We’ve all heard about PMS. And, if you’re a woman you’ve most likely experienced it. Women are very different from men on a physiological level as our hormones change daily, following a monthly cycle. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is the reoccurrence of symptoms on a monthly basis just before menses during the luteal phase. Symptoms last from up to two weeks prior until a few days after menses has begun.
The follicular phase begins on day 1 of menses and lasts for 7 to 21 days, ovulation lasts 1 day, and the luteal phase lasts 10 to 16 days. A healthy adult menstrual cycle lasts anywhere from 21 to 35 days, with 28 days as the average length. Roughly 80% of women experience emotional or physical pre-menstrual syndrome symptoms. Only 20 to 40% have difficulties with 2.5-5% having negative impacts on their daily life (3). Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is thought of as a more severe form of PMS that interferes with daily life function.
Current PMS root cause research theories look towards serotonin deficiency, nutritional causes, hormonal imbalances, and exaggerated response to normal hormonal changes. During the follicular phase, women’s follicles produce estrogen. If follicles are unhealthy at any point during their 100-day maturation it can result in period issues months later (1). Preventatively, it is important to take care of our health with a consistent holistic approach that includes a quality omega-3 supplement to support our body systems and help reduce PMS symptoms.
Feelingds of sadness
Fatigue & lethargy
How does omega-3 influence our mood during PMS?
Serotonin levels fall after ovulation and prior to menses when estrogen levels drop. Abnormal serotonin levels are linked to depression making this a probable cause for mood related PMS symptoms (3,5). The synthesis, release, and function of serotonin in the brain is modulated by the two essential fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) and by vitamin D (7). Consume and supplement with EPA and DHA from fish or algae oils along with balanced quality foods, stress management techniques, and quality sleep to support mood.
How does omega-3 influence our physical discomfort during PMS?
Along with improving mood, and decreasing anxiety and brain fog, supplementing with Omega-3 acts as a potent anti-inflammatory for any physical pain. Choose high EPA to “Eat Pain Away”. Omega-3s, specifically EPA, increase anti-inflammatory prostaglandins (1,2,6). This reduces inflammation as well as sodium and water retention, decreasing bloating. Choose a good quality fish oil with vitamin D such as AquaOmega to improve mood as well as decrease physical pain experienced during PMS (4).
PMS Holistic Self-Care
PMS is not something most women seek medical attention for, making it an ideal time to practice self-care. Self-care is preventative healthcare and includes the foods we eat, enjoyable movement, stress management techniques, and adequate rest. Should the self-care not improve PMS symptoms then it is recommended to check with a healthcare professional for any underlying conditions.
Whole quality local foods.
Vegetables, fibre, and complex carbohydrates increase the binding and excretion of excess hormones such as estrogen with regular bowel movements.
Drink 8-12 glasses of plain filtered water daily, needed for regular bowel movements.
Increase essential fatty acid intake from raw nuts and seeds, fish, and AquaOmega high EPA.
Stabilize blood sugar levels by consuming small amounts of protein with every meal and especially at breakfast.
Sugar (impairs estrogen metabolism)
Refined carbohydrates (AKA sugar)
Alcohol (also metabolised as sugar)
Conventional dairy products
Caffeine (in combination with sugar has a detrimental effect on PMS & mood)
Trans-fats and poor-source saturated fats
Menses Specific Exercise
Daily and weekly exercise routine with a focus on moderate, enjoyable, and aerobic exercise. Frequency is more important than intensity.
Breathing rate should increase without gasping for air for 30 to 60 minutes without raising heart rate significantly. Examples of this can be a brisk walk, jogging, cycling, swimming, dance class etc.
Omega-3 essential fatty acid supplementation will increase healing speed post workout and decrease any pain and inflammation (6).
Stress Management & HPA Axis Dysfunction
Chronic stress impedes ovulation and ovarian steroid hormone production and can lead to hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis imbalance and dysfunction (1).
