What your PMS symptoms say about your health and what you can do about it

PMS?

Cramps, mood swings, bloating, fatigue, forgetfulness… Your monthly cycle is a natural and beneficial process, PMS is not!  Premenstrual symptoms are signs of imbalances and when the body is functioning optimally your period should come and go without a single cramp or rage-filled outburst.  Each symptom can indicate a number of imbalances.  Learn why you’re experiencing your symptoms and what you can do to eliminate them.  

1. Irritability and Mood Swings

Why: If you’re prone to irritability and outbursts of anger during or before your period, you are likely dealing, or rather inadequately dealing, with a lot of stress.  When our body’s cannot process the amount of stress we experience it causes stagnation.  Ever feel like a pressure cooker about to burst? That’s Qi (vital energy, pronounced “chee”) Stagnation!  Finding appropriate outlets for that energy can help reduce the sensations of restlessness, irritability, and mood swings around your period.   

What to do: Try incorporating deep breathing techniques into your daily routine. Yoga is another great stress reliever that gets the Qi and blood moving. Consistent acupuncture and herbal medicine can reduce or resolve PMS symptoms and cupping helps to promote circulation to reduce stagnation. 

2. Bloating & Water Retention

Why? Bloating and water retention are indicators of digestive energy weakness.  They are signs that the body is having difficulty metabolizing nutrients and fluids properly.     Prior to and during your period your body is undergoing a loss of vital energy.  If your digestive energy is already compromised you may experience symptoms of bloating and water retention, as well as other symptoms, such as fatigue.  

What to do: Because stress is a common contributor to digestive energy weakness, breathing techniques can help manage stress to allow your digestive system to restore its energy.  In addition, simple dietary modifications such as eating warm, cooked foods; drinking hot water; and avoiding cold, iced foods/drinks, dairy and greasy foods, will likely improve these symptoms.  Also try adding foods that nourish digestive energy such as roasted root vegetables, broths, soups, and whole grains.  

3. Fatigue

Why? If you feel like you’ve been hit with a wave of fatigue before or during your period you may be Blood & Qi Deficient.  Overtaxing our bodies by overexercising, eating a restrictive or poor diet, or experiencing chronic work/life stress, can burn out our natural resources.  If you deplete those resources without replenishing them with adequate sleep, a nutritious diet, and restorative practices, such as yoga and meditation, symptoms of fatigue, dizziness, and even depression may emerge, particularly around your period when your body is losing those vital resources.  

What to do: To prevent fatigue from overtaking your life during your next cycle, start eating leafy greens, broths and soups, quality meats, such as grass fed beef and pastured chicken and pork.  Get adequate rest to balance out your busy day, and aim for 7-8 hours of sleep to allow your body to regenerate the energy lost daily and especially during your period.  

4. Headaches

Why & What to do: Headaches during your period can be caused by a number of factors. 

If it is sharp and stabbing it is likely an indication of stagnant blood caused by stress or injury.  Try yoga or light exercise during the month to promote better circulation and add acupuncture to address the local stagnation causing the pain.  

If it is associated with fatigue and feels more like an empty or dull headache, it may be a sign of deficient energy.  Try some of the techniques used to treat fatigue.  

If it is made worse by stress and is accompanied by irritability, it is a sign that your stress management strategies need improvement.  Try mediation or deep breathing techniques.  Checkout a yoga class or maybe even a boxing class throughout the month.  

If you experience pressure headaches with sinus congestion or digestive issues, it may be an indication of poor digestive energy.  Try eating warm, cooked foods.  Avoid iced drinks, greasy, fried foods and dairy.  

5. Painful Cramps

Why: One of the most common reasons for painful cramps is blood stagnation.  Chronic stress combined with inactivity can negatively impact proper circulation.  When circulation is significantly obstructed it results in local, sharp or stabbing pain.  

What to do: To relieve menstrual pain apply heat and do light daily exercise around your period.  During the rest of the month cultivate a relaxation practice, whether it be meditation, yoga, or some other creative activity that allows your mind to quiet and your body to relax. Regular exercise during the month will also help facilitate proper circulation to prevent future PMS cramping.  Acupuncture and herbal medicine are very effective for treating menstrual pain and cramps by promoting healthy blood flow and relaxing the body and mind.  

Whether you experience one or all of these symptoms, remember that they are not glitches or design flaws in your body but intelligent communication devices prompting you to make a change.  Implementing a few behavior changes can make the difference between calling in sick for a few days while you're curled up in the fetal position to enjoying your days pain free and executing your work without the brain fog and fatigue.