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Beating the menstrual blues.

Sometimes it all gets too much, it feels as if the world is closing in on you.  Nothing is going right.  Your body may be bloated and your breast are aching, maybe you're not sleeping.  You just can't seem to keep things under control.

The way women are affected at the lead up to their period is as individual as themselves, but there are many common symptoms.  One thing is sure, the imbalance in hormones can certainly stir things up.   Everything seems to become far more intense.

 Some of the most common symptoms are anxiety, mood swings and nervous tension.  This is caused by an imbalance of Oestrogen and Progesterone.  The first thing to look at with this type of PMS is how much dairy products and refined sugars are in your diet, make sure they are not in excess as they can effect the absorption of Magnesium.    Magnesium, Vitamin B6 and Zinc are the vital nutrients here; they are essential in the brain to produce the chemicals, which control these symptoms.  These nutrients also assist in the clearance of the excess oestrogen.  A diet high in vegetable proteins and fibre also assist this process.

Cravings are common at this time, especially for chocolate and other sweet things.  Increase appetite, headaches, fatigue, dizziness or fainting and palpitations may also be experienced.  It is best when suffering from this to eat small meals regularly to help prevent the falling glucose levels.  5-6 small meals a day of healthy nutritious food, incorporating complex carbohydrates, will be of great assistance.  A supplementation of Chromium can help in stabilizing blood sugar levels. The food that you are craving can also give an indication of what foods are missing in your diet. The most common craving, chocolate, is an indication of a Magnesium deficiency.

The symptoms of depression, crying, forgetfulness, confusion and insomnia are what some women go through.  A diet including plenty of raw foods and grains is recommended in this case.  It is related to low oestrogen: high progesterone balance and a clean healthy diet, high in Magnesium can help towards regulation.  It would also be advised to work on cleansing the liver. If the liver is functioning well, then it will assist in clearing out the excess hormones.

If you suffer from fluid retention, weight gain, swelling of extremities, breast tenderness, or abdominal bloating, salt and red meat should be decreased.  An herb, which can offer some relief from this, is Ginkgo.  Also of benefit are Vitamin B6 and Vitamin E.

 Evening Primrose Oil can reduce the cramping pain that announces to many women that their period is approaching.   Calcium/Magnesium supplements can also bring relief.

Many of the symptoms of PMS are related to dietary imbalances and nutritional deficiencies.  The following are basic dietary guidelines that can be useful regardless of what symptoms you suffer.

* Avoid refined and processed foods, i.e. sugars, soft drinks, cakes and sweets especially prior to onset of period

* Avoid alcohol, tea, coffee, chocolate and tobacco.

* Reduce salt intake

* Increase consumption of fish (cod, tuna, and salmon) and oil seeds.  Evening Primrose oil is of great benefit to most types of PMS and for relief of period pain.  It also offers the added bonus of being good for a variety of different complaints, such as skin problems, arthritis and all kinds of inflammatory problems.

* Restrict intake of dairy products to two servings per day.

*  Limit the intake of animal fat.

*  Increase the consumption of green leafy vegetables.

* Increase the consumption of foods rich in Magnesium (i.e. wheat bran, almonds, wheat germ, cashews, spinach, rice), Zinc (brazil nuts, almonds, rice, seeds, wheat, olives) and Vitamin B6 (walnuts, Yoghurt, Hazelnuts, wheat germ, Sunflower seeds, Soya beans).

*  Some herbs that can be helpful when dealing with PMS are: Vitex - which helps to balance hormones, Hypericum  - for depression, Skullcap and Vervain - help to calm the nerves, Dandelion - works with the liver to cleanse and remove excess hormones.

* Tissue salts that can be of benefit, both for PMS and for menstrual cramps come in combinations that include Calcium Phosphate, Potassium Phosphate (Kali Phos) and Magnesium Phosphate.

* Flower essences are very effective at dealing with some of the emotional issues around PMS.  Australian Bush Flower Essences has a special blend just for women - Woman Essences, available in both drops and cream.  This, or other flower essences, may be a great assistance.

* Essential oils can be use in an oil vapiouriser, a few drops in a bath, or mixed with oil for a massage.  Some of the following could be mixed or used alone.  For calming and balancing hormones - Chamomile, Geranium, Lavender, Rose and Sandalwood; Emotionally uplifting - Bergamot, Jasmine, Juniper and Sage; Fluid retention and cramps - Fennel, Laurel, Tarragon and Cypress; Energizing - Peppermint  

In the lead up to her period, a woman can become quite emotional and all sorts of feelings come to the surface.  These are very often the very things that we don't want to look at, or face.  We can spend the rest of the month not dealing with want really is hidden underneath, but when PMT hits, suddenly it's there.  All the things that aren't working in your life come and hit you in the face. Allow yourself to cry if you want to, it will help you get in touch with want is really important to you.  Start writing a journal.  This may help you to recognize what issues you need to deal with.  Write down all your feelings and frustrations that surface while you are premenstrual. Recognizing this and working with it can be the first step of dealing with PMT.

  Most importantly take time out each month to celebrate your womanhood.   The onset of a period is a reminder of who you are and is a special time to pamper yourself: Buy yourself flowers, have a special treat, have a massage, take a bubble bath, or whatever makes you feel special.  It's the time to make time for you! .

Dietary guidelines.

The key to good health is a healthy nutritious diet, full of fresh organic foods. Reproductive health is no different. To avoid and reduce problems with PMS, painful periods, fertility problems and menopause a balanced diet is essential and always the first place to start.

The importance of organic and fresh foods cannot be overlooked. Foods are often grown with the assistance of chemicals for pest control and as fertilizers. Residuals of these chemicals remain in the food and are passed on to us as we eat them. Our bodies are pretty amazing things, especially our liver. It is designed to process waste and will handle the decomposition and waste removal of thousands of chemicals, however it is not able to deal with the over abundance of man-made chemicals that are now being pumped into the system. These remain in our systems and continue to build-up causing all sorts of problems. The same can be said about animal products being consumed. Many animals are being fed non-organic fed and being pumped full of steroids and antibiotics. These are stored in their bodies, and then passed on to us, if we eat them. This contributes to an imbalance of our hormones. Choosing organic foods whenever possible can help keep our bodies free of dangerous chemical residue. It is also important to have your food as fresh as possible. The nutrients in the chemicals begin to deteriorate as soon as fruit and veggies are picked.

Written by Nadia MacLeod