From PMS to menopause, a woman's health journey can be long and challenging. Here are some things to keep in mind as you undergo these changes:
- Make sure you are staying well-informed about your health condition and what changes to expect.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help from your doctor or other trusted healthcare professionals.
- Be mindful of your diet and exercise habits, as these can impact your health in both the short and long term.
- Seek out support from family and friends if you are struggling with any aspect of your health journey.
- Remember that you are not alone—many women go through similar experiences. Reach out to others for advice and support.
What is PMS?
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a set of physical, emotional, and behavioral symptoms that occur before menstruation. Most women experience at least some of the symptoms associated with PMS, which can range from mild to severe.
Symptoms may include bloating, fatigue, irritability, breast tenderness, and mood swings. The cause of PMS is not fully understood, but it is thought to be due to a combination of hormonal and psychological factors. There is no one-size-fits-all solution for managing PMS, but some lifestyle changes and home remedies may help alleviate symptoms.
Are all lived experiences with PMS the same?
There are different types of PMS depending on the primary symptom that the individual is dealing with. Five main ones include:
- Anxiety - For some women, PMS can be accompanied by feelings of anxiety. Symptoms of anxiety can include feeling overwhelmed, feeling out of control, and feeling tense or jumpy. If you are experiencing these symptoms, it is important to seek social and emotional support.
- Cravings - PMS cravings can be anything from salty foods to chocolate. Generally, these cravings are a way for the body to ask for the nutrients it needs. For example, a craving for salt may mean that the body needs more sodium. Similarly, a craving for chocolate may mean that the body needs more magnesium. The cravings happen, in part, because of the drop in serotonin during PMS. You need carbs to generate serotonin, so your body will encourage you to seek them out.
- Depression - PMS and depression are often linked. Many women experience mood swings and depression during PMS, and it has been defined as something known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Early studies show it affects approximately 3 to 8% of those experiencing PMS. If the symptoms are severe, your healthcare provider may recommend anti-depressants to support your mental state.
- HyperHydration - Hormones like estrogen and progesterone can cause the body to retain water, which leads to swelling in the abdomen and feet. More specifically, progesterone can cause laxity in the cells lining the veins, allowing fluid to leak out and impacting drainage. One study showed almost 92% of women will battle some edema during PMS.
- Pain - For some women, symptoms of pain and cramping can be quite severe, making it difficult to go about their daily lives. There are muscle contractions as the lining of the uterus is shed and hormone-like compounds known as prostaglandins are released by uterine tissue. OTC medications like ibuprofen and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) work to block these prostaglandins, which is how they reduce painful periods.
What are some ways to treat PMS naturally?
There are many ways to treat PMS naturally. Some include eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, reducing stress, and using supplements such as vitamin B6 and magnesium. Additionally, some women find relief from acupuncture or herbal remedies including the plant Vitex agnus-castus, or Chasteberry.
The way vitex works is thought to be two-fold, through its ability to inhibit prolactin and increase luteinizing hormone. Compounds found in vitex known as diterpenes can bind to DA-2 receptors found on lactotrophs, cells responsible for producing prolactin. Prolactin is involved in pregnancy and producing breast milk. Imagine a body that is committing most of its resources to nursing an infant. This doesn't leave much for starting to grow another fetus, which is why prolactin puts the brakes on fertility. It will reduce the secretion of progesterone in the period following ovulation known as the luteal phase. As the baby is weaned off breast milk, prolactin levels fall, progesterone rises, and these changes make pregnancy an option once more.
One double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that women who took a daily supplement of vitex agnus-castus for three months significantly improved symptoms of PMS including mood swings, bloating, breast tenderness and irritability.
Options like PMS Vitex can help normalize your homones and reduce symptoms of PMS including hormonal acne.
If you are interested in trying vitex agnus-castus, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider first. This is because vitex agnus-castus can interact with certain medications, and it is not recommended for use in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Now, the transition to menopause
Menopause is another time in a woman's life when her hormones are in flux. During menopause, the ovaries stop producing eggs, and the levels of the hormone's estrogen and progesterone decline. This can lead to a variety of symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and mood swings.
