Some women experience such intense PMS symptoms during ovulation and even right through menstruation that they can hardly think straight.
When they come to us looking for PMS relief, the most common complaints we hear are about severe pain, menstrual cramps, bloating, water retention, heavy flow and irritability.
Dysmenorrhea (aka painful menses) is a very common reason for a woman to see a naturopathic doctor, who can help you feel better in as little as 2 cycles.
If you’re looking for relief, here are some PMS treatment tips from three naturopathic doctors and one registered massage therapist here in our Toronto clinic…
Dr. Tehseen Meghji, Naturopathic Doctor – Toronto, ON
- Estrogen imbalance. The PMS symptoms you’re experiencing are often the result of some type of hormonal imbalance, especially with regards to estrogen.
- Avoid xenoestrogens. These are often found in plastic water bottles, other plastic containers and plastic wrap. They’re even found in some shampoos and cosmetics, so you’ll want to find non-toxic versions of these products. Even unfiltered water can be a problem. Decreasing your use of plastics, toxic care products and unfiltered water will decrease xenoestrogens in your body, which can lead to a decrease in PMS symptoms.
- Eat organic animal products. Conventional meat and dairy products that are injected with synthetic hormones can also contribute to hormonal imbalance, so be sure to go for organic if you eat animal products.
- Other hormonal imbalance. PMS symptoms are often the result of excess estrogen and a deficiency in progesterone, and it can also be an imbalance of other hormones such as thyroid or cortisol. A naturopathic doctor can help you figure this out and then move you towards balance by making nutritional changes and using homeopathic medicine and botanical tinctures as PMS treatment.
Dr. Kate Whimster, Naturopathic Doctor
- Herbs. Herbs such as cramp bark can be very helpful for short term PMS relief.
- Seed protocol. Consuming specific seeds at certain times each month is a common PMS treatment method to help with hormonal imbalances.
- Success story. Dr. Whimster used cramp bark and the seed protocol along with acupuncture to help a women go from extremely painful PMS to no pain by her third visit.
- Anti inflammatory spices and supplements such as turmeric and fish oil can also help bring short term relief.
- Long term. A number of modalities can help decrease or even eliminate your symptoms in the long term, especially naturopathic remedies, homeopathic remedies and drainage. Also, changes to your birth control method, diet and exercise regimen can have a tremendous impact.
- Success story. Dr. Whimster has a client who hadn’t had a period for one year since going off the pill. Using a combination of herbs, drainage and acupuncture, she got her period after 6 months and eventually, she got pregnant.
PMS Treatment Video Transcriptions
Dr. Tehseen Meghji
Phil: Are women coming in to see you as a naturopathic doctor about PMS when it becomes really painful certain times of the month or…?
Tehseen: For sure.
Phil: Could that be the main reason?
Tehseen: Yeah. Generally people come in because they’re noticing a significant change in how they feel, one or two weeks before their menstrual cycle starts. So symptoms that people generally come in with is feeling bloated or having water retention a couple of weeks before their period or bad menstrual cramps, heavy flow, irritability. And those are just to name a couple of things. So I see that a lot with women who are definitely very concerned about their cycles and not knowing what’s going on.
Phil: Yeah. What can they do on their own even without you? Are there some things that can be helpful?
Tehseen: Yes, for sure. So usually, PMS is an imbalance in the production of hormones, whether that’s an excess or deficiency in hormones. So avoiding what we call xenoestrogens in the environment is really important. So xenoestrogens actually are things that are high in estrogen that we find in our environment, and some examples of that is plastics. So avoiding plastic containers, plastic water bottles and plastic wrap, and things like that. Avoiding those things can help with decreasing estrogen per se in the body. As well as you find xenoestrogens in shampoos and cosmetics that we use. So being very careful to avoid things such as parabens and phthalates can be definitely helpful. And drinking unfiltered water can also expose women to excess estrogen. So that’s something to be very mindful of. Other things… is the food that we eat. So I usually them women to… that are experiencing PMS symptoms to favor meat and dairy sources that are organic and not injected with synthetic hormones. And if we’re not able to get those, then trying to avoid those sources, will make a difference in how their…how they…how their menstrual cycle reacts month to month. So those are two things you can do at home for sure.
Tehseen: Yeah and going beyond that, what would you help them with that they couldn’t figure out themselves and that conventional medicine would be able to help them with?
