Up to 90 percent of women of childbearing age experience some degree of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and experts estimate three to five percent of them suffer from a more extreme condition called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Even though most women accept and tolerate the over 100 reported symptoms of PMS, there is no question that these symptoms decrease a woman’s quality of life. However, despite being a common, even expected, part of the menstrual cycle, PMS doesn’t have to be the norm and may even be a sign that you are at risk for other health concerns. According to holistic living expert Dr Michael Finkelstein, PMS reflects an imbalance and signifies the need for lifestyle changes. Keep reading to learn what PMS means and how you can be PMS-free.
PMS reflects imbalance
The high numbers of women suffering from some degree of PMS suggests that it is part of a normal menstrual cycle. Dr Finkelstein, former chief of integrative medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital in New York and founding director of the Westchester-based holistic center SunRaven, says PMS should not be the norm.
“Although it is common, these symptoms reflect imbalance. The dominant imbalance is a combination of dietary issues, lack of sleep, and high stress levels that is causing women to suffer unnecessarily,” the board-certified internist explains. “Typically, less than ideal diets and accumulated stress play the largest role in the states of imbalance that produce the symptoms commonly associated with PMS.”
What degree of PMS is normal?
Although normal on a small scale, PMS symptoms that disrupt your day to day functioning are signifiers that you need to make lifestyle changes to have a healthier menstrual cycle. You shouldn’t have to dread the few days leading up to your period. Not sure if your symptoms are severe enough to warrant changes in your lifestyle?
Dr Finkelstein says, “If the symptoms are present enough that they are mentioned in conversation, this usually indicates that they are too strong. There is a minimum level of suffering for a woman who is eating well, sleeping enough, and who is in tune with nature.”According to the holistic living expert, a woman with a healthy menstrual cycle will have minimal bloating and cramping, minor headaches (if any), and moodiness that is barely noticeable. “Indeed, it is possible to get through monthly cycles with ease,” he adds.
PMS can be a sign of reproductive issues
Dr Finkelstein stresses that following a healthy lifestyle is even more important to avoid other reproductive health issues. He says that balance is vital to avoid problems with fertility as well as the symptoms of menopause. “Symptoms of intolerable PMS can signify problems down the line as a woman gets older,” he warns.
PMS can be a sign of other health concerns
Though most women simply accept and tolerate PMS symptoms, PMS can actually be a sign that women are at an increased risk of serious medical conditions. “Ignoring these symptoms is not wise because they are warning signs of imbalance. The same causes for the imbalance (e.g. diet and lifestyle) play significant roles in many of the other serious disease states women would rather avoid,” explains Dr Finkelstein. A chronic imbalance sets the stage for cancer, heart disease, stroke, autoimmune diseases, arthritis and Alzheimer’s, just to name a few.
Lifestyle changes that will prevent PMS
Restoring the balance necessary to stave off PMS requires changes in diet, activity level and sleeping patterns as well as connecting with nature. Dr Finkelstein recommends the following lifestyle changes to ease the symptoms of PMS.
1. Avoid foods that promote inflammation. Stay away from foods that are known to cause inflammation, including most animal products. (The anti-inflammatory diet)2. Focus on fresh, locally-grown, seasonal whole foods. Make weekly visits to your local farmer’s market or natural foods store and buy in-season fruits and vegetables. (Tips to eat locally and seasonally)3. Minimize processed foods. Limit foods that are processed, packaged, bottled and boxed foods. Read labels and choose foods with the most recognizable ingredients and opt for foods that are minimally processed and contain the least additives and preservatives. (Ingredients for a healthy diet)4. Limit caffeine and alcohol. Caffeinated beverages and an excess intake of alcohol can cause or worsen the symptoms of PMS. Stay well-hydrated with water, milk, 100 percent fruit and vegetable juices, and other decaffeinated drinks. Limit your alcohol intake to a serving per day or less. (Are you drinking enough water?)5. Get quality sleep. Dr Finkelstein is a strong advocate for getting adequate sleep every night. He believes sleep is essential in restoring balance. (Why women have trouble sleeping and strategies to get more sleep)6. Connect with nature. According to Dr Finkelstein, daily doses of sunlight and moonlight are important in bringing women into better balance with nature. He says, “Indeed, the moon cycle is the dominant rhythm of our planet and has strong influence on menstruation — just think of the root of that word, menses, which means moon in Latin.” Getting outdoors can also play a large role in reducing daily levels of stress. (5 Natural ways to improve your health)
Lifestyle changes now will help prevent PMS now and bolster your health for years to come. “The easiest ways to shift your life and restore a healthy balance is to get more sleep, eat whole foods, try to eat seasonally, and get outside more (natural light is very important for overall health),” concludes Dr Finkelstein. “The sooner that you can begin to live a balanced life, the healthier you will become — now and in the long run.”