Dr. Lori Horan Soule, ND, LAc

Soule Health Care

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Portland OR, 97239

 

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Newsletter Archive


Premenstrual Syndrome- It Is Treatable

September 29, 2011

Christy came to my office one day to seek help for premenstrual syndrome--the cyclical appearance of bloating, acne, emotional instability, fatigue, food cravings, and headaches. By her estimation, she had suffered from PMS at least 240 times (12 periods per year for 20 years). Christy was a slightly overweight, ambitious career woman who worked long hours six days a week and ate a predominantly “fast food” diet. Over time, Christy's PMS was getting worse - instead of only one week before her period, her symptoms lasted two weeks. Christy was delighted to learn that PMS could be treated effectively using diet, exercise, acupuncture and nutritional supplementation.

Treatment of PMS is most effective when it addresses the root causes, which may include the effects of a nutrient deficient diet, insufficient exercise, relationship imbalances, emotions, and childhood traumas. Dietary change, however, is the cornerstone and starting place of PMS therapy.

Upon evaluation, we discovered that Christy's life regularly included every factor that is known to cause PMS:

  • Refined sugar.
  • Caffeine (including soft drinks, coffee, chocolate).
  • Dairy products (excess calcium intake can block the intake of magnesium).
  • Insufficient fiber intake (such as fresh vegetables).
  • Being overweight (increases the likelihood of excess estrogen since body fat produces estrone).

Christy's fast food diet was the perfect diet to produce PMS symptoms. A diet that is full of refined foods, high in partially hydrogenated fats, and low in essential fatty acids lends itself to high levels of estrogen and low levels of progesterone. Relatively high estrogen is what accounts for many of PMS's symptoms because a) the liver gets sluggish from stored toxins, and b) a woman with excess estrogen is likely to be deficient in Vitamins C, E, B6, B12, magnesium, and selenium, all of which are required to break down and inactivate estrogen, and to excrete it efficiently.

An optimal diet that includes more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, less fat, and more fiber helps to excrete estrogen, thereby reducing symptoms. Christy learned that the optimal diet also would eliminate dairy foods and caffeine, and reduce partially hydrogenated fats, refined carbohydrates, red meat and eggs. Included in Christy's treatment regimen were the following daily supplements: a multi-vitamin, Omega-3 fatty acids (in the daily form of fish oil or flax oil DHA or EPA), B Complex, magnesium, Vitamin E, C, selenium, and flax seed meal.

Another part of Christy's PMS-recovery plan included a series of 6 acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture has long been used as a method to restore the proper flow of energy throughout the body and to balance biochemical rhythms. It can unblock areas that may be blocked, and tonify areas that may be deficient. In Christy's case, her liver's organ network was sluggish and needed a boost.

In addition to diet and acupuncture, we also added an exercise plan to Christy's schedule. It consisted of a minimum of 20 minutes of aerobic movement three times per week. Her work schedule had to be cut back, but this brought her work hours back into balance with her health. Studies show that exercise reduces many PMS symptoms by supporting neurotransmitters and improving circulation. Aerobic movement is more effective for PMS than strength training. Studies show frequency, not intensity, results in decreased menstrual distress symptoms. Regularity of exercise and diversity of movement (stretching, strength training and cardiovascular conditioning) appear to be the most helpful. Increased endorphins produced by exercise also reduce depression and pain.

Finally, every month during PMS time, Christy had repetitive emotional conflicts revolving around the lack of personal time she needed for her artistic hobbies. During treatment she made the connection that she continually downplayed and ignored her feminine side, and overextended her masculine side by overworking in her career. Why she did this, she concluded, had to do with the values instilled in her by other family members when she was young, rather than something she consciously chose. She decided it was time to make a conscious choice to make more time for art regularly.

Some very persistent cases of PMS contain a much deeper emotional seed that lifestyle changes alone will not help.

Unresolved emotional and psychological stressors can disrupt the menstrual rhythm. These insidious stressors can include an imbalance in relationships, codependency, addiction, previous traumas, denial of existing conflicts, etc. Our psyches hold tremendous power over our biochemical health, and often psychological stress needs to be revealed in order to understand our hormonal imbalance.

Most of Christy's symptoms improved with diet, acupuncture, and exercise. Sometimes, however, progesterone therapy is indicated when PMS doesn't respond to simple lifestyle changes. In some cases it may be necessary to provide symptom relief while also addressing the imbalances that require change. Progesterone should not be supplemented until a hormone test reveals that a hormonal deficiency in fact exists.

The Five Element style of acupuncture is of particular assistance with PMS, as it comprehensively addresses both the body symptoms and the possibility of deeper unresolved emotional conflicts that tend to surface premenstrually. If you suffer from PMS and would like assistance in treating it, call for an appointment with Dr. Horan today.




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