Plant-based estrogens known as phytoestrogens can be found in foods like soy and the isoflavones it contains. The benefits of regular soy consumption can be traced back to women in Asian cultures who have a lower incidence of menopausal symptoms compared to women in North America. They also have lower incidence of hormone dependent cancers and cardiovacular disease associated with menopause. This is why non-GMO, fermented soy is one of the main ingredients in A.Vogel's MenoSupport Complex. It helps slow the decline of hormones by gently supplementing them during the menopausal transition. This reduces the severity and frequency of associated symptoms.
The other medicinal ingredients in the complex include hibiscus and magnesium.
Hibiscus is a flower that has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. It is most known for its benefits on the cardiovascular system, and it has been shown to be helpful in reducing the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems. During menopause, the risk of heart disease increases dramatically due to the fluctuations in hormone levels. Hibiscus can help to regulate these hormones and keep the cardiovascular system healthy.
Magnesium is a mineral that is essential for human health. It is involved in a wide range of biological processes, including the regulation of hormones and blood sugar levels. Magnesium is also important for the health of the bones, and it can help to protect against osteoporosis.
With aging, magnesium levels within the cell and circulating through the body can drop significantly. This can lead to a range of problems such as mood swings, fatigue, and headaches. Magnesium supplementation can help to restore sufficient levels in the body. It is also beneficial for the cardiovascular system and can help to protect against heart disease.
If you need specific support for symptoms like hot flashes, some herbal support might be your best bet.
Sage (Salvia officinalis) is an effective treatment for hot flashes. It helps to cool the body down and can provide relief from the intense heat and sweating that often accompanies declining hormones. Products like Menoforce one a day contain therapeutic amounts of non-GMO, organic sage specifically targeted towards symptoms like these.
It has also undergone three separate clinical trials to assess its effectiveness in reducing the frequency and intensity of hot flashes and night sweats. In one clinical study, Menoforce reduced the frequency by 50% in 4 weeks and 64% in 8 weeks, with a strong indication of further reduction with continued use. The intensity of mild hot flashes were reduced by 46%, moderate ones by 62%, severe ones by 79% and very severe hot flashes were reduced by 100%.
Years after these results were published, a new team of researchers conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study on Menoforce to see if they could replicate the exciting findings. The more recent study demonstrated a 39.2% improvement in overall menopause symptoms as per the Menopause Rating Scale, and a further 55.3% improvement in hot flash severity in just one month! Furthermore, the research to date has shown that using fresh sage leaves creates a far more potent product - 4x more effective to be exact!
As a bonus, it is safe to take alongside hormone therapy and it can also be used for those experiencing hyperhidrosis, excessive sweating of the hands, feet, back – the list goes on!
Though PMS and the transition to menopause can be difficult, there are many plant-based options available to help lessen symptoms. Herbal supplements like sage can be extremely effective in reducing hot flashes and night sweats, while soy isoflavones, vitex and hibiscus can support other common symptoms of the female experience.
- Bommer, S. A. G. E., P. Klein, and A. Suter. "First time proof of sage's tolerability and efficacy in menopausal women with hot flushes." Advances in Therapy 28.6 (2011): 490-500.
- Bommer, S., P. Klein, and A. Suter. "A multicentre open clinical trial to assess the tolerability and efficacy of sage tablets in menopausal patients with hot flushes." Planta Medica 75.09 (2009): PJ159.
- Cassidy, Aedin, et al. "Critical review of health effects of soyabean phyto-oestrogens in post-menopausal women." Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 65.1 (2006): 76-92.
- Tacani, Pascale Mutti, et al. "Characterization of symptoms and edema distribution in premenstrual syndrome." International Journal of Women's Health 7 (2015): 297.
- Wilfried, Dimpfel, Chiegoua Dipah Gwladys Nina, and Bommer Silvia. "Effectiveness of Menosan® Salvia officinalis in the treatment of a wide spectrum of menopausal complaints. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial." Heliyon 7.2 (2021): e05910.
- Yonkers, K., R. Casper, and William F. Crowley Jr. "Epidemiology and pathogenesis of premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder." UpToDate (2015).