menstraul cramps

What causes PMS?


PMS is by far the most common women’s health complaint. For some women, it disrupts their whole lives. PMS seems to be partly a consequence of our modern lives. In times past, our diets consisted of more whole and fresh foods than they do today. Our environment wasn’t full of chemicals, nor our foods full of junk. The modern woman’s lifestyle seems almost made to order for stress and imbalance. Today’s foods and our environment are full of chemicals that clearly affect hormone balance. 90% of premenopausal American women experience some degree of PMS. Over 150 symptoms have been documented - new ones are being added all the time. Symptoms like headaches, adult acne, food cravings, bloating, irregular bowel movements, and mood swings can last anywhere from 2 days to as long as 2 weeks! Some women say their cycles make them feel out of control most of the month! While most women try to grin and bear PMS aggravation, up to 10% have symptoms serious enough to seek professional help.

What's happening to our bodies?

The hormone shift in estrogen/progesterone ratios during the menstrual cycle is the major factor in PMS symptoms. (Women report the most symptoms in the two week period before menstruation, when the ratios are the most elevated.) Low brain serotonin, low thyroid, excess estrogen along with prostaglandin imbalance because of poor liver malfunction, and a diet loaded with too much salt, red meat, sugar and caffeine are all implicated in PMS. Most women who get PMS don’t get enough regular exercise. Many have low B vitamins, don’t get enough quality protein and have several mineral deficiencies. Stress or long term emotional distress can be a big factor.

But drugs and chemical medicines to take care of the symptoms, standing as they do outside a woman’s natural cycle, usually do not bring positive results for women. The medical establishment, with highly focused “one-treatment-for-one-symptom” protocols, has not been successful in addressing PMS. For example, contraceptive drugs, regularly given to reduce symptoms, make PMS worse for some women. Antidepressant drugs, the new rage for PMS treatment, mean insomnia and shakiness for many patients instead of relaxation.

PMS symptoms tends to get worse for women in their late thirties. Hormone imbalances after taking birth control pills, after pregnancy, and just before menopause magnify symptoms. For some women, a PMS problem becomes an endometriosis diagnosis as they move into their thirties. Switch from tampons to pads if you are very congested. Some research also shows that tampons may raise the risk of endometriosis. Up to 60% of women with severe PMS also struggle with allergies, especially to yeast. When the immune system attacks an allergen it produces inflammatory prostaglandins that trigger menstrual pain. Clearly there is no one cause and no one treatment for PMS. A holistic approach is more beneficial and allows a woman to tailor treatment to her own needs. See next page, Liver Cleansing page 211 and Hypoglycemia Diet page 470 for more information.

Do You Get PMS? Check out the following most common signs of PMS to see if they apply to you.

  • Are you unusually irritable, depressed, argumentative or tense at certain times each month?

  • Do you experience cyclical water retention, bloating, and constipation each month?

  • Do you feel a noticeable energy drop before your period… to the point where you don’t want to get out of bed or do anything?

  • Do you get regular monthly headaches or lower back pain before your period?

  • Do you get sore, swollen breasts before your period?

  • Do you get nausea attacks and heavy cramping just before and during your period?

  • Do you get food cravings for salt and sweets before and during your period? Do you tend to binge during certain times of the month?

  • Do you get acne and skin eruptions before and during your period?

  • Do you get pre-period mouth sores? (Mouth sores with mood swings mean probable low progesterone or thyroid levels.)

To Life-long health,

Linda Page, Ph.D., Traditional Naturopath

Why are our hormones so imbalanced?

Estrogen Disrupting Chemicals may be to blame... Environmental hormones are so commonplace in modern society that there is no way to completely avoid them. They come from pollutants, hormone-injected meats and dairy foods, plastics, pesticides, and hormone replacement drugs for both sexes. Only in the last ten years has anyone realized how common environmental estrogens are in today’s world. Nearly 40% of the pesticides used in commercial agriculture are suspected hormone disruptors. All of the Earth’s waterways are connected, so chemical pollutants containing environmental hormones reach your food supply wherever you live.

Hormone disrupters can affect your entire endocrine system, including the system of your glands, hormones and cellular receptors in your body. They alter the production and breakdown of your own hormones, and the function of your hormone receptors — disrupting hormone balance at its developmental core. They can compete for hormone receptor sites in the body and bind to them in place of natural hormones, causing fluctuations in your hormonal levels. They are a serious concern for women in early pregnancy because a developing embryo is highly sensitive to estrogen disruptor toxicity.

Hormone imbalance disorders are epidemic through this country. We see hormone imbalance in women’s disorders like PMS, endometriosis and fibroids. Further, women with hysterectomies are only beginning to see the harm that removing delicate glands, or treating fragile hormones with drugs can do. Bone loss is clearly related to hormone imbalance. ). A poorly functioning liver (the liver metabolizes excess estrogen), and a high fat, processed foods diet (excess fat harbors hormones) are almost always implicated.

Environmental estrogens can wreak havoc on male and female fertility.  Multiple exposures to environmental estrogens disrupt conception efforts for both partners, affecting ovulation, and lowering sperm count and viability.

Other women’s diseases associated with long exposure to estrogen mimics in the environment: 1) reproductive organ cancer; 2) breast and uterine fibroids; 3) polycystic ovarian syndrome; 4) endometriosis; 5) PID (pelvic inflammatory disease); 6) gallbladder disease; 7) blood clots, stroke.

Are Hormone Disruptors Impacting You? Signs that you may have estrogen disruption:

  • Breast inflammation and pain that worsens before menstrual periods, usually followed by heavy, painful periods.
  • Weight gain: especially in the hips. Bloating, mood swings, low sex drive or vaginal dryness.
  • Head hair loss/facial hair growth. Dry skin or premature wrinkling.
  • Hot flashes: or early perimenopause.
  • Endometriosis: now linked to dioxin, an airborne hormone disrupter.
  • Breast and uterine fibroid development, ovarian cysts, and pelvic inflammatory disease.
  • Breast, uterine and reproductive organ cancer: up to 60% more DDE, DDT and PCB’s, known estrogen disruptors, in women with breast cancer.
  • Early puberty: nearly half of African-American girls and 15% of Caucasian girls now begin to develop sexually by age 8, a clear indicator of estrogen disruption.


Are You At Risk Of Exposure To Estrogen Disruptors? You may be especially exposed if: 1)  you live in a high agricultural area; you eat a high fat diet (fatty areas of your body store pesticides and other agricultural chemicals); 2) you eat hormone-injected dairy foods or meats regularly; 3) you’re on prescription HRT drugs or birth control pills.

To Life-long Health,

Linda Page, Ph.D., Traditional Naturopath