Naturopaths and PMS

Naturopathic therapies to help with premenstrual syndrome (h1) 

As naturopathic medicine continues to gain popularity and the demand for naturopathic doctors continues to rise, more women are turning to naturopaths to help them with their premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Historically, PMS symptoms have been treated with conventional practices and drugs such as antidepressants, ibuprofen, birth control, prescriptions and more. These types of medicines are band-aid solutions because they only provide temporary support. Say if you’ve been prescribed birth control to help manage your symptoms but you have to stop taking it, it’s likely your original PMS symptoms will return. Naturopathic doctors work with you to get to the root cause of the problem because your menstrual cycle should be mostly smooth sailing. 

Understanding the menstrual cycle phases (h2)

A menstrual cycle is defined as the ongoing monthly series of changes that a woman’s body encounters. The menstrual cycle is typically 28 days but can vary from one cycle to the next. This cycle is complex and is controlled by different glands and hormones and is described as the chain of events a woman goes through as her body prepares to possibly become pregnant. The menstrual cycle starts on the first day of your period and is known in the medical world as the menses phase. This phase usually lasts between one and five days and occurs when your uterus lining is shedding if you haven’t gotten pregnant. Most women will bleed for up to five days, but some will experience bleeding for a week. During the menses phase, your body is getting rid of the thickened uterus lining called endometrium. The next phase of the menstrual cycle is the follicular phase which usually occurs from day one to 14. During this, the hypothalamus, which is a structure in your brain, prompts your pituitary gland to release the follicle stimulating hormone in your body while levels of estrogen also increase. Between five and 20 follicles will then be produced in your ovaries, but typically only one follicle will grow into a mature egg while the other follicles die off. The third phase is ovulation, and this usually happens around the 14th day of the menstrual cycle for approximately 16-30 hours. This occurs when your body’s luteinizing hormone increases, releasing the mature egg from your ovary and rupturing the follicle. The egg then travels into the fallopian tube and towards the uterus. The final phase called the luteal phase takes place during the last two weeks of the menstrual cycle when the ruptured follicle transforms into something called the corpus luteum. This structure then begins releasing progesterone and smaller amounts of estrogen. This creates a thick lining in the uterus which prepares the egg to become fertilized by a sperm. If the egg becomes fertilized and sticks to the uterus, the corpus luteum is maintained and you will become pregnant. If the egg does not become fertilized, the corpus luteum dies away and the drop in progesterone causes menstruation. Once this occurs, the cycle repeats itself. All of the steps that your menstrual cycle goes through are triggered by increased and decreased amounts of hormones. 

PMS symptoms and when its common to see issues (h2)

It’s common for woman to suffer from PMS if their progesterone is too low. If this is the case, they likely haven’t ovulated properly and if they don’t ovulate, the corpus luteum does not transform which means their body isn’t producing enough progesterone. This will cause a woman to suffer from hormone imbalances and while some women do ovulate and produce progesterone, sometimes it’s just not enough. This can cause a woman to become the stereotypical PMSing female whose upset and irritable. Other symptoms can include crazy appetite, breast soreness and sleeping problems. All of these symptoms are linked to hormone imbalances which are not normal. On the other side of things, it’s common for women to have too much estrogen. This results in bloating, decreased libido, fatigue and more. It’s important to remember that your body’s progesterone and estrogen should balance each other out – in healthy women, the progesterone-estrogen ratio will be between 100 and 500. Sometimes both hormones will be abnormal which will also offset a woman’s hormone balance. 

How naturopaths help? (h2)

Naturopathic approaches to PMS often include blood tests, saliva tests and/or urine tests. Typically, a blood test will be administered close to the date of the patient’s menstrual period. This is the perfect time to test because the patient will have already ovulated, and their body is in the process of producing estrogen and progesterone. So, if they’re experiencing a hormone imbalance, the naturopathic doctor can determine if levels are too high or too low. If the woman is experiencing low levels of progesterone, the naturopathic doctor can prescribe a bioidentical progesterone which will be taken in accordance with the menstrual cycle. For the first two weeks of the patient’s menstrual cycle when progesterone is naturally low, no progesterone will be taken. By the second half of the patient’s cycle when progesterone should be high, they will take the bioidentical progesterone. This should close the gap and reduce the estrogen dominance. In other circumstances if a woman has high estrogen, they may be given supplements to balance out the progesterone and estrogen ratio. If your naturopathic doctor has you on a specific treatment, you will likely be on it for months before you notice a difference because hormones are slow to change. If the treatment is successful, you should notice a change in your period, menstrual cycle and PMS symptoms. Naturopathic doctors investigate and treat the root causes of the PMS, rather than prescribing or recommending traditional pain medications or oral contraceptives to temporarily and quickly mask the symptoms.

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