How does a typical menstruating day look for you? Is it full of cramps, moodiness, cravings, and tears? Or is it introspective, relaxed, and intuitive?
Premenstrual syndrome is just as the name implies; a syndrome. It’s a disorder, meaning something is out of order – out of the ordinary. Sadly, many people face physical and emotional pain during their period and accept it as normal. But I am here to tell you that PMS is not normal!
Our bodies weren’t designed to hurt us, they are incredibly intelligent and work hard for us every single day. Every ache and pain is a signal to us that something is out of balance. It’s important to keep in mind that these signals can be suppressed when we take Advil or Midol. So if we can remember to observe and thank these symptoms, we can see that they relay a message that it is time to make a change.
What do we think of most when we think of ‘that time of the month’? The first thing that probably comes to mind is emotional instability, moods swinging from happiness to anger to tears.
If you’re familiar with Traditional Chinese Medicine, you know that emotions like anger and frustration are related to ‘Liver Qi stagnation’. Although the organ systems in Chinese Medicine are broader functional systems than the actual physical organs, there is some overlap. So one of the major symptoms of PMS leads us to the clue that the liver may be out of balance.
The liver is responsible for regulating and excreting hormones. If it’s congested due to dietary and environmental stress, old hormones get recycled into the body creating hormonal imbalances, like estrogen dominance.
Estrogen dominance is not uncommon, and it is particularly prevalent in those who suffer from endometriosis. It presents in people with essentially too much estrogen compared to progesterone. Estrogen can over saturate the endocrine system for two possible reasons. One, you are taking in too many xenoestrogens. Or two, your body is not breaking down and excreting old estrogen properly.
Xenoestrogens are synthetic and naturally occurring compounds that have estrogenic-like effects within the body. They come from pesticides, conventional makeup, nail polishes, birth control, plastics, BPA, conventionally raised meat, and naturally occurring phytoestrogens come from foods like soy or dairy. These compounds have the ability to bind to estrogen receptors in our bodies and potentially cause hormonal imbalances.
On the other hand, if your liver is sluggish and it isn’t excreting old estrogens properly, they get recycled back into the body creating an excess. The liver is responsible for conjugating old estrogens so that they become water-soluble and leave the body via urine. Because the liver plays such an important role in excreting old hormones, any hormonal imbalance can indicate that the liver is in need of some support.
Signs of estrogen dominance are PMS, mood swings, anger, endometriosis, abnormal weight gain, hormonal acne around the jaw area, irregular periods, cramping, bloating, blood clotting, fatigue, sore breasts, breast cancer.
Estrogen dominance is incredibly common and is not something to be feared. We simply need to understand it to correct it.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
Pesticides: Pesticides and herbicides are a huge problem if you are suffering from hormonal imbalances or liver problems. Our bodies are bombarded with chemicals on a daily basis and the liver has to deal with it, often creating stagnation. Choose organic produce instead, especially those that are typically heavily sprayed and listed on the ‘dirty dozen list’.
BPA and plastic: BPA can imitate the body’s hormones, and it can interfere with production, secretion, function, and elimination of natural hormones. Try to avoid water/drinks that are bottled in plastic.
Conventional beauty or cleaning products: Often conventional soaps, makeup, nail polish, lotions, perfumes, air fresheners have compounds that can mimic estrogen. Swap out products for organic and eco-friendly products to reduce the chemical load in your home.
Nutritional deficiencies: Zinc, Magnesium and B vitamins all play a role in regulating hormones. Studies suggest that nearly 75% of the population are deficient in magnesium, zinc and vitamin B12. Add these into your supplement regime to help regulate hormones.
Low fibre diet: Estrogen latches onto fibre and leaves the body via stool once it has completed its cycle. If you don’t have regular bowel movements (1-3 times daily), estrogen is reabsorbed into the bloodstream, creating estrogen dominance.
Lack of movement: Movement helps to increase blood flow. More exercise like hiking, yoga, dancing, lifting weights, Qi gong, or swimming helps to reduce the number of fatty deposits in the liver so it can metabolize hormones more effectively.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Focus on supporting your liver with foods and herbs. Don’t eat any dense fat in the mornings so that your liver can continue to cleanse itself and get rid of excess estrogen. Dense fats include avocado, eggs, meat, coconut. Save these for lunch or dinner.