Phil: For sure. So there’s lots that we can do. So primarily it is a hormone imbalance. Generally, the trend that we see is that there is excess estrogen and a deficiency in progesterone. So those are two of some of the main female hormones for women in their cycles. But it’s not only that. Sometimes it’s also the thyroid hormone that can be a problem as well as the stress hormone called cortisol. So it’s looking into all of those things when avoiding certain things in the diet is not helping. So when we look into that finding again where that imbalance is, where the root cause is, we can work on balancing the hormones for women and making them more balanced so that they’re experiencing less symptoms. And we do this through nutritional support, homeopathic medicine, as well as botanical tinctures that are specifically formulated for hormonal balancing. And usually women will see a difference between…between two to three months, or two to three cycles.
Phil: Wow, that’s great!
Tehseen: So it’s pretty good results…
Phil: Yeah.Okay. Amazing.
Kate: So yeah typically people will come, you know painful periods. Often that will go along maybe with heavy bleeding, PMS, like some other period symptoms but sometimes it’s just pain.
Phil: And what do you do?
Kate: So painful periods, I’ll usually go through like a little bit of medical history like when did your period start? Have you ever been on the pill? Is it better or worse on the pill? You know, have you ever had ultrasound like to see if we can rule out some other possible causes. And usually I’ll just go through like all the details of their entire menstrual cycle: so symptoms before, during, and after the flow, how heavy is the flow – that kind of thing. So then you get a bit of a picture of what’s going on with the whole period. Typically if I’m treating painful periods, I’ll do short-term or long-term approach. So short-term is like pain relief which is what have they tried for pain relief, what’s effective or not effective, what are their symptoms that go along with the pain ‘cause it’s usually not just pain like it might be pain and fatigue or some people have pain so bad, they’re vomiting or whatever. And then I’ll usually and try to put in place like naturopathic stuff that… for pain relief. You know, because usually if someone’s coming for painful period, it’s not just like mild. It’s pretty bad. And so they may be missing work or whatever. So short term, you’re just trying to find some pain relief.
Phil: What are you doing for that? Could be many?
Kate: So like a few things. Like there’s some herbs that are helpful like cramp bark is a herb that you’ll see around a lot, that like literally it’s for cramps. It works really well for some people. There’s some homeopathics you can use for pain. Sometimes like heat makes a big difference for people. And sometimes like anti-inflammatory stuff like turmeric, fish oil, those types of things sometimes can help, but I find it’s different for everyone so you should put in place some of those things. And then I work on hormone balance. And there’s like tons of different ways to do that. Often like herbs can be helpful in terms of like regulating the cycle a bit more ‘cause pain if it’s not caused by something that’s like really easily diagnosable then it’s usually just like the hormone balance not being abnormal but sort of certain things being dominant at the wrong times, and certain prostaglandiswhich is sort of what causes pain being high during that period and you can sort of shift that. So herbs or homeopathy or as I mentioned earlier like drainage working on like the female hormone cycle and again, I’ll think of a little bit of short-term, long-term. So short term, you might do a little bit more like herbs stuff to serve like really shift out of the pattern that the period is in. But long term like most patients are gonna take that stuff forever – some people will, but most people won’t. So you’re looking more like underlying hormone imbalance so through diet, diet, exercise that type of thing, drainage – I will do usually for like maybe three, six months and that will often like change the cycle a little bit. If someone is taking hormonal birth control and that has made it worse, like someone’s getting off that can make a big difference. Or changing birth control methods can make a difference. But really, looking to sort of like change the female hormone balance so that every period is more manageable. Yeah.
Phil: And have you had success, like do you…are you pretty successful with this both short-term and long-term? Can you often find some short-term relief and…?
Kate: Yeah, short-term there’s some really good stuff. Like yesterday, actually I had a patient and her chief concern…it was her third visit so chief concern was like extreme period pain that she had her whole life and she is quite young, I guess she’s in her 20s but her whole life she’s had this problem where she’s like completely not functional during the pain. And she was pretty skeptical but it couldn’t make any difference at all. What we did with her is we just did like some short-term relief. So actually in her case, I used cramp bark and that was helpful. We did something called the “seed protocol” which is using different seeds and oils like fats, like fish oil and even primrose oil at certain times in the cycle to try to regulate the period a little bit. I referred her also for acupuncture so all of that stuff, she had one weird period, so she had a very long cycle. And she just got her period a couple of weeks ago and had no pain. So that was really quick change.
