You’re Not Crazy – It’s PMS Part 2

RoseMarie Pierce, B.Sc. Pharm., “The Holistic Pharmacist”

The Stress Connection
Hormone levels can be altered by how a woman thinks and by how she feels. Events or situations, internal or external, require our body systems to adapt and respond in order to maintain balance. When too many stress factors, emotional or otherwise, occur all at once or continuously over an extended period of time this balance is lost. Stress begins its destructive action at the level of the midbrain targeting the hypothalamus (nerve centers located just above the pituitary gland). The hypothalamus sends messages to the pituitary (small endocrine gland that secretes vital hormones) which in turn influences the adrenal glands and ultimately the production of progesterone. The adrenal glands (two small glands sitting one on top of each kidney) respond to stress by producing the stress hormone adrenaline. The primary raw material for this process is progesterone, the more adrenaline produced the more progesterone needed. Supplies of progesterone can become depleted. Dr. John Lee, an authority on estrogen dominance, states that stress can also cause a missed ovulation, especially physical stress caused by excessive exercise i.e., long-distance marathon running. An anovulatory cycle means no production of progesterone by the ovary during the second half of the menstrual cycle. Failure to ovulate creates a month long presence of unopposed estrogen with all its attendant side effects, including PMS.

Flower Essences help minimize emotional mood swings prior to and during the menstrual period. Flower essence combinations chosen for their abilities to calm and soothe, as well as minimize both emotional and physical exhaustion, fatigue and muscle tension are available in health food stores and from flower essence practitioners. For more information on flower essences and their availability contact RoseMarie at r.pierce@dccnet.com.

How Can PMS be reversed or help naturally?
A combination of herbs, nutrients, and flower essences taken during the last half or all of the menstrual cycle can relieve PMS symptoms. There are many female formulas designed for women who have a tendency toward low progesterone levels and the condition known as estrogen dominance. These synergistic herbal combinations help the body to achieve a normal hormonal balance and to restore the proper ratio between progesterone and estrogen. They are useful for women of all ages especially during times of both PMS and perimenopause and will assist with the common symptoms of PMS that result from hormonal imbalance, i.e., inflammation, cramping, breast tenderness, bloating irritability, and moodiness. The following are some of the most valuable herbs and nutrients

Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus) is the leading PMS remedy in Europe; it is most effective as a standardized extract containing 0.6% aucubine. Aucubine is a reference constituent used to confirm authenticity and to ensure medicinal activity. The most valuable form of chasteberry is a whole plant extract containing 0.6% aucubine. Chasteberry extract seems to help stimulate progesterone production by acting on the pituitary gland in the brain (which controls the production of estrogen and progesterone) and therefore, correcting hormone imbalances.

Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa) extract,contains natural saponins phytohormones (diosgenin 10%) which have similar effects to steroidal hormones. Note: the body can not make progesterone from diosgenin. Traditionally, wild yam has been used as an antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory agent to help painful muscle spasms, menstrual pain and digestive disorders.

Sarsaparilla (Smilax ornate),also contains saponins that are structurally similar to human steroid hormones and act as a mild adrenocortical stimulant that can help adrenal insufficiency.

Ginger (Zingber officinale) is used for poor circulation to help heavy blood flow. The volatile oils in ginger possess antispasmodic and antiflatulence properties.

Vitamins B6, zinc and magnesium are needed for the production of progesterone with in the body. They are also used for the conversion of linoleic acid (LA), an omega-6 fatty acid, into GLA and then into the PG1 series of anti-inflammatory compounds. The recommended dose of vitamin B6 is at least 40 – 50 mg/day. It is valuable to combine these nutrients with a vitamin B-50 complex, a mineral ascorbate form of Vitamin C and a good quality calcium/magnesium supplement.

Evening primrose oil is a well-known treatment for the breast pain that often occurs in PMS. The proper dosage is 2 to 4 grams daily taken with food.

What about Diet?

Researchers have shown that the typical woman with PMS consumes 275% more sugar, 62% more refined carbohydrates, 78% more sodium, 79% more dairy products, 52% less zinc, 77% less magnesium and 53% less iron than non-PMS women. Dietary changes are an integral component of a healthy PMS program. The following dietary recommendations would be helpful: avoid saturated fat, dairy products, caffeine, salt, and sugar. As well, eat a whole grain, high-fiber diet containing organic soybeans, other legumes and lots of fruits and vegetables. Make sure to get enough essential fatty acids – good sources are seeds (especially flaxseeds), nuts, and cold water fish.

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RoseMarie Pierce, B.Sc.Pharm, earned her degree in Pharmacy from Dalhousie University in 1972. After extensive studies in herbal and nutritional medicine, RoseMarie integrated these disciplinary practices with her pharmacy education to become Canada’s first Holistic Pharmacist.