PMS: Prescribe Me Something!
If you’re reading this article, you probably have at least some PMS issues. Women compare notes and you know you’re not alone. Nature tortures most of us like clockwork with monthly delights such as breast pain, bloating, fatigue, mood swings and decreased sexual desire. I forgot the diarrhea, constipation and nipple discharge, sorry.
The term “Premenstrual Syndrome” has been used in Western medicine since the 1930s. A Western-trained doctor might describe it as a time when shifting levels of estrogen and progesterone (the hormones that regulate your cycles) trigger “unpleasant” symptoms.
For years, we’ve been on our own in managing PMS, with little understanding about the underlying imbalances or how to correct them. Complain to your health care provider about physical symptoms (cramping, achiness, headaches) and you’ll likely be prescribed a pain killer. If you have trouble with emotional ups and downs, an antidepressant might be added. A favorite treatment that attempts to alleviate all of these symptoms is the hormonal birth control pill (“The Pill”). The Pill contains the same hormones that fluctuate to regulate your cycle, but The Pill delivers them in steady, regular pulses.
Yes, The Pill helps reduce PMS symptoms, but it comes with baggage. All that extra estrogen can increase your risk of blood clots and high blood pressure. And contraception prevents pregnancy (obviously), which works against you if you’re trying to start a family. At least The Pill doesn’t have many side effects besides nausea, depression, worsened migraines, urinary tract infections, vaginal irritation, moodiness, vaginal discharge, headaches, breast pain and acne.
There are alternative methods for dealing with PMS. Take, for example, the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective. In this tradition (tested and implemented over thousands of years), illness is seen as an energy and blood-flow imbalance pattern. In TCM terms, PMS is a problem with the Liver Channel. No, there’s nothing wrong with your liver; TCM works with imbalances in the energy of organ systems, like the Liver or Kidney or Lung system. The Liver Channel is responsible for moving energy (“qi”) and blood through the other organ systems in the body, nourishing them. When a woman’s Liver Channel loses the plot, Liver qi stagnation results. The Liver Channel is important in regulating your monthly menstrual bleeding, and symptoms of liver qi stagnation are the same symptoms we associate with PMS. Herbal supplements with or without acupuncture can clear the stagnation and help qi and energy flow properly again.
PMS doesn’t need to stand for Psychotic Mood Swings or Pardon My Sobbing. Women don’t need to just cope with symptoms but can proactively manage them without resorting to prescription drugs. As one option, help a Liver out and try TCM. You don’t need an alternative doctor or acupuncturist to “needle” you or prescribe foul-smelling teas. Excellent stand-alone TCM herbal supplements exist that, when taken on a regular basis, will help your prevent and control your symptoms rather than battle them. Many have been tested by (and worked for) women for thousands of years and are now available in American formulations produced along TCM guidelines. Make yourself and your doctor happy: chances are, he or she will be just as gratified as you are to find an alternative that works.