Nearly half of all women endure premenstrual syndrome (PMS), a condition whose symptoms may include cramping, bloating, headache, nausea, anxiety and depression. And approximately 10% of PMS sufferers report pain so severe that it causes them to miss work or social activities at least one to two days per month. That equates to more than a full year of life missed between the ages of 17 and 45! Despite these statistics, women are often told to "put up" with PMS, or to pop over-the-counter painkillers, which may provoke serious side effects.
Chiropractors know that many PMS sufferers can win their battle with this disorder, without the use of drugs. As holistic health-care specialists, chiropractors educate patients about cutting-edge, alternative strategies for ending PMS. Below is an outline of some of these all-natural solutions.
The Prostaglandin Connection
To overcome PMS, it is essential to first understand the underlying causes of menstrual complaints. Most researchers agree that PMS is triggered by hormonal oscillations, including an influx in estrogen just prior to menses. Although these changes are normal, women with PMS appear to have more extreme hormonal fluctuations, compared with PMS-free women. These excessive fluctuations provoke headaches, nausea, bloating and mood swings.
In preparation for the possibility of pregnancy, estrogen promotes the build-up of the lining of the uterus. Contained within this lining are chemicals called prostaglandins. Prostaglandin production rockets just prior to menses, in relation to the increase in estrogen. These chemicals are then released during menses when the uterine lining breaks down. Prostaglandins trigger inflammation of the uterus, resulting in pain and cramping. In addition, prostaglandins enter the blood stream and provoke headache and gastrointestinal complaints.
Chiropractic for PMS?
Ongoing research reveals that chiropractic care may provide relief from PMS. It seems that women with PMS are more likely to suffer from a spinal condition called vertebral subluxation, compared with PMS-free women. Vertebral subluxations are dysfunctional areas in the spine where movement is restricted or bones (vertebrae) are out of alignment. Dr. Dawn specializes in correcting vertebral subluxations with gentle and safe manoeuvres called chiropractic adjustments. Scientists hypothesize that the correction of vertebral subluxations may lower blood levels of prostaglandins.
Investigators in Melbourne, Australia, recently examined the link between PMS and vertebral subluxation. They conducted spinal evaluations on 54 women with PMS and 30 PMS-free women. Findings demonstrated that participants battling PMS had 56% more clinical signs of vertebral subluxation, compared with control subjects. The study's authors concluded that, "A relatively high incidence of spinal dysfunction exists in PMS sufferers compared with a comparable group of Non-PMS sufferers. This is suggestive that spinal dysfunction could be a causative factor in PMS and that chiropractic manipulative therapy [adjustment] may offer an alternative therapeutic approach for PMS sufferers" (J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1999; 22:216-20).
Another Australian study looked at 25 patients with PMS. A cohort of 16 subjects received chiropractic adjustments and soft tissue therapy during the week before menses. The remaining nine patients were given "sham" adjustments. The subjects underwent care for three menstrual cycles, went without care for one cycle, and then switched groups. The result? Women in the first chiropractic group reported a significant decrease in PMS symptoms, compared with placebo recipients (J Manipulative Physiol Ther 1999; 22:582-5).
Foods That Fight PMS
A just-published report in the medical journal Obstetrics & Gynaecology indicates that consuming a low-fat vegetarian diet can slash a woman's odds of PMS. As part of the study, 33 PMS sufferers changed their diets from a "typical" Western diet to a low-fat, meat-free diet. The women followed this diet for two months. The diet cut the average subject's experience of menstrual pain from four days per month to 2.7 days per month.
Scientists point to three key characteristics of vegetarian fare: (1) soy-rich, (2) low-fat and (3) high-fibre. First, soy products - such as tofu, soy milk and soy meat-substitutes - are powerful plant estrogens. These "weak" phytoestrogens actually block PMS-promoting estrogens from binding to cells, in turn reducing the production of prostaglandins. Secondly, both estrogens and prostaglandins are formed using fat. Consequently, a low-fat diet reduces the production of these chemicals. Finally, high-fibre foods keep estrogen in check by increasing blood levels of chemicals that facilitate the excretion of estrogen.
Stamp Out PMS
With Supplements a variety of dietary supplements may ease PMS. The most widely recommended of these supplements are B vitamins, such as vitamins B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), B12 (cobalamine), pantothenic acid and folic acid. Vitamin B6 appears to be especially effective for ending menstrual pain. In one study, researchers analyzed nine placebo-controlled trials representing 940 patients with PMS. They concluded that, "doses of vitamin B6 up to 100mg per day are likely to be of benefit in treating premenstrual symptoms and premenstrual depression" (British Med J 1999; 318:1375-81). Other studies indicate that women with PMS may have lower blood levels of vitamin B6, compared with PMS-free women.
Although research has focused on vitamin B6, most experts agree that, because B vitamins work together in synergy, B6 should not be taken in isolation. Instead, it is best to take B vitamins in complex form. In addition to B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, evening primrose oil and vitamin E also offer PMS relief. Herbal remedies for menstrual pain include kava kava, raspberry and strawberry leaves, rosemary, peppermint, dong quai, passion flower and valerian root. Interested in giving some of these a try? Talk to your chiropractor about what supplements are right for you.
Psychological anxiety appears to deplete the body of B vitamins, in turn triggering PMS. So, if you suffer from PMS, consider reprioritizing your activities and commitments, and cutting out any that are not essential. Also, try exploring a stress reduction technique like meditation, yoga or T'ai Chi.
Engage in Exercise
Need additional motivation to get fit? According to scientific studies, regular exercisers report fewer PMS symptoms than do their sedentary peers. Scientists explain that exercise is especially helpful for women who experience premenstrual mood swings or depression.
Look to Your Chiropractor for All-Natural PMS Relief
The nervous system controls and coordinates all the different functions of your body including your reproductive system. Any disruption in nerve communication to your organs and body tissues will result in abnormal function. The nerve roots serving the reproductive organs exit the spine in the lower lumbar region, the most common site of back pain and spinal dysfunction.
Chiropractors help restore normal nerve function and communication, thereby allowing your body to work normally and naturally. Have your spine checked prior to engaging in high risk drug interventions. Safe, non-invasive chiropractic care may be all you need.
Your doctor of chiropractic is also up-to-date on drug-free approaches to PMS relief. Why put up with PMS and risk the side effects of pain medication when all-natural solutions are available? Don't delay - schedule an appointment for a chiropractic consultation today!