Eat cooked, warming, nourishing meals while menstruating to soothe the reproductive system. Try having baked yams, sweet potatoes, beets, warm soup, warm greens, and cruciferous vegetables such as Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
Cruciferous vegetables are an extremely important part of pain-free menstruation due to their ability to stimulate phase 2 of liver detoxification. It is in this phase that old estrogens leave the body. When the liver is overburdened, phase 2 is slowed down, impacting the regulation of hormones.
Drink ginger tea! Ginger relieves menstrual cramps, nausea, and upset stomachs. Try having this before and during menstruation to help avoid cramping. This warming herb helps move blood and the hormones move with it. Remember that it is important to take herbs consistently to really receive their benefits.
MOVE!!! Do some gentle yoga or go for a walk. As difficult as this may seem while experiencing cramps, it will help reduce pain by pumping out stagnant blood pooled up in the liver. By moving blood with movement, you are helping move old hormones out of the body.
Take Broccoli sprout extract. Perhaps one of the most promising supplements to take for estrogen dominance. Sulforaphane, the active compound in broccoli sprout extract, has a unique ability to stimulate the phase 2 liver detoxification system.
The phase 2 pathway is very important since it is the final stage for the removal of harmful compounds and detoxification of excess estrogens. It is so important because it’s actually quite easy to stimulate phase 1 detoxification (for example with herbs and B-vitamins) but it is more difficult to activate the very important phase 2 pathway.
This pathway is essential for the elimination of excess hormones like estrogen. Sulforaphane also has an impressive range of anti-cancer activity by preventing cancer cell replication and reducing tumour growth in women’s reproductive systems.
Drink Nettle and Raspberry leaf tea. Raspberry leaf and Nettle support the reproductive system by supporting the adrenal glands production of progesterone, the opposing hormone needed to balance estrogen. In women’s health, the ovaries get a lot of attention for producing the reproductive hormones. In truth, the adrenal glands share equal responsibility in producing estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. When hormones are thrown off balance, it’s important to look at the health of the adrenal glands as they help to regulate normal levels.
Eat fruit. A woman’s reproductive system is like a flowering tree that requires the proper nutrients to bear fruit. And those nutrients come from, well, fruit. The phytonutrients found in fruit play a critical role in avoiding disease and polycystic ovary syndrome with the help of their anti-cancer and anti-tumour properties. The abundance of antioxidants found in fruit also helps detox a stagnant liver to help remove old estrogens. The active water content in fruit hydrate a thirsty liver and soothe tight muscles that are associated with cramping. Eat an abundance of fruit; especially berries, apples, papaya, cranberries, pomegranates and melons.
Use organic tampons and pads. The chemicals found in conventional tampons and pads are endocrine disruptors meaning they mimic the action of estrogen in the body and cause imbalances. This rule also applies to household cleaning products, makeup, detergents, and food. Buy organic as much as possible.
WHAT YOU SHOULDN’T DO
Try to limit meat as much as possible while menstruating because its hormone content can mess with our own. You should definitely avoid red meat, processed meat, sandwich meat, and conventionally raised meat. Choose organic, grass-fed meat if you do choose to eat it.
Avoid heavy, creamy, cheesy sauces. These are hard on the liver and create even more stagnation.
Avoid oily or fried foods as the fat content slows down the liver.
Avoid consuming ice cream, iced drinks or chilled foods as the coldness increases stagnation and cramping.
Avoid drinking alcohol. For obvious reasons. Especially right before or during your period. We need to support our liver as much as possible during this time, not repress it.
Avoid eating too late in the evening. Nighttime is when the body regenerates all of its organs. Your liver is supposed to be repairing itself, not secreting bile to digest the food that you ate. If you eat late at night, your liver won’t fully regenerate.
Don’t repress your emotions. Repressing your emotions puts stress on your organs and slows down their function. Say how you’re feeling aloud, even if it’s just to yourself, or journal how you feel as a form of release.
It’s the liver!