PMS & PMDD: Minimizing Symptoms
Dr. Lissa Rankin’s medical blog is based on her upcoming book What’s Up Down There? Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend, which you can preorder here.
I’m a sufferer of severe PMS (my doctor calls it PMDD), and girl: SUFFER is the word. The whole issue is a stew of contradictory thoughts & worries for me. It mucks up my mojo worrying about how Goddess-dissing it seems that I have such problems surrounding my cycle. My condition is totally screwing up my relationship. I’m confused about treatment & what it all means, gyno-spiritually, if you will. I didnít seem fair that I should have to endure this, all because Eve ate that damn apple.
I hear you, sister. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or its evil stepsister, the more severe premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), can rob even the best of us of our mojo for those few days before the menstrual cycle begins. You may feel like youíre rockiní in love, joy, and acceptance 24 days out of the cycle, but the 4 days before your period you turn into a raging lunatic. If you feel this way, youíre so not alone.
Most women experience symptoms of PMS from time to time — mood swings, chocolate cravings, bloating, irritability. But the more serious PMDD can seriously affect your quality of life. Makes it hard to Own Femininity, eh? Itís enough to make a Goddess like yourself resent being born female. So what can you do?
Natural Tips For Minimizing PMS Symptoms
1. Eat a whole foods diet. You’ve heard it before, but it really does help. That means cutting back on sugar, refined carbohydrates, dairy, caffeine, processed foods, and saturated and hydrogenated (trans) fats, and instead adding fruits, veggies, and whole grains, especially during the luteal phase (second half) of your cycle. Sorry, but that means bye-bye chocolate.
2. Increase essential fatty acids by eating nuts, seeds, and fish.
3. Manage your stress effectively. Try yoga, meditation, massage, or guided imagery CDs.
4. Engage in regular aerobic exercise. A good, long hike helps regulate your hormones and your stress, and it builds up happy-making endorphins.
5. Take a multivitamin and 1200mg of calcium/day.
6. Talk to an integrative medicine doctor about how to use supplements to help your PMS symptoms. Alternative medicine therapies like acupuncture and Reiki can also help.
Next: Criteria for PMDD and the Gyno-Spiritual side of PMS
Criteria FOR PMDD
To meet criteria for this diagnosis, you must experience five or more of the following symptoms during most of the week before your menses, and they must interfere significantly with your daily life and relationships. At least one of the first four symptoms must be present.
1. Significantly depressed mood, hopelessness, self-deprecating thoughts
2. Significant anxiety, tension, feeling irritable, uptight
3. Sudden mood changes of sadness, weepiness, or easily feeling rejected
4. Anger or irritability or increased conflict with others
5. Lack of motivation for usual activities
7. Lethargy, easily fatigued, low energy
8. Changes in appetite, overeating, food cravings
9. Sleeping too much or insomnia
10. Overwhelmed, feeling out of control
11. Additional physical symptoms, such as breast tenderness, swelling, headaches, join or muscle pain, bloating, weight gain
You Can’t Always Be Superwoman
Some theorize that PMS/PMDD is nature’s way of making you slow down and take stock of your life. You can’t be Superwoman all the time, and maybe your body is telling you it’s chick-flick night, and you need some personal, quiet time. In general, gynecological issues stem from the second chakra. When our bodies struggle with second chakra issues, itís an invitation to explore what might underlie the outward symptoms of PMS/PMDD.
The Gyno-Spiritual Side of PMS
From a gyno-spiritual perspective, this may mean that the spiritual challenge you face is learning to interact consciously to form unions with others who support your personal path of awakening. Sometimes, this means releasing relationships that cripple your growth.
The energy in the second chakra enables us to cleave from the tribe (as represented by the first chakra), develop a sense of personal identity, and establish boundaries. In our second chakra, we also deal with issues such as sex, money, power, relationships, and addictive substances. Itís also the center for creation. The energy of the second chakra gives us the power of choice. When we feel our choices are taken from us, we may manifest this in the form of gynecological troubles.
As for Goddess-dissing, climb on into the Red Tent with us and vent away, if need be. Nothing wrong with telling your truth, the way you see it. We Goddesses can handle it.
A Few Words About Eve
Mojo Mentor & biblical scholar Alice Langholt shares a few thoughts about Eve. “Eve’s foray with the forbidden fruit had more to do with her independent spirit, intense curiosity, and well…a good dose of pink mojo spunkiness than something sinful or shameful. I don’t consider PMS/ PMDD a punishment for the biblical woman’s independent streak. In fact, most biblical women had minds of their own and took charge of their situations when they felt the need. Women in the bible are strong, independent, and made decisions regardless of rules or expectations of subservience. So don’t go blaming Eve – in fact, let her be a positive example to you that you can take charge of your situation and change it. You have the power.”
Just Slow Down
I could wax on gyno-spiritually — and we can talk more about this sometime — but let me bring it back home for a minute. If second chakra mumbo jumbo is too woo woo for you, think of it this way. Perhaps PMS is simply your bodyís way of asking you to slow down. What if you take this time to listen to your body, write in your journal, and reflect? What would that feel like? Is there something else going on in your life that might need to be addressed? Do you really hate the direction your life is taking? Are you unhappy in a relationship? Do you have some things in your past you might need to address with a therapist? Are you not living authentically? Our bodies are often the mirrors of our souls and psyches, so take stock, and make sure youíre not ignoring some glaring issue in your life.
Treatment Options For The Goddess With PMDD
If youíve checked deeper and all is well, donít despair. Apologize to your friends and family for chewing their heads off, but blame your hormones. If youíve tried everything natural and nothing helps, talk to your doctor about a trial of continuous birth control pills. By taking the Pill every day and skipping your cycle, you can often eliminate PMS symptoms altogether. Talk to your doctor about how bioidentical hormones or birth control pills can help. If you have PMDD, you can blame your brain chemistry. If the serotonin levels in your brain are low, you may benefit from supplements that naturally build up your serotonin levels, such as 5-HTP or tryptophan. As reluctant as I am to throw Prozac at people, if youíre really suffering, you may even benefit from a trial of an anti-depressant, either daily or during the last two weeks of your cycle. You don’t have to be a complete mess before your period. Take charge of your life and your health, and help your body help you by treating it like the temple it is.