If you’re a woman of menstruating age, chances are you’ve heard of PMS.
But, have you heard of PMDD?
About a week or so (or more) before your period, you may have some (or all!) of the following symptoms:
If you have these problems around the same time every month and they go away when your period starts, you likely have premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
But if your PMS symptoms are so extreme that they stop you from doing the normal things that you do at work or at home, or if they affect the way that you relate to the people in your life, you may have premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which is a more severe form of PMS.
Up to 75% of women who have their periods may have mild PMS …
But, PMDD is much less common, affecting between 3% and 8% of women.
At first glance, PMS and PMDD may seem to be the same because they have many of the same symptoms, but women suffering from PMDD experience those symptoms to a much more severe degree.
Depression. If you have PMS, you may feel depressed. But if you have PMDD, your sadness may be so extreme that you feel hopeless, and may even have thoughts about suicide.
Anxiety. You could feel anxious when you have PMS. But with PMDD, the anxiety you feel is probably on a very different level. Some women with PMDD describe feeling very tense or on edge. You may have panic attacks, and feel completely out of control of your emotions.
Mood swings. When you have PMS, you can get moody. You feel happy one minute and upset or angry the next, and you’re more likely to cry. But with PMDD, your mood swings will be much more severe. You may become very angry, and things are likely to irritate you that wouldn’t normally bother you. You might pick fights, even if this isn’t your usual style. You may also cry about things that wouldn’t usually upset you. You may feel out of control of your life.
Feelings about your life. If you have PMS and feel depressed, you may feel slightly detached from your usual routine. But if you have PMDD, you’re likely to stop caring about your job, your hobbies, your friends and family — anything that otherwise might put you in a good mood.
PMDD is harder to treat than PMS – which is often quickly resolved with lifestyle and nutrition changes – but this disruptive hormonal condition absolutely CAN be improved with lifestyle, nutrition, and targeted supplement support.
A quick note – in addition to lifestyle and nutrition changes, I strongly urge anyone experiencing PMDD symptoms to connect with their healthcare provider.
Hormones, duh 🤷.
And, maybe genetics.
But, realistically, experts don’t really know what causes PMDD. It may involve several factors:
Hormones and neurotransmitters share some of the same receptor sites in the brain in areas that help regulate mood, making experts believe that women who are uniquely sensitive to hormone changes may have more mood issues throughout their cycle, and during other reproductive events, like postpartum or during perimenopause and menopause.
Research also suggests that the gut-brain-microbiome relationship plays a role in the development of mood and mental health issues. That’s why paying attention to your diet – think eliminating sugar and inflammatory foods particularly – can help women manage the symptoms of PMDD.
And, because factors like chronic stress, depression and anxiety, and a history of trauma are risk factors for PMDD, stress reduction techniques, like meditation and mindfulness practices, can be super helpful.
First and foremost, know what’s going on with your menstrual cycle. The “norm” is 28 days, but we know that every body is different, so every body’s cycle will be different, too.
There are a million cycle tracking apps, or you can go old school and use an actual calendar. The important things to note are when you experience PMS or PMDD symptoms, when you start to bleed and stop, and anything else that feels relevant to take note of regarding how you feel during the month.
PMDD most often strikes during the luteal phase – after your ovary releases an egg, but before you start bleeding – when inflammation is more pronounced and may play an active role in PMDD. It’s critical to support your metabolism during the luteal phase with the right foods at the right times to help stabilize blood sugar and support healthy hormone balance. Likewise, it’s important during the luteal phase to hit the exercise sweet spot – not too little but not too much and/or not too intense – to decrease the cortisol output that can exacerbate symptoms.
If you’re interested in taking your cycle tracking to the next level …
It’s no coincidence that the length of our menstrual cycles are about the same as the waxing and waning of the moon, occurring every 28 days on average. Before industrialism, light pollution, and processed foods disrupted traditional cultures, women ovulated at the full moon and menstruated at the new moon. This is every woman’s intrinsic default setting.
Lunaception is the act of syncing your cycle to the moon, therefore encouraging regular menstrual cycles. I believe every woman should align her cycle with the moon, but it can be particularly helpful if you have irregular and/or painful cycles.
So how do you sync your cycle to the moon?
You’ll sleep in complete darkness from the beginning of your cycle until day 12. On days 13, 14 and 15, turn on a dim night-light in your bedroom while sleeping, or even better, google the moon cycles and base your “nightlight” nights on the day before, the day of, and the day after the full moon.
