* Menstruation is the beginning of a twenty-eight day cycle (may vary between 23 – 35 days) that occurs between puberty and menopause, in which the female body prepares for the conception and nurturing of a baby. * The menstrual cycle begins with the loss of the build up of the endometrial lining (menstruation), which lasts for about five days. After menstruation the ovaries manufacture estrogen for about ten days, which causes thickening of the endometrium (inner lining of the uterus) in preparation for receiving a fertilized egg. At the same time an egg is forming in the ovaries and is released during ovulation (about day fourteen) and travels down the fallopian tube to the uterus.
The egg has a life span of about twenty-four to forty-eight hours and this is the time at which pregnancy may occur. After ovulation, the remnants of the egg sac in the ovaries produce progesterone, this further stimulates the endometrium to provide a suitable area of attachment for a fertilized egg. If fertilization does not occur, hormone levels drop and menstruation occurs, thus beginning the cycle again.
* There are a number of problems that may occur with menstruation including – e(PMS) – discomfort that occurs before menstruation, is alleviated with menstruation and is suffered by most women to varying degrees. – Irregular menstruation – menstruation that does not occur or is irregular in its occurrence. – Heavy menstruation or menorrhagia – blood loss of over 80 ml that occurs consistently. – Menstrual cramping or dysmenorrhea – most women experience dysmenorrhea each month, some women may have mild pain and others may have disabling pain.
Causes of PMS
* It is thought that the cause of PMS is a hormonal change that occurs just before menstruation. * Causes of irregular menstruation include illness, weight fluctuations or loss, hormonal changes and excess exercise. * Causes of menorrhagia may include thyroid disorders, hormone imbalance, endometriosis, iron deficiency, endometrial polyps, the use of intrauterine devices (IUE), pelvic infection and fibroids. * Dysmenorrhea is the result of the excessively high release of or sensitivity to hormones called prostaglandins, which cause the uterus to contract.
* Symptoms of PMS include headaches, anxiety, weight gain, fluid retention, depression, irritability, bloating, mood swings and breast tenderness. * Symptoms of irregular menstruation include absent or irregular menstruation. * Symptoms of menorrhagia include regular heavy blood loss, over 80 ml. * Symptoms of dysmenorrhea include aches in the lower back, cramping which may be severe and headaches.
* Regular Exercise – such as low impact sport – walking, yoga, swimming and cycling is thought to reduce symptoms of PMS and dysmenorrhea. * Dietary Changes – that may improve symptoms of PMS include: – Eliminate meat. Avoiding or reduce the intake of caffeine, alcohol, sugar, cigarette smoke, dairy foods, fatty or fried food and processed or refined foods. – Do not skip meals, try to graze on complex carbohydrates, vegetable protein, magnesium, calcium and potassium rich foods. * Dietary Changes that may improve symptoms of menorrhagia include: – Eliminate meat and reduce intake of fat.. – Increasing the intake of vegetable sources of iron, including beetroot, sunflower seeds, green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, beans and lentils, whole grains and nuts such as almonds. * Dietary changes that may improve symptoms of dysmenorrhea include: – Eating regularly, do not skip meals, grazing is recommended. – Eliminate meat. Reduce or avoid the intake of salt, dairy products, caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and processed or refined foods. – Increasing the intake of vegetable protein. * Stress Management – a daily routine of yoga, meditation and or breathing exercises has been shown to reduce symptoms of PMS, menorrhagia and dysmenorrhea, as well as providing the benefits of general well being. Massage can also be beneficial in many forms of PMS.
* Natural treatments of PMS may include exercise, hydrotherapy (warm baths with essential oils), yoga, meditation, reflexology, massage and aromatherapy. * Natural treatment of irregular menstruation depends upon the cause but may include aromatherapy and acupuncture. * Natural treatment of menorrhagia depends upon the cause but may include acupuncture and acupressure. * Treatment of dysmenorrhea may include aromatherapy, acupuncture, yoga, exercise, shiatsu and hydrotherapy (warm baths with aromatherapy oils).
VITAMIN A – is thought to improve some symptoms of menorrhagia. 50,000 iu daily in divided doses for two weeks may help to normalize blood flow. Natural sources of vitamin A include leafy green vegetables, alfalfa, fennel seed, parsley, rose hip, kelp, lemongrass, yellow fruits and vegetables, milk, cheese and butter. Large dosing is not recommended without strict supervision from a physician as it has potential toxic side effects. Doses over 10,000 iu per day may cause birth defects if taken by pregnant women. Women of childbearing age are advised not to become pregnant during such a course or within one month after ceasing a course. Other toxic symptoms include headaches, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, brittle nails, abdominal upset and emotional instability.
VITAMIN B3 – NIACIN – Helps to relieve symptoms of menorrhagia. Take according to label instructions at least a week before menstruation. Natural sources of niacin include rose hip, alfalfa, carrot, dates, brewer’s yeast, potatoes, whole wheat, broccoli, tomatoes, chamomile, peppermint, parsley, dandelion greens and catnip. Do not take niacin if you are diabetic, or have glaucoma, gout, liver disease or peptic ulcers.
