by Katherine Willow ND

Yes, it’s true, my first webinar didn’t seem worth posting about.  When I listened to it after the fact, it nearly put me to sleep.  It’ll go better next time ~

However, here is a summary of the material for all of you affected by the potentially hellish condition known as Premenstrual Syndrome or PMS, which is very treatable with natural therapies.

This I know from personal experience, having suffered (and worse, made others suffer) from PMS that used to start midcycle and plunge me into depression, irritability and lethargy along with food cravings, weight gain and swelling.  So take heart and read on!

Let’s start with a definition of PMS: recurrent signs and symptoms that develop during the seven to fourteen days prior to menstruation.

Typical symptoms include: decreased energy, tension, irritability, depression, headache, altered sex drive, breast pain, backache, abdominal bloating, edema of fingers and ankles, nervousness, mood swings, food cravings (usually sugar) and uterine cramping.

The irritability can explode into a murderous rage and has been the cause of actual killings, with PMS cited as a predisposing condition in court!

As naturopathic doctors, the first question in our minds is always: “What is the cause?” In the case of PMS, there are several causes which occur in layers. Many sources focus on the hormonal and nutritional mechanisms with treatments that help balance the reproductive hormones and nutrients, specifically progesterone, magnesium and B6.

In my practice of almost three decades I’ve never used those particular treatments!  What has been noticeable in all my cases of PMS were one or more of the following imbalances:

  1. Liver congestion
  2. Adrenal fatigue
  3. Digestive weakness
  4. Emotional issues

These are CORE causes which lead to the other problems.  Correcting these leads to cure.

How to we assess which of these factors are at play?  Here are some of the ways naturopaths identify the answer to that question:

Liver congestion: morning fatigue, irritability, high diastolic blood pressure (lower number), yellow or green coating on the tongue, dark colour of the body of the tongue, fullness of the ”liver pulse”, high nitrates and ammonia on the Reams test, irritated liver points on the regutherm, low copper on a hair analysis and many others

Adrenal fatigue: afternoon fatigue, dizziness on standing up from lying or sitting, tendency towards allergies and infections, dark shadows under the eyes, chronic fatigue, dropping systolic blood pressure (higher number) on sitting up, low or very high salts on the Reams test, cold adrenal points on the regutherm, certain low minerals on hair analysis

Digestive weakness: gassiness and bloating, undigested food in stools (other than corn!), tiredness after meals, swollen and fluted (showing teeth marks) tongue, high pH’s on Reams test, cold digestive points on regutherm

Emotional issues: unresolved trauma in history, excessive stress in current life, changes in voice and body language when discussing certain topics

You may recognize yourself in the preceeding symptoms—they are very common in our culture and underlie many of our diseases.  So how do we go about treating them?  Here are the basic suggestions for each cause of PMS.  Many are easily done on one’s own, others are better supported by a professional.

Liver cleansing: change diet to take out irritants (we often suggest a Biotron food sensitivity test to identify which these are for a specific woman, but the most common liver irritants include alcohol, sugar, unhealthy fats, coffee, drugs, nicotine, fried foods, excess meat, processed foods and junk food), facilitate daily bowel movements, add an herb to stimulate liver drainage (we test for individual suitability) and if a woman has time and energy, castor oil packs over the liver and abdomen.

Adrenal restoration: go to sleep in the early part of the night (if severely burned out, 8-9pm), use herbs to develop a normal sleep cycle if needed, avoid adrenal stimulants such as coffee, salt, excess meat and sugar, add in an adrenal support supplement tested for individual tolerance, and if necessary, suggest some leave from stressful work and/or home situations as well as stress management counselling.

Digestive strengthening: lighten diet in accordance with Biotron testing, learn to relax (yoga, meditation, exercise, nature—whatever works for an individual), digestive enzymes to recharge the system (eventually weaning off), learn healthy eating habits, stop snacking or eating late at night.

Emotional healing: identify issues, apply therapy of choice (we recommend Journeywork, counselling, EMDR, hypnosis and other modalities), attending our wellness retreats can be a path for emotional healing as well.

As you can see, these are not quick fixes.  However, they result in a changed life that provides the foundation for reaching our optimal selves — when we are ready to go there.    Becoming your optimal self can take years or decades or lifetimes, but in the meantime, we can at least be free of PMS!