Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)


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PMS

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is the name for all symptoms of pain or discomfort that one feels 4-7 days before the onset of a menstrual period. Symptoms like backache, leg ache, stomach ache, headache, bloating, mood swings, irritability – all come under the collective umbrella of PMS. The severity of the symptoms may vary from mild, medium or severe, but can potentially be disruptive to the woman’s interpersonal relationships, job and life in general.

Although not fully understood in Western medicine, it is considered to be caused by hormonal changes, particularly the change in the level of estrogen, that can occur around the menstrual cycle.  Some believe that PMS mood swings may be related to deficiencies in vitamin B6 and magnesium. One theory of PMS suggests that its symptoms are due to an ovarian hormone imbalance of either estrogen or progesterone.

In Ayurveda, it is believed that an accumulation of toxins and blockage of circulation due to improper diet, poor digestion, stress, irregularity in lifestyle, inadequate sleep etc. can all cause PMS.

In Ayurveda, PMS symptoms can be classified as vata, pitta or kapha dominant. This has nothing to do with the constitution of the person. One can experience any kind of PMS, depending on the specific dosha aggravation at the time.

PMS type Vata Pitta Kapha
Physical Symptoms Lower backache, stomach ache, muscle cramps, headache, bloating, constipation. Breast tenderness, painful urination, hives, hot flashes. Fluid retention and swelling, breast enlargement and tenderness, caffeine craving.
Mental/Emotional Symptoms Anxiety, insomnia, fear, nervousness, mood swings. Irritability, anger, hostility, hypersensitivity. Sleepiness, crying, lethargy, depression.

Diet and Lifestyle Changes:

  1. Maintaining a balanced digestion is key to preventing PMS. Eat light, easy to digest, nourishing foods like soups, stews, fresh fruit, cooked vegetables, whole grains etc. in the right combinations. Refer to the nutrition page for more details. Avoid cold, salty, fried foods and refined sugar products and caffeine.
  2. Eating magnesium rich foods like green vegetables, pasta, potatoes is said to relieve muscle cramps, omega-6 fatty acids rich foods like pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds is helpful, natural serotonin elevating foods like avocados, dates and plums help with mood regulation during PMS, and potassium rich bananas, raisins, figs and broccoli can reduce bloating and water retention.
  3. Maintain a balanced exercise regimen without increasing or decreasing the intensity too much compared to your usual routine.
  4. Aim to get good sleep, quality and quantity wise.
  5. Learn to acknowledge and manage your stress. Adopt some relaxation practices – meditation, yoga, mindfulness, pranayama or whatever helps you deal with your stress in a healthy manner.
  6. Drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day.

Home Remedies:

For each of the types mentioned below, the commonality is to follow a diet and lifestyle that is pacifying to the dosha that is out of whack. For more details on this, please refer to our brief dosha overview. Also, start the remedies a week before the period is expected to start.

Vata PMS:

  1. A self-massage or abhyanga with warm sesame oil will help calm the frayed vata nerves and give some much needed grounding.
  2. For insomnia, a good remedy is a teaspoon of ashwagandha mixed in warm cow’s milk or almond milk at bedtime.
  3. For constipation, add a teaspoon of ghee to the ashwagandha milk.
  4. Dashamoola is another good herb for Vata PMS. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of dashamoola in a cup of hot water. Let it steep for 10 minutes and then drink.
  5. Eat 10 cherries on an empty stomach for a week before the expected onset of menstruation.Cherries
  6. A tablespoon of aloe vera gel with a pinch of black pepper powder before food is also helpful for digestion.

Pitta PMS:

  1. With this type of PMS, there is a serotonin imbalance. Brahmi is a good herb for elevating serotonin levels. Shatavari is a good herb in general for managing pitta. Using 2 parts of shatavari, 1 part of brahmi and 1 part of musta, make a herbal mixture. Take 1/2 teaspoon of this mixture twice a day with warm water.
  2. Moon bathing or strolling in the moonlight can also help considerably to reduce body heat and stress.
  3. Self massage or abhyanga with coconut oil is recommended.
  4. A tablespoon of aloe vera gel with a pinch of cumin powder is effective.

Kapha PMS:

  1. Reduce salt intake considerably to minimize fluid retention.
  2. Punarnava is a good Ayurvedic herb to soothe kapha and also has a mild diuretic effect. Take 1/2 teaspoon with honey twice daily.
  3. Triphala or Bibhitaki are also good Ayurvedic herbs that will help soothe kapha, reduce toxin buildup and limit fatigue.
  4. Eat 10 cherries daily on an empty stomach for a week before the expected onset of your period.
  5. A tablespoon of aloe vera gel with a pinch of trikatu will help.

General Tips:

  1. A few drops (2-3) of warm ghee in each nostril will help stimulate and balance the system and hormones.
  2. Warm fomentation with a towel dipped in warm water and then wrung out and placed on the lower abdomen gives relief from abdominal pain, bloating and cramps.

Hope these tips help you identify your PMS symptoms accurately and then follow the appropriate regimen to reduce the symptoms. Some of these Ayurvedic herbs should be available in health food stores, local Indian grocery stores or online.

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Choose wisely and live well!
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photo credit: atomicshark via photopin cc


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