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Posted on: March 4, 2015 at 5:00 pm
Last updated: December 14, 2018 at 2:25 pm

Menstrual symptoms of painful cramping, breast tenderness, and mood changes can sometimes result in vomiting, or at least feeling like they need to take a day or two to rest.

This usually starts in their teenage years, and over time symptoms worsen where they can actually impede daily life.

Women are also commonly placed on the birth control pill for 5-10+ years, which deplete the body of important vitamins and minerals needed to naturally balance hormones.

Around mid-late 20’s and 30’s, usually weight gain, and acne return, symptoms may have worsened, and new symptoms may have appeared (i.e. migraines).

There are many natural remedies and foods that can help mitigate these issues, while also being able to create a plan that addresses the whole person.

Menstrual cramps may occur a few days before or during menses when the uterus contracts to expel blood of the uterus.

Endometrial (inner lining) cells contain prostaglandins, which trigger inflammation, pain, and fever (all part of the healing process) to an area of injury.

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There are different types of prostaglandins that work together to ensure a proper menstrual cycle, as well as ovulation and induction of labor.

Hormone imbalances can also trigger pain such as elevated estrogen, or normal estrogen with low progesterone (this ratio gives the impression of high estrogen), in an ongoing finding called estrogen dominance (also occurring in men).

Estrogen makes things grow, including the endometrium, and has been linked to concerns like uterine fibroids, and endometriosis (endometrial tissue outside the uterus).

“We’re the only sex that can bleed for 7 days and not die.”

Pretty cool, as it’s a great way to detox. But that also means we’re losing nutrients, a main one like iron. Hemoglobin (notice the ‘heme’ – iron) comprises most of our body’s blood, and it needs iron in order to carry oxygen from the lungs to the tissues.

Common iron-containing foods include animal based, as well as green vegetables.

Vitamin B6 has also been shown to reduce premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms. However, I would recommend a quality B complex as B vitamins work synergistically to decrease inflammation, and make hormones and neurotransmitters (involved in mood).

Foods high in vitamin B6 include chickpeas, fish, and poultry. [1] Magnesium, known as “nature’s relaxer,” is involved in over 500 reactions, and helps synthesize and metabolize hormones.

Factors such as stress, caffeine, and alcohol can deplete magnesium as they are diuretics, and unfortunately through our soil, we just don’t get enough of this important mineral.

It’s also important in the production of neurotransmitters (affect mood), so both food and supplement can improve PMS related mood changes. [2]

Magnesium and B6 (known to have a calming effect versus other B vitamins) also work well together too to reduce severity of cramping. [3]

Foods high in magnesium include avocados, spinach, nuts and seeds, and dark chocolate.

In America, most of our diet contains an imbalanced ratio of 20:1 omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3 fatty acids, when the ideal ratio is about 4:1.

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We need inflammation in the body to heal and get rid of toxins, however, anything out of balance is going to contribute to issues. Fish, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and seaweed can help balance this ratio.

Omega 3’s have also been shown to reduce mood-related symptoms of PMS such as depression, nervousness, and lack of concentration. [4]

Adding to the healthful benefits of nuts and seeds includes a wonderful lifestyle technique called seed cycling, where certain seeds are consumed depending on the moon (we are rhythmic beings – think of the sleep/wake cycle).

The first half of your cycle (new moon), ground flax, chia, or pumpkin seeds are consumed to promote estrogen (to healthy levels, or get rid of extra estrogen), and ground sesame or sunflower seeds help promote progesterone (dominant hormone the second half of the cycle, around the full moon).

Carminatives, a class of herbs that help reduce gas and bloating, are also very helpful in reducing inflammation, and improving overall digestion include ginger, fennel, chamomile (also calming), and cinnamon (also helps decrease sugar/carb cravings). [5]

There are many natural remedies and nutritional changes to consider when addressing improving painful periods. Supplements, however, are meant to supplement, not replace, an unhealthful lifestyle.

One of the studies observed that even though magnesium, and magnesium with B6 was effective, the result was more significant in the group that did not consume as much chocolate, candy, and caffeine (a younger age group). [3]

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Foods high in carbohydrates, and salt, as well as carbonated beverages, caffeine, fried foods, and alcohol can all contribute to inflammation and depleting the body of vital nutrients that can improve symptoms.

Consider tracking the symptoms of your menstrual cycle monthly with a diet diary to get an understanding of what your diet needs to look like in relation to severity of symptoms.

An integrative practitioner or Naturopathic Doctor practitioner can further guide this process, as well as create a plan around switching out supplements as seen fit, as well as test hormones, iron, and other markers as necessary.

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Dr. Serena Goldstein
Naturopathic Doctor
Dr. Serena Goldstein, ND specializes in helping people lose weight through focusing on balancing hormones naturally, while addressing other endocrinology-based concerns such as thyroid, PMS, peri/menopause, low testosterone with natural remedies & lifestyle practices. Her plans encompass the mental, emotional, and physical side of healing, all in focusing on the root cause of disease. Get your copy of 9 ultimate ways to balance your hormones here!

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