Every month millions of women experience pre-menstrual symptoms just before their period, but for many women, these symptoms are so severe they are unable to work or enjoy everyday activities. 

PMS and PMDD – What’s the difference? 

Low mood, headaches, bloating, tiredness, and sugar cravings are all common symptoms of Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS). Caused by hormonal and neurotransmitter imbalances in the second half of the menstrual cycle (the time between ovulation and menstruation), PMS affects around 30-40% of reproductive age women. 
A less well-known but more disabling version of PMS is Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder. Affecting 3-8% of PMS sufferers, PMDD can be hugely disruptive to day-to-day life and relationships. There is a large crossover between PMS and PMDD symptoms, but PMDD symptoms are more severe and may include: 
- Depression 
- Anger 
- Forgetfulness 
- Feeling overwhelmed or out of control 
- Paranoia 
- Panic attacks 
- Appetite changes 
- Joint and/or muscle pains 
- Difficulty sleeping 
- Digestive symptoms: diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, vomiting 
- Loss of interest in work, relationships, and sex. 

What causes PMDD? 

Like PMS, PMDD is thought to be caused by individual sensitivity to fluctuations in oestrogen, progesterone, and mood chemicals like serotonin in the 7-14 days before a period. Recent research shows that women with PMDD may carry a unique difference in a certain gene complex that responds to oestrogen and progesterone. An altered response by the gene complex to the highs and lows of sex hormones during the menstrual cycle leads to symptoms of PMDD. 
Women with PMDD are also thought to have lower levels of the sleep hormone melatonin during the pre-menstrual phase, which may explain the difficulties with sleeping. 

Can nutritional therapy help PMDD? 

One of the common underlying causes for pre-menstrual hormonal imbalances is having too much oestrogen relative to progesterone. To tackle this issue, I start by focusing on gut health and you can read more about how to do this here. Good gut health means we are eliminating old hormones effectively and preventing them recirculating in the body. 
Next, I focus on foods that supply key nutrients for detoxifying hormones in the liver: 
Broccoli, kale, rocket, cabbage, and cauliflower are all part of the cruciferous or brassica family. These veggies supply glucosinolates compounds that support Phase-1 hormone detoxification pathways in the liver. 
Sulphur-rich foods: eggs, garlic, and onions supply sulphur compounds for Phase-2 pathways. 
Turmeric, and brightly coloured berries and vegetables are packed with antioxidant nutrients that protect the liver, and phytonutrients that support hormone detoxification. 

Blood sugar balance. 

Another important aspect for PMS and PMDD is blood sugar balance. This can be hard when sweet cravings are driving you mad but sugary foods cause spikes and crashes in blood sugar levels that will worsen symptoms. 
To support blood sugar balance aim to: 
Include a palm-sized serving of protein with every meal (e.g., chicken, fish, beans, lentils, red meat, eggs) 
Limit cake, sweets, chocolate, fizzy drinks, and white bread and pasta as much as you can 
If you need to snack, opt for naturally sweet options like plain yoghurt with fresh pineapple or berries, or grapes with a handful of nuts. 
If you want to tackle PMDD or PMS with practical, achievable dietary and lifestyle changes, book a discovery call with me now and find out more about how nutritional therapy can help. 
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