What is PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)?
Premenstrual Syndrome is a combination of symptoms that some women experience before their menstrual period. PMS is quite common; it is estimated that around 75% of women experience some form of PMS. PMS tends to follow a predictable pattern, and the severity ranges from barely noticeable to intense. The list of potential symptoms of PMS is long, but most women who experience PMS will only face a few of the symptoms. Symptoms of PMS include both emotional and physical symptoms:
|Tension or anxiety||Joint or muscle pain|
|Mood swings and irritability or anger||Weight gain related to fluid retention|
|Appetite changes and food cravings||Abdominal bloating|
|Trouble falling asleep (insomnia)||Breast tenderness|
|Social withdrawal||Acne flare-ups|
|Poor concentration||Constipation or diarrhea|
|Change in libido||Alcohol intolerance|
PMS may be only experienced incidentally due to chemical changes in the brain. It may resolve itself over time due to hormonal changes throughout a woman’s life. PMS is typically managed with simple lifestyles changes and does not typically affect the woman’s quality of life.
What is PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder)?
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder shares many of the same symptoms as PMS. However, it is a severe condition that causes significant physical and emotional distress and affect the quality of life. It is estimated that somewhere between 5% and 10% of menstruating women suffer from PMDD.
The symptoms of PMDD typically begin to appear during your 20’s and tend to worsen over time. Some women’s symptoms become significantly worse as they enter menopause.
Symptoms of PMDD include:
- Anxiety, panic attacks
- Depression, sudden bouts of sadness
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Lethargy or fatigue, decreased energy levels
- Irritability, sudden mood changes
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of interest in activities of daily living
- Brain fog, forgetfulness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Tension, headaches
- Muscle aches, joint pain
- Changes in appetite, food cravings
- Trouble falling asleep (insomnia)
- Swelling of extremities
- Breast tenderness
The symptoms can be debilitating and difficult to manage. Women with PMDD may experience a disturbance in their overall functioning, work performance, and ability to maintain relationships. Some women with PMDD are underdiagnosed with PMS and told to endure the symptoms and adapt. Other women are misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder.
In Western Medicine, PMDD diagnosis is usually a challenge. There is no blood or urine test to look for PMDD. The typical tool for diagnosis is tracking the symptoms in a journal for at least two complete menstrual cycles and talking to your doctor about the entries.
The causes and risk factors linked with PMDD include:
- History of anxiety or mood disorder
- Family history of PMS or PMDD
- Hormonal changes: ALLO, progesterone, oestrogen
- Significant stress or trauma
- Chronic inflammation
Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, treats the body as a system of interrelated parts which work together to allow for the flow of life energy, or qi, throughout the body. In TCM, if any part of the body is blocked or injured, it prevents qi from flowing properly. According to Chinese philosophy, liver qi is responsible for much of the movement of qi through the body, and liver qi can become stagnant as a result of stress or anxiety. Moreover, liver qi can invade other organs, such as the stomach and spleen, and cause additional problems.
Liver qi stagnation has many of the same symptoms as PMDD
Liver qi stagnation has many of the same symptoms as PMDD, including mental symptoms such as depression and mood swings, and physical symptoms including abdominal pain and discomfort and changes to appetite. In fact, menstrual symptoms such as PMS, irritability, and swollen breasts are also symptoms of liver qi stagnation.
PMDD Natural Treatment
Chinese medicine adopts a holistic approach when treating PMDD. Often treated through herbs, lifestyle changes, and holistic medical practices, such as acupuncture. Recent studies have shown acupuncture to be a promising PMDD natural treatment for both PMS and PMDD. One review of several studies found that acupuncture combined with herbal medicine interventions provided a 50% reduction in initial symptomology with no adverse side effects.
In addition to acupuncture, the following herbs and lifestyle changes have been shown to improve the symptoms of PMDD.
Herbs, supplements, and nutritional changes:
- Oxaloacetate/Vitamin C has been shown to relieve cramps and depression associated with PMS and PMDD
- Calcium carbonate has been shown to reduce pain caused by PMS and PMDD
- Omega-3 fatty acids were shown to reduce overall PMDD symptomatology
- Chasteberry, also known as vita agnus, or simply Vitex, has been shown to reduce symptoms of breast pain, swelling, cramps, food cravings, depression, and anxiety
- Ginkgo biloba, crocus sativus, and evening primrose oil may have a small effect on symptoms
Exercise and lifestyle changes:
- Aerobic exercise has been shown to help with physical symptoms
- Nurture yourself during episodes of PMDD, including activities of mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and sleep as well as avoiding emotional triggers which exacerbate emotional symptoms
- Qi gong practices including mindful posture, breathing, movement, and focused intent
What is PME (Premenstrual Exacerbation)?
Premenstrual Exacerbation is a condition where another pre-existing condition is worsened during the luteal/menstrual phases of a woman’s menstrual cycle. PME differs from PMDD because women with PMDD experience the onset of new symptoms during their menstrual period. With PME, a woman experiences the symptoms of her pre-existing condition with greater severity.
Symptoms include a pre-existing medical or mental health condition which is severely and significantly worse during the menstrual period, including:
- Clinical depression
- Anxiety and panic disorders
- Suicidal ideation
- Chronic migraines
- Eating disorders
- Other conditions
Like PMDD, the symptoms of PME are not easily managed by lifestyle changes and cause a significant disturbance in quality of life.
The Bottom Line
PMDD is more than just PMS, it is a severe condition that affects a woman’s quality of life and includes physical and mental symptoms which revolve around the menstrual cycle. Conventional Western medicine treatments usually consist of prescribed antidepressants, other drugs, and even invasive surgery. Traditional Chinese Medicine has been found to treat the symptoms of PMDD with acupuncture, herbs, and practices of exercise and mindfulness. These methods provide significant reduction in symptoms of PMDD without adverse side effects.
Agnus Castus (Chasteberry)
Vitex Agnus Castus is a popular herbal supplement primarily used to support women who are transitioning through menopause and relieve PMS symptoms such as menstrual cramps, breast tenderness, bloating, irritability and mood swings.
Ginkgo Biloba is a powerful Ginkgo biloba tablets can be easily added to your daily routine. It contains natural compounds to improve blood circulation and offers a range of health benefits, including improving cognitive function, brain fog and focus.
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We can’t guarantee the treatment result, as the symptoms of conditions are unpredictable and vary greatly from person to person. The treatment length and recovery time also varies for individual. Please visit our clinics website: GinSen where a specialists will discuss your care and provide a consultation, and the treatment will be designed to meet your individual needs.