If you have a bedroom window that faces the full moon, you can open your curtains to experience natural moonlight. The rest of the month, sleep in total darkness (use an eye mask if necessary). After a few cycles, you should find that you ovulate at the full moon and menstruate at the new moon.
Begin by eliminating the foods that cause inflammation and increase estrogen in the body. Cut all of the following out of your diet:
You’ll also want to ADD IN lots of these anti-inflammatory and liver supporting foods:
In addition, you can reduce inflammation and regulate hormone production with healthy fats, like:
A few more tips and tricks to encourage healthy eating habits throughout your cycle:
In a perfect world, you would receive all your vitamins and minerals through diet alone.
But, the reality is, that’s dang near impossible for most people.
And that’s why high-quality, bioavailable supplements were created 😊.
Because of large-scale farming and soil depletion, our vegetables don’t take up as much magnesium as they did hundreds of years ago. Most Americans are magnesium-deficient, which is bad news because magnesium plays a huge role in the way our cells function, head to toe.
A good supply of magnesium supports our hormones, which affects menstruation, PMS, and PMDD. Researchers found that women who experienced PMS and/or PMDD had a lower magnesium concentration in their red blood cells than women who did not experience PMS and/or PMDD. Magnesium supplements have been tied to reduced PMS and PMDD symptoms in general, and supplementing relieved mood swings.
This combination of calcium and magnesium helps the liver more efficiently metabolize hormones, and prevents spasms/tension in your muscles. Magnesium helps keep adrenal stress hormones under control too. Magnesium also helps keep the bowels regular by maintaining bowel muscle function, which can also ease menstrual pain.
A study by the University of Western Ontario found that fish oil containing two specific compounds, EPA, and DHA, can relieve pain by decreasing levels of prostaglandin E2.
DIM-Evail is a compound that helps to support healthy estrogen metabolism. DIM balances the hormones by breaking down estrogen and removing it from the body.
Inflammatone contains a blend of proteolytic enzymes that bring proper circulation to the reproductive system and get the “stagnant blood” cleared out, bringing fresh oxygenated blood to your uterus and ovaries which can be very helpful in reducing menstrual pain.
Vitamin D has been found in studies to help reduce menstrual pain, and because many women have a Vitamin D deficiency, this is an important supplement to take for overall wellness.
Easier said than done, I know.
Existing diagnoses of depression and anxiety are more common in women with PMDD, so it’s important to tend to your mental health as well as your hormonal health. To this end, I encourage women to engage in unapologetic self-care, find and do activities that bring them joy, practice meditation or other mindfulness practices, and seek out extra support, such as finding a therapist, when needed.
The truth is that there’s no way to eliminate stress from your life completely, but there are ways to manage it. The best method is to indulge in healthy activities that relax you and bring your unique soul pleasure.
Here are a few resources to help you dig a little deeper into finding a mind/body practice that works for you and your body.
Mind/Body Therapy Series: Meditation
Mind/Body Therapy Series: Yoga
Mind/Body Therapy Blog Series: Acupuncture
Mind/Body Therapy Blog Series: Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
Mind/Body Therapy Blog Series: Massage Therapy
Although menstrual products are a necessary evil during your period, they may make PMDD symptoms worse. Tampons, for instance, can cause some people to cramp more. If you have sensitive skin, some ingredients in pads may cause irritation.
There aren’t any scientific studies on how menstrual products impact PMDD, but anecdotal evidence suggests changing them up may help. Try using all-organic pads, definitely organic tampons (if you continue using) and/or organic period panties (like Thinx).
Or, my personal fav, try using a menstrual cup! It’s better for the environment, much more cost effective, and you needn’t worry about bleached products in and around your lady bits 😊.
1. Up to 75% of women who have their periods may have mild PMS, but PMDD is much less common, affecting between 3% and 8% of women.
2. Researchers have been unable to find a direct cause for PMDD; however, symptoms associated with PMDD are almost always associated with hormone imbalance.
3. PMDD is harder to treat than PMS – which can be easily resolved with lifestyle and nutrition changes – but this disruptive hormonal condition can absolutely be improved with lifestyle, nutrition, and targeted supplement support.
Are you suffering from PMD and/or PMDD symptoms?
Or heck, maybe you’re on another type of hormonal journey that could use some direction.
Either way, find a time that works for you, and let’s get a date on the calendar.