Written by Ashleigh Norris, a registered holistic nutritionist and hormone expert.
It’s not shocking that 75% of menstruating individuals struggle with headaches, mood swings, bloating, and other problems that burden their relationships, work life, and well-being once a month. PMS is one of those things that most of us unconsciously accept without a second thought, but the truth is it is not normal (while it may be common) and you don’t have to live at the mercy of your hormones.
PMS is a cluster of symptoms that occurs 7-10 days prior to your period. Even if you’re not having a period due to partial hysterectomy or amenorrhea, you can still experience PMS symptoms as long as you’re not menopausal and are producing some hormones on a cyclical basis. Researchers have found more than 200 PMS symptoms, but the most common are irritability, bloating, cramping, cravings, headaches, breast tenderness, and fatigue. These can range from annoying to debilitating. I know you are ready to leave this toxic relationship you have with PMS and I want to help you break up with her and embrace the beauty of your natural cycles, tap into the energy and rest when you need to.
So what's the real cause of PMS?
The real cause for PMS is simply this: Your hormones become unbalanced, your estrogen levels increase and progesterone levels decrease, either relatively or absolutely. Your hormones work like an orchestra through the month and if one of them is slightly off rhythm or low it throws off the entire performance.
There are many things that lead to these hormone imbalances, such as a high-sugar, refined carbohydrate diet (your body needs complex carbs so don’t skimp on them), caffeine, stress, dairy, hormones in dairy products and meat, and estrogen-like toxins from pesticides and pollution. Alcohol also contributes to problems because it burdens your liver and prevents it from excreting excess estrogens. Constipation and imbalances in the gut bacteria can worsen the situation, because they lead to the reabsorption of estrogen from the gut back into your blood, even after your liver has tried to get rid of it. Your body also needs exercise (even if that's walking) to help balance hormones and your mood. So if you aren’t moving your body enough, it’s likely contributing to your PMS.
As a Hormone Nutritionist I've seen some simple swaps make some remarkable changes in my client's health and would like to provide some natural methods for efficiently balancing your hormones and feeling your best everyday. So here is the plan to start breaking up with your PMS.
Eat For Your Cycle
It’s no secret your body has different energetic demands at different times in your cycle. When you start looking at food as fuel for your hormones, mood balance and energy things shift. Prioritizing nourishing foods, balance your blood sugar at each meal by eating protein & healthy fats (stop skipping meals), reduce refined flour, sugar, and processed foods, reducing caffeine (try matcha or green tea), reduce alcohol, and increase fiber in your diet from vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains.
Sugar is a major contributor to hormonal imbalance. Those gooey, chocolatey treats that we all know and adore can, unfortunately, cause serious internal damage. This is because sugar creates a jump in our blood sugar levels, so when we eat sugary foods or too many refined carbohydrates, we create too much insulin. This results in the creation of an enzyme known as aromatase, which—you guessed it—is one of the main enzymes responsible for estrogen creation. As your blood sugar spikes so does your cortisol levels, estrogens and oftentimes anxiety. When you cut back on sugar, you'll notice and feel a difference in your PMS and skin (for the better, of course). So, if you're having trouble with your hormones, try cutting back on sugar for a month and see how you feel.
Replenish Nutrient Deficiencies
Your body uses key vitamins and minerals to make certain hormones, detox them and balance your moods and energy levels. If you have a deficiency in any key vitamins or minerals your body needs this will show up as symptoms like fatigue, inflammation, weight gain, acne and PMS, A number of supplements have been shown to help ease PMS symptoms by improving metabolic function and hormone metabolism. Some notable superstars are magnesium, B vitamins, EPA/DHA (omega 3 fats) and zinc. Consult your doctor or work with a holistic practitioner.
Move Your Body
Daily movement is key to happy hormones. Movement doesn’t have to be hard or intense but if you are up for that, amazing. Movement changes our energetic state, increases endorphins, and lymphatic flow and drainage which are all helpful for balancing and detoxification of hormones and relieving stress. Plus movement increases gut motility which improves digestion and elimination. Healthy regular bowel movements are key to healthy hormones and gut health.
P.S. Throwing on cute activewear may help with movement motivation!
Make Sleep Sacred
Sleep is the master hormone and literally regulates everything from your hunger levels and cravings to cognitive function, libido and skin health. Your body uses sleep to detoxify, literally cleaning your brain and healing your muscles so if you don’t have a sleep routine and regular bedtime that gives you some serious deep sleep (7-9 hours a night) this is the perfect place to start on your hormone healing path. More sleep means better focus, energy and resilience.
My hope is this brings you some ideas you can weave into your day to day life so you can start feeling your best and tap into the beauty and rhythms of your natural cycle instead of dreading it and living with PMS, mood swings, cramps and hormonal acne. I want you to leave that toxic relationship and remember you deserve to feel ease and flow anytime of the month.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ashleigh Norris is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Hormone Expert based in Toronto. She is the Founder of The Soulful Sprout and is obsessed with spreading awareness around hormone health, period positivity and helping women reclaim their hormonal superpowers. She works with individuals virtually and has an incredible program to help you Mend Your Menstrual Cycle. Mend Your Menstrual Cycle is a 12 module do-at-your-own-pace video guided course to explore balancing out the common hormonal imbalances Ashleigh sees daily in her practice. Use Code: VERIE to save $50 off before August 6th 2021.
Click here to connect with Ashleigh on Instagram.