VITAMIN B6 – PYRIDOXINE – helps with symptoms of PMS by decreasing the effects of estrogen, reducing water retention, headaches, depression and nausea. Natural sources of vitamin B6 include peas, cabbage, potato, soybean, broccoli, carrot, brewer’s yeast, blackstrap molasses, brown rice, spinach, avocado, tempeh, alfalfa, whole grains, corn sunflower seeds and cantaloupe. 200 – 300 mg daily in divided doses may help with symptoms of PMS. Note that the use of cortisone drugs prevents the absorption of vitamin B6.
VITAMIN B12 – CYANOCOBALAMIN – helps to reduce symptoms of PMS, menorrhagia (if caused by iron deficiency) and irregular periods. Helps to relieve stress, prevent anemia and headaches and helps with the absorption of other nutrients. Natural sources of vitamin B12 include brewer’s yeast, dairy, seaweed and soy products. 100 – 200 mcg daily may help relieve symptoms.
VITAMIN C – with bioflavonoids. May help with menorrhagia by increasing the integrity of capillaries in the uterus. Helps to reduce symptoms of PMS such as water retention, stress and breast tenderness. Natural sources of vitamin C include mangos, fennel seed, rose hip, radishes, pineapple, berries, persimmons, silverbeet, paprika, seaweed – dulse and kelp, peppermint, parsley, papayas, kale, cantaloupe, avocados, asparagus, turnip greens and tomatoes. 3,000 mg daily in divided doses may help with symptoms of PMS, and as little as 200 mg daily (of both bioflavonoids and vitamin C) may help relieve symptoms of menorrhagia. Do not use more than 5,000 mg daily if pregnant. Use esterified vitamin C if you use aspirin. Large doses of vitamin C may cause diarrhea, may deplete the body of copper and may affect the reliability of oral contraceptives.
CALCIUM – helps to reduce symptoms of PMS and dysmenorrhea by relieving cramping and water retention. Natural sources of calcium include leafy green vegetables, almonds, alfalfa, chamomile, cabbage, fennel seed, cheese, oats, lemon grass, sesame seeds, tofu, brewer’s yeast, dandelion, blackstrap molasses, fenugreek, prunes, peppermint, and milk products. 1,000 mg daily in divided doses up to 2,000 mg daily during cramping may help with symptoms. Seek medical advice before taking calcium if you suffer from hyperparathyroidism, kidney disease or sarcoidosis, or if you are taking a calcium channel blocker for heart problems or high blood pressure. Increased calcium intake may require increased magnesium intake.
IRON – may help with menorrhagia if iron deficiency is the cause. Natural sources of iron include citrus, soybeans, dandelion, rose hip, almonds, blackstrap molasses, dates, brewer’s yeast, sesame seeds, prunes, lentils, seaweed – dulse and kelp, tomatoes, milk, cheese and vegetables. Use a ferrous succinate form of iron supplement. Take 30 mg twice daily with vitamin C. To attain optimum absorption, avoid taking iron supplements with food or with the following: zinc, vitamin E, calcium or antacids. Iron supplementation may cause constipation.
MAGNESIUM – a deficiency of magnesium is thought to be associated with PMS. Natural sources of magnesium include brewer’s and torula yeast, peppermint, grapefruit, alfalfa, parsley, brown rice, avocados, bananas, seaweed – dulse and kelp, leafy green vegetables, blackstrap molasses, apples, sesame seeds and soy products. 400 – 1,000 mg daily in divided doses of chelate from may help with symptoms. Consult your physician before taking magnesium supplementation if you have kidney disease.
BLACK COHOSH, BLACK SNAKEROOT – is used to relieve symptoms of PMS, irregular menstruation and dysmenorrhea, helps to relieve pain and cramping. Use according to label instructions. Do not take for more than six months. Do not take if pregnant or lactating.
CINNAMON – tea. Is a traditional remedy for menstrual problems especially menorrhagia. Do not use in high quantities if pregnant. * Clary Sage – essential oil. Used to reduce pain of menstrual cramps. Use in massage oil and massage onto the body (clockwise on the abdomen). Essential oil should equal three percent of total oil content. Do not use if pregnant or if drinking alcohol.
GERANIUM – essential oil. Helps with menstrual irregularities. Use in massage oil and massage onto the body (clockwise on the abdomen). Essential oil should equal three percent of total oil content. Geranium may cause irritation to sensitive skin.
GINGER – tea, fresh or dried. May help to reduce symptoms of dysmenorrhea and some symptoms of PMS. Use according to label instructions. Do not use for a prolonged period during pregnancy or if you have gallstones.
ROSE – essential oil. Helps with menstrual irregularities. Use in massage oil and massage onto the body (clockwise on the abdomen). Essential oil should equal three percent of total oil content. Pure rose extract is extraordinarily expensive due to small amount of oil available in the rose petal.
VALERIAN – helps with dysmenorrhea and PMS. Use according to label instructions. Do not use alcohol while taking valerian.
CHASTE TREE, VITEX, AGNUS CASTUS. – tea. Helps to improve symptoms of PMS and menorrhagia. Use according to label instructions. Do not use if pregnant or taking hormone replacement drugs.
CLARY SAGE – essential oil. Used to reduce pain of menstrual cramps. Use in massage oil and massage onto the body (clockwise on the abdomen). Essential oil should equal three percent of total oil content. Do not use if pregnant or if drinking alcohol.