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It starts with the craving for sugary or carbohydrate type foods, leads to a feeling of disgust for having little or no control over what you put in your mouth and escalates into moods swings, short temper and tears. All that we may be able to cope with, but to add insult to injury the final product generally finishes with tender breasts, abdominal pain and a heavy period. Sound familiar? These are the symptoms of PMS, these symptoms simply indicate that you are out of balance with the natural flow where your hormones work in concert sending signals around your body. Hormones are the messengers that tell your body what to do, they do not just affect the reproductive system.

Your periods can be the best key performance indicator as to how in balance your health is. If you have a healthy diet, get some regular exercise and live a life with minimal stress, you will find that your hormones will follow suit and work in harmony sending messages around the body, as they should. However, the number one hormone disrupter is stress. There are others but let’s deal with this one first. To reduce PMS symptoms you need to ensure that the two major female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone are in balance; PMS symptoms are a result of oestrogen excess.

Stress, creates a physiological response from the body, raising heart rate, blood pressure, releasing free fatty acids and adrenaline. This places the body into a survival state; in this state the body prioritises and deals with only the most important functions. If you are experiencing stress around the time that you ovulate, in survival state the last thing your body is going to do is plan a pregnancy when there is a possible life threatening situation. Of course if you are on the pill then your body doesn’t ovulate at all! Your body thinks it is pregnant due to the massive hormone doses it is spoon-fed on a daily basis. Your doctor will advise if your pill is inappropriate for you. If you are not on the pill, progesterone is made by the corpus luteum, (the crater left behind in the ovary after ovulation); if you don’t ovulate then you don’t produce progesterone. There is however a back up plan, your adrenal glands can make progesterone, that is of course if they are not exhausted through stress, caffeine, alcohol and inadequate rest.

Stress management is one of the first places to start when dealing with the symptoms of PMS. Next stop, balanced diet. It is imperative that you normalise your blood sugar levels by eating low glycemic index carbohydrates. Also ensure that you eat 25 grams of essential fatty acids (omega 3 and 6) daily. Reduce intake of saturated fats to no more than 5 grams a day. Eat protein at each meal: lots of oily fishes, only organic chicken and up to 2 red meat meals a week. Consume loads of green leafy vegetables, 3 pieces of fruit a day and drink lots of water. Not only will you reduce the symptoms of PMS, you will look and feel great too.

By Sharon Kolkka, Program Director, The Golden Door Health Retreat