Stress, nutrient deficiencies, inadequate sleep, and synthetic progestins in hormonal birth control disrupt HPA axis function. Essential fatty acids are necessary nutrients required by our body to support our HPA axis function (10).
Schedule your stress management techniques on a daily and weekly basis:
Support our body systems with anti-inflammatory nutrients such as essential fatty acids, antioxidants, and minerals
Low to moderate enjoyable exercise daily such as yoga and walking
Spend time in nature and actually touch the earth and trees
Mindful breathing and meditation; the breath can instantly affect our nervous system, shifting it into “rest and digest” nervous tone
Cleansing Epsom salt bath with relaxing essential oil such as lavender
Quality sleep stabilizes HPA axis and cortisol, improves insulin sensitivity, regulates the release of luteinizing hormone, estrogen, and progesterone. You should aim for 7 to 9 hours of undisturbed sleep and be asleep before 11pm. Your last meal 2 to 3 hours before bed, a healthy late-night snack that will keep your blood sugar levels stable is a handful of raw pumpkin seeds or raw almonds, and why not add a dose of AquaOmega. Follow proper sleep hygiene; complete darkness, no screens before bed, electronics on airplane mode, etc.
How long does it take to decrease PMS symptoms?
You may notice the difference right away in pain and mood. However, holistic nutrition and lifestyle habit consistency for a minimum of three months is necessary to begin to see deeper change depending on PMS severity. Choose holistic self-care, manage your PMS symptoms, and feel like a new you!
About the Author
Rebecca Rausch CNP
Rebecca Rausch CNP, is a holistic nutritionist and founder of Equalibria Nutrition & Wellness. Rebecca is passionate about empowering others to feel their best and achieve balance in their physical and emotional health and wellbeing by addressing root causes. Her practice includes group education, individualized nutrition protocols, and holistic lifestyle recommendations.
Briden, L., ND. (2018). Period Repair Manual: Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods (2nd ed.). Greenpeak Publishing.
Erasmus, U. (1993). Fats that Heal Fats that Kill. Summertown, TN: Alive Books.
Hudson, T. (2008). Women's encyclopedia of natural medicine: alternative therapies and integrative medicine for total health and wellness. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Kashanian, M., Sohrabi, N., Ghafoori, S. S., & Malakouti, S. (2014). P.8.b.004 Evaluation of the effect of omega-3 fatty acids in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome. European Neuropsychopharmacology, 24. doi:10.1016/s0924-977x(14)71186-1
McCulloch, F., Dr. (2010, March 17). Hormones and Mood : PMS and PMDD. Retrieved November 12, 2020, from https://drfionamcculloch.wordpress.com/2010/03/16/hormones-and-mood-pms/
Ochi, E., Tsuchiya, Y., & Yanagimoto, K. (2017). Effect of eicosapentaenoic acids-rich fish oil supplementation on motor nerve function after eccentric contractions. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 14, 23. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-017- 0176-9
Patrick, R. P., & Ames, B. N. (2015). Vitamin D and the omega-3 fatty acids control serotonin synthesis and action, part 2: relevance for ADHD, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and impulsive behavior. FASEB journal : official publication of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, 29(6), 2207–2222. https://doi.org/10.1096/fj.14-268342
Simopoulos, A. P. (2002). Omega-3 Fatty Acids in Inflammation and Autoimmune Diseases. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 21(6), 495-505. doi:10.1080/07315724.2002.10719248
Sohrabi N, Kashanian M, Seyed Ghafoori S. Evaluation of the Effect of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on the Treatment of Pre-menstrual Syndrome. RJMS. 2010; 17 (73) :37-45 URL: http://rjms.iums.ac.ir/article-1-1475-en.html
Thesing, C. S., Bot, M., Milaneschi, Y., Giltay, E. J., & Penninx, B. (2018). Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid levels and dysregulations in biological stress systems. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 97, 206–215. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.07.002
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