Learning how to reduce PMS and balance hormones naturally changed my life. When I began following the Autoimmune Protocol in 2014, the very first improvements I noticed were actually in my menstrual cycle, not my autoimmune disease. Up until then, my periods were awful: I’m talking a special-level-of-hell type of awful. I suffered from horrible mood swings that left me feeling like I was losing my mind 3 weeks of out the month, constantly oscillating between anxiety, paranoia, and depression. Then, during the one week per month I didn’t feel crazy, I experienced debilitating cramps that required eating NSAIDs like skittles and a heavy flow that lasted for 10 days.
The Autoimmune Protocol’s emphasis on identifying food sensitivities, eating nutrient-dense foods, and prioritizing healing in general motivated me to learn how hormone health was really foundational to overall healing. So, I started doing some research and began cleaning up other areas of my life to finally regain control of my hormones and take back my life from PMS.
4 Tips to Reduce PMS and Balance Hormones Naturally
- Switch to Non-Hormonal Birth Control – Before I touch on this subject, every woman has the right to decide what is best for her body. End of story. According to Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, “Sex hormones play a complex role in regulating the immune system, and messing with them by using oral contraceptives or other forms of hormonal contraceptives may make it a lot harder to manage your autoimmune disease through diet & lifestyle,” (Ballantyne, 2013, 169.) This is a very complex system with many moving parts, but let’s use estrogen as an example. It seems that estrogen stimulates some parts of the immune system while suppressing others, so either an excess or lack of estrogen can lead to immune dysregulation. Now, there are also a lot of other lifestyle factors that can influence estrogen production: chronic stress & disruption in circadian rhythms. (Ballantyne, 2013, 49-50) That being said, the use of synthetic hormones doesn’t always help either. Hormonal birth control is also known to deplete nutrients crucial to immune function, like zinc and B vitamins. Lastly, hormonal birth control also alters the composition of the gut microbiome, increasing susceptibility to increase intestinal permeability (leaky gut), inflammation, and dysbiosis (Kresser, 2019)
- Eat a Nutrient-Dense Diet – With its emphasis on foods nutrient-rich foods like seafood, colorful veggies, fermented foods, organ meats, and quality meat, the Autoimmune Protocol really shines. Sex hormones are steroid hormones, which means they are produced from cholesterol. So make sure your diet is rich in healthy forms of natural cholesterol from high-quality fats like coconut oil, grass-fed butter or ghee, and pasture-raised egg yolks as well as unrefined, complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes and plantains. Appropriate mineral balance is also important for balancing hormones since each endocrine gland “prefers” certain minerals to function appropriately. So incorporate foods rich in vital minerals like fish, shell-fish, sea vegetables, and leafy greens on a regular basis.
- Eliminate Inflammatory Foods – Like I mentioned above, the connection between hormones and the immune system is complex and delicate. Inflammation puts a lot of stress on the body and this chronic stress can drive hormonal imbalances, particularly within our sex hormones. When the body perceives stress, it immediately begins prioritizing the needs of the adrenal glands over all of the other endocrine glands because the adrenals produce our survival hormone: cortisol. When this happens, the body starts shuttling all of the nutrients necessary to make hormones away from the other glands in order to keep up with the demand for cortisol. This is called the “adrenal steal” and results in imbalances of the sex hormones.
- Detox Your Home – Excess sex hormones are filtered out of the body through the liver. This is an important natural detoxification process that is crucial to ensuring balanced hormones throughout the month. Every single thing that enters our body either through the skin, mouth, or air passes through the liver. When we bombard our system with chemicals either from personal care products, cleaning supplies, or synthetic fragrances, the liver is likely to become congested, making it hard to filter out the good from the bad. When this happens, hormones can’t be broken down as effectively leading to excess floating around in the blood. The result: we feel it as those pleasant PMS symptoms like breast tenderness and mood swings.
Ballantyne, S., PhD. (2013). The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body. Las