As many as eighty percent of women experience some form of PMS at some time or another! 30-40% of these women have PMS severe enough to interfere with their day to day lives.
There are so many symptoms of PMS. Some women may experience all of them or just a few. Below are the most common examples:
-breast tenderness & swelling
-mood changes (irritability, frustration, depression)
Chinese Medicine Treatment: Treat the Root
PMS has many causes and is different for different women. Most women respond very well to acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatment in combination with dietary changes, exercise, and working on their emotional well being. In my practice, I seek to find the root cause of the particular patients’ PMS and form my treatment protocols based on that. For example, for some women, the cause may be dietary. For others it may be due to unbalanced hormonal fluctuations; and for others it may be a period of stress build up causing a shift in their emotional health.
According to Chinese medicine, there are different patterns contributing to PMS:
Liver Qi Stagnation
Symptoms include irritability, insomnia, abdominal bloating before periods, breast tenderness, very moody, depression, bitter taste in the mouth, poor appetite
Heart Blood Deficiency
Symptoms include sadness, absent minded, crying for no reason, illogical speaking, dull expression, pale complexion
Phlegm-Fire harassing upwards
Symptoms include agitation, aggressiveness, slightly manic behavior, profuse thick vaginal discharge, insomnia, dry bowel movements, feeling of heat, fullness sensation in the chest, and poor appetite
Some patients may experience a combination of the above patterns. In the clinic, it’s not usually so clear cut as one single pattern. The various patterns have different herbal formulas and acupuncture points prescribed.
What can you expect?
Typically, I advise the patient suffering from PMS to come into the clinic once per week for acupuncture and I’ll combine a Chinese herbal formula for them to take as well. To effectively treat the root cause of the PMS, it takes approximately three menstrual cycles at least. Some women will see a reduction in their symptoms right away while others it may take a longer period of time. Stress levels, lifestyle, and general health are important factors involved in response time.
How does Acupuncture help?
In November, 1997, NIH’s Office of Alternative Medicine issued a consensus statement that reported that acupuncture is effective in the treatment of menstrual cramps, and some of the other symptoms of PMS.
According to Chinese Medicine, PMS is very often due to blocked Qi (energy) and blood in the body. This blockage can manifest as emotional blockage (frustration, irritability, anxiety, tension, impatience) and/or physical blockage (pain, breast tenderness, water retention etc.). Acupuncture stimulates the circulation of blood and Qi throughout the body by inserting tiny thin needles into specified acupuncture points.
Dietary Recommendations for PMS
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grain cereals and breads, beans, peas, lentils, nuts and seeds, broiled chicken, turkey, and fish.
- Have high-protein snacks between meals to balance blood sugar levels
- Include foods that are high in complex carbohydrates and rich in fiber. These help rid the body of excess estrogen (if high estrogen levels are your problem)
- Drink plenty of water
- Avoid red meat, salt, processed foods, and junk food. Eliminating salt is especially important to prevent bloating and water retention around the menstrual period.
- Limit consumption of dairy products and refined sugars
- Avoid caffeine – caffeine can cause breast tenderness and anxiety as it is a central nervous system stimulant. It also depletes many nutrients out of the system as it acts as a diuretic.
- Do not consume alcohol especially during the week before the period – it causes valuable nutrients like magnesium to be excreted out of the body through the urine
- Regular exercise is very important as it increases oxygen levels in the blood which helps in nutrient absorption and efficient elimination of toxins from the body. It also helps keep hormone levels more stable.
*The most important foods to stay away from to relieve and/or prevent PMS are saturated fats and caffeine as they can induce an inflammatory response and contribute to the symptoms.
*Caffeine: Studies have shown that women who consume caffeine are four times more likely to experience PMS symptoms than those who do not.