Kate: And the thing with her then is to see okay how does the next cycle go and to sort of do some of the more longer-term stuff to alleviate the problem then she’s next to doall the short-term stuff. But it’s had like a huge impact.
Phil: Pretty fast too.
Kate: Yeah, that was really fast.
Phil: That great. Yeah. Anything else in… on this topic?
Kate: No, it’s…
Phil: Irregular periods or something else you mentioned.
Kate: Oh yeah, irregular periods can be… can be different. Like… so and often people come worried about irregular periods for fertility reasons. There’s…there sort of different things, there’s lack of a period entirely. There’s periods that are irregular and they’re just… they’re not predictable when they come and then there’s periods that people will call irregular but they’re… they are regular but odd like where they have spotting before or in the middle of their cycle – that kind of things. They’re all a little bit different but I would take a similar approach. In that case, I’m not looking so much for short-term relief ‘cause it’s not like a symptom, like it’s not a problem to have irregular periods necessarily. You have to really get more to the root. So that… I’m looking more at like short-term, I would use more herbs again to regulate the period that can be done really quickly like within a few cycles. Acupuncture can make a big difference there too. And long-term, I’m looking at are there any underlying causes that are causing this. If there’s a lack of a period, what’s going on with the hormones? Often you will see no period after someone takes a birth control pill and comes off the pill. And sometimes they just never get their period again. That’s actually really common. And so in that case, you’re looking to sort of re-establish that connection between the brain and the ovaries so that they can do their job together again, in which case you can use homeopathy herbs to do that. If you’re looking at something like periods that are just unpredictable, it’s probably…it may be an issue with ovulation is not always occurring at the same time, or is not occurring at all. And then you’re looking at where the underlying cause of that like nutritional deficiencies can cause that, age can cause that like perimenopause which is not abnormal. Again, the wrong hormones being dominant at the wrong times of the cycle can cause that. And the same thing with spotting as you’ll often see spotting in the middle of the period or right before the period or even after the period. Again, if the hormonal balance isn’t quite right. So it’s a little bit different in that you’re not really treating it as a symptom; you’re treating it as like this is a sign of an underlying…
Kate: …issue that needs to be resolved.
Phil: Yeah, I can really see how naturopath can be so helpful because it’s hard to figure this out on your own, so many possibilities.
Kate: Yeah, it’s hard to think you’re out and it’s really helpful like you know, a good example is like after coming off the pill, a lot of women… women come off the pill because they’re like “I wanna get pregnant. I don’t wanna get pregnant usually like immediately.” So… but sometimes they don’t get their period at all and so it can be really confusing. There’s so many possible causes of that. It can be really confusing to figure it out but you can use like even if they don’t have a period at all, then you’re using other… sort of signals that’s how you’ll like often all womenhave track their cycle to see if they are ovulating, if their body trying to ovulate, when is that happening. You can do some hormone testing to see if their body is trying to ovulate or trying to go through that cycle and get an idea of what’s going on. But sometimes it’s just time and sort of treating. And like recently, I had a patient…I think she first came to see me…it was August last year…no, actually it was March last year. She came to see me and she’d been off the pill for one year with no period. And she wanted to get pregnant. And she’d been told she had a condition called PCOS or polycystic ovarian syndrome. But they were not a hundred percent sure she had, she had some cysts in her ovaries, which could just be like follicles that could develop and ovulate that aren’t. So it was a bit inconclusive but she didn’t have any other symptoms of PCOS. And so we did some work. We did lot of herbs, drainage again…so sort of every month like working on the cycle a little bit more. She went into some acupuncture, and about six months went by and then she finally got her period. And she was like, “Oh this is taking way too long.” And I was like, “Well, you know, progress, right? It’s good.” And so we’ve done in the past years – that was a year ago, she’s diligently tracked her cycle every month, we’ve been able to determine – yes, she’s ovulating. Her cycles are long but they’ve getting shorter, shorter, shorter and like more normal. And then like I think thatat the beginning of this month, she came in and she’s pregnant. So she’s able to get pregnant just because that she knows when she’s ovulating, she knows when to try, the period became more regular and everything went back to normal.
Phil: Yeah, that’s great.
Kate: So that’s often like post-pill. That’s a typical sort of case that you would see.