Alternative Therapies for Treating PMDD Symptoms
Dr. Abby Campbell
What is PMDD?
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), also known as premenstrual dysphoria and late luteal phase dysphoric disorder, is a clinical mood disorder which displays significantly heightened sensitivity in women during the menstrual cycle’s luteal phase. It is characterized by irritability, anger, anxiety, depression, and moodiness that is similar to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) but is much more severe. The symptoms are more similar to those of major depressive or bipolar disorders, but PMDD symptom manifestation is cyclical and related to the onset of menses.
Only women in their child-bearing years, with a continual cycle of ovulation and menses, are affected by PMDD. The prevalence of PMDD is 18 percent in women. It is significantly higher among older women still within child-bearing years as well as women from lower socio-economic status.
Symptoms occur during the luteal phase of the cycle, the stage after ovulation when the ovaries release an egg and continues until menstruation begins. For a woman who has a normal menstrual cycle of 28 days, the luteal phase can last between 10 to 16 days depending on ovulation timing.
What are PMDD Symptoms?
For those 10 to 16 days before a woman starts her period, PMDD causes severe symptoms which usually go away two or three days after menstruation begins. Following are a list of symptoms.
- Depression, sadness, or despair
- Suicidal thoughts
- Mood swings
- Panic attacks
- Cognitive impairment (trouble thinking, focusing, or concentrating)
- Fatigue or low energy
- Sleep trouble
- Heightened sensitivity to people and the environment
- Lack of interest relationships and daily activities
- Food cravings
- Binge eating
- Physical symptoms (cramps, bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, as well as muscle and joint pain)
What Causes PMDD?
In broad terms, PMDD increases sensitivity during to a woman’s reproductive hormones which leads to alterations in brain chemicals and neurological pathways that control mood and general well-being.
Science still hasn’t determined what causes this sensitivity. However, researchers at the National Institute of Health (NIH) have discovered an altered gene complex in women with PMDD that processes the body’s response to hormones and stressors differently than women without PMDD. This revelation establishes a biological basis for mood disturbances of PMDD.
Additionally, researchers find comorbidities significantly associated with PMDD which include the following.
- Major depressive disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Social phobia
- Specific phobia
- Suicidal risk
Does Estrogen Play a Part in PMDD?
As mentioned earlier, researchers have linked an altered gene complex to women with PMDD that makes them more sensitive to hormones. They also determined that estrogen and progesterone exposure altered this gene expression. When the hormones were removed from the women, PMDD symptoms went away. When the hormones were added back, PMDD symptoms returned.
Though estrogen and progesterone can wreak havoc in the body such as with PMDD, they are also very important hormones for all women. From a reproductive standpoint, estrogen regulates, stimulates, and maintains the ovaries, vagina, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, and mammary glands. However, estrogen does so much more. It also helps maintain body temperature and metabolism and strengthen bones and heart. In fact, estrogen plays an essential role in maintaining the health of nearly every tissue in the body.
However, estrogen becomes evil to the body when it accumulates and doesn’t dispel. When the older estrogen isn’t removed or detoxified from the body, it converts into toxic forms. These estrogen metabolites, along with chemical xenoestrogens, are harmful and damage the body.
Having too much estrogen causes an imbalance with other hormones such as progesterone. This is called estrogen dominance which is linked with symptoms of PMDD, as well as PMS. Therefore, it’s important for the body to remove these toxic endocrine disrupters as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, we live in a world filled with xenoestrogens that increase the estrogen levels in the body. Xenoestrogen imitates estrogen and though it differs chemically from estrogenic substances naturally produced by the body, it has a similar effect. Xenoestrogens may be acquired from some common sources such as the following.
- Antimicrobial products
- Chewing gum
- Cleaning agents
- Commercial meats and dairy
- Fluoride toothpaste
- Food packaging
- Mercury dental fillings
- Public water
- Pharmaceutical drugs
Alternative Therapies for Treating Estrogen Dominance & PMDD Symptoms
If you have PMDD, there is hope with natural alternative therapies. Because PMDD is most likely caused by estrogen dominance, it would be a good idea to detox. Following are few recommendations to help you overcome PMDD symptoms. Just click the links to see the products.
Diindolylmethane (DIM) is a metabolite of indole-3-carbinol (I3C) found in cruciferous vegetables like kale, cabbage, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. DIM has an amazing ability to treat estrogen dominance through detoxification and enhancing healthy gene expression.
Though curcumin doesn’t impact estrogen directly, its effects on the liver can make a difference in how your body handles estrogen. Old estrogen needs to pass through the liver to be expelled by the body. Therefore, it needs to be clean in order to handle estrogen efficiently. Curcumin will help detoxify your liver and protect your body from xenoestrogens.
Grape Seed Extract
The proanthocyanidins in grape seed extract are among the most powerful antioxidants known in nature. Studies have shown that these compounds are 20 times more effective than Vitamin C and 50 times more potent than Vitamin E in antioxidant capability. Because of its incredible compounds, it will protect the body from the effects of xenoestrogens. On another note, grape seed extract inhibits aromatase, an enzyme that converts androgen into estrogen and offers an alternative for preventing and treating a wide range of reproductive health problems.