PMS or Premenstrual Syndrome is just that, a syndrome. A compilation of ailments joined together because of similar circumstances. We all know the list:
- Weight Gain/Fluid Retention/Bloating
- Emotional Disturbances/Irritability/Weepiness/Anger
- Low Back Ache
What does it all mean and should we be having it at all?
What is normal?
Elimination: The body is ridding itself of blood and tissue. This is a significant drain on the body. It is normal for the body to start showing signs the day or two before. Drier stools or softer stools the day of or the day before may happen. These are still both signs that the body is a little warn down and can’t handle bleeding effortlessly, but they are a vast improvement over days of constipation or numerous bouts of diarrhea which lots of women experience.
Emotions: The night before bleeding weepiness or feelings of vulnerability are understandable and I believe evolutionary. We shouldn’t be lifting heavy objects, staying up all night studying or running marathons right before or during bleeding. All activity (mental or physical) should be gentle and allow for periods of rest. Listen and appreciate the body’s wisdom and take some quiet time or ask for more affection from a partner if necessary. These are little things that go a long way.
Sleep: Night hours, or yin time, is quieted by ample fluids within the body. When you bleed there are less fluids available and the sleep can be affected. Slightly lighter sleep or more dreams is understandable, full blown insomnia or disturbing nightmares are suggestive of a deficiency of fluids and would benefit from treatment.
Important PMS Questions
When does it start? PMS that starts hours before the cycle is significantly better than the PMS that starts at ovulation. Mood swings, weight gain or pain that begins anytime before the day before the cycle is not only treatable it is not worth the strain on your life. Western Medicine utilizes the birth control pill as the exclusive means for altering PMS, but the pill doesn’t solve the problems it masks the problems until you are ready to come off the pill. PMS that begins early in the month is a suggestion of stagnant blood in the uterus or stagnant qi within the reproductive organs. This could be caused by internal cold, internal heat, strong emotions not being properly released or simply stress.
What is the intensity? Again if someone is home sick from work before the period starts, we have an issue. Migraines, flash anger or brutal cramping before the blood is a serious sign that the body is out of balance. These are remarkably easy things to treat with Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture. Sometimes I think we should be marketing to bosses, partners or family members asking for sponsors for a woman’s treatment. Would you like to see her as an active member of the world more days of the month? There is actually research out there now suggesting that Sylvia Plath’s emotional disturbances may have been related to very painful periods and extreme emotional changes due to her cycle. This is not a part of a woman’s health that deserves covering up. High intensity PMS that even slightly affects your life (regardless of your ironwoman pain threshold) is dangerous. Start talking about it and start seeing it as a problem.
Does it immediately end when you start bleeding? This is the telltale sign practitioners are looking for as a marker of how easy a gyn issue is to treat. If it goes away as soon as the blood comes it is probably due to stagnant qi in the body and is the easiest scenario to treat. If this is you, come in for a couple of months of treatment and get on with your life. If things stay dicey after the bleeding starts there is a deeper level of stagnation and though it may take longer to heal, will still show steady improvements from month to month in overall intensity.
PMS Warning Signs
- Your friends know all your PMS symptoms
- PMS starts with ovulation or soon after
- Your personality changes, not just your mood
- You are in pain that requires more than one regular dose of NSAIDS at any point during the month
Charting Your Cycle
I started charting my cycle this spring and I’m loving it. Charting allows you to see where in the month you have less energy, when headaches begin or if you have a nightmare on the 27th day of the month. Things you wouldn’t be able to remember from month to month. Charting is also very helpful to see how you can affect the cycle. One thing I’ve noticed for me personally is if I get run down my basal temperatures drop and stay down until I take a day or rest. Now when I see the movement downward I know I have to be proactive about rest to help my cycle stay healthy. Charting is also a way to actually see how many days of the month you are miserable and act as a motivator to make change in the body.
In Chinese Medicine there is a 3 month rule. Most GYN issues are significantly improved or completely fixed in three cycles. Can you imagine having easier cycles for the rest of your menstruating life?
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