeeze and Premeeze.
- Pukka Herbs — Womenkind & Shatavari.
- Natures Plus — Power Teens for teenagers.
- Viridian — Saffron Extract.
- A choice of suppliers for Zinc, Magnesium and Vit B6 combinations.
Since PMS problems are a result of hormonal changes, hormone treatment has been used to correct them through drug therapy. But the use of such drug treatments can be questionable as it disrupts the body’s chemistry and has been associated with increased risks, some serious.
Whilst the results from natural therapies are not 100% in all cases, focusing on Vit B complex vitamins with vitamin B6, zinc and magnesium (which are all required to make prostaglandins), has delivered significant reductions in PMS symptoms. Together with gamma linolenic acid (GLA), an essential fatty acid found in evening primrose oil and borage oil, the success rate for reducing symptoms is 55 to 85% under clinical tests.
It is important to help this process along by good diet control. The key habits to encourage are:
- Eating seeds, these are rich in zinc, magnesium and EFA’s
- Eating fruit in preference to sweets and fatty sugar snacks.
- Always having veg with a meal.
- Eating real meals, not on the move and not pre-packed and ready to go concoctions.
Following a no sugar, no stimulant diet, while eating complex carbohydrates, fruit and quality veg will make all the difference.
To help overall try to avoid stress and stressful situations, choose organic to avoid unnecessary hormones, reduce stimulants like coffee, chocolate, sugar and of course cigarettes. Get enough EFA’s and supplement with good levels of essential nutrients and/or a multivitamin and mineral. Particular individual herbs may help PMS and associated symptoms.
Whilst clearly related to hormonal changes the exact cause of PMS is not understood. Scientists have observed that two groups of women with near identical hormone profiles often have vastly different sets of symptoms.
Current thinking suggests that changes in the levels of the oestrogen and progesterone alter the activity of neurotransmitters (chemical messages) which effect emotional state.
Levels of GLA have been found to be low in women with PMS, suggesting that sufferers may have impaired conversation of linolenic acid (LA) to gamma linolenic acid (GLA).
The main sources of omega 6 oil are:
- Seeds – Hemp, pumpkin, sunflower, safflower, sesame and maize.
- Nuts – Walnuts, Soya beans and wheat germ.
The conversion of LA to GLA is a natural body process & is essential to produce the anti-inflammatory prostaglandins series1 mentioned above.
Series 3 Prostaglandin from omega 3’s is also important because they are essential for proper brain function. vision, learning ability, co-ordination and moods.
Series 1 & 3 prostagladins reduce the stickiness of the blood , as well as controlling blood cholesterol and fat levels, improving immune functions and metabolism, reducing inflammation and maintaining water balance.
In summary a good balance of Omega 3 & 6 has been shown to help in with PMS symptoms and provides the background for a host of other healthy benefits.
Appleseeds stocks all these products for your use. Call in and ask for advice.