PMS and Menstrual Problems - Are Women Really Genetically Programmed to Suffer?
PMS is a condition that causes mood swings, irritability, depression, anxiety, fluid retention, bloating, breast tenderness, sugar cravings, headaches, and sleep disturbances, and it affects 75 percent of women.
In 20 percent it is so severe they need medical treatment, and about 8 percent have extreme symptoms that have been given a new name: premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Of course, a new drug has been "discovered" to cure it, called Sarafem (which is just Prozac with a new label). This was a great sleight of hand by the pharmaceutical industry, which is skilled at producing new diseases to match their drugs.
What about menopause? The brain fog, memory loss, mood swings, sleepless nights, vaginal dryness, low sex drive, palpitations, and anxiety common in menopause are simply signs of hormonal imbalances (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone). But are you truly destined to suffer? What's wrong with this picture?
It is based on the assumption that these symptoms are an inevitable part of aging and require "medical intervention" with serious medication to correct.
Which is simply untrue.
To think that 75 percent of women have a design flaw that gives them PMS and requires medical treatment to live a normal life is just absurd. To think that we all have to dwindle; shrivel; and lose our emotional, physical, and sexual vitality is a burdensome self-fulfilling prophecy.
We now have endless examples of balance and thriving at any age. One of my eighty-one-year-old female patients, with a twinkle in her eye, recently told me about her new boyfriend and their wonderful love life.
PMS and menopausal symptoms are signs of imbalances in your sex hormones. They are not the result of mutant genes that destroy our sexual vitality as we age. Instead, they are treatable symptoms of underlying imbalance in one of the core systems in your body. Get the sex hormones back in balance, and these problems usually disappear.
The emotional strain that comes with these conditions is an excellent way to understand the connection these hormones have to your mind, your body, and your reproductive cycle. It is yet another example of the way the body affects the brain.
Depression or Hormonal Imbalance?
Let me tell you the story of a patient of mine with PMDD. She was barely able to function. She suffered three weeks out of every month with severe physical symptoms and debilitating depression. Was she Prozac deficient? I think not.
She was thirty-seven years old. Many women feel worsening PMS symptoms as they get in their later reproductive years, because of changes in hormonal cycles. Part of what this particular woman experienced was severe depression, fatigue, anxiety, and food and sugar cravings that led to overeating and weight gain.
She also had joint pains, breast tenderness, heavy bleeding, hot flashes, dry skin, acne, hair loss, trouble with memory, poor sleep, and no sex drive.
She didn't drink alcohol but was a big coffee drinker. She started the day with a bagel and cheese; had a cafeteria lunch; indulged in chocolates in the afternoon; and ate a healthy dinner followed by binging on ice cream, chips, and Cheerios.
She also complained of gas and bloating.
She also ate a lot of dairy.
This is a story I hear all too often. The good news is that there was a simple solution for her that didn't involve taking medication.
I helped her change her diet, cut out the sugar and caffeine, eliminate her food allergens, take a few supplements and herbs, do a little exercise, and within one menstrual cycle her life changed.
All her symptoms resolved, she lost weight and dramatically increased her energy. Her mood stabilized (meaning her depression evaporated), and her acne and dry skin went away. All without medication.
The approach I take to this problem is part of the overall approach of functional medicine. Define the imbalance (in this case, severe hormonal imbalances), address the causes first (namely diet/lifestyle in this case), and then help the body repair and regain balance. The body's natural intelligence takes care of the rest.
When you use this method to rebalance your hormones, not only do the physical symptoms of PMS disappear, but the mental symptoms usually go away as well. That's because sex hormones act on various parts of your brain that influence your mood and behavior.
To learn more about how to overcome the effects of PMS or other menstrual difficulties and the impact they have on your mood, see Dr. Hyman's new book, The UltraMind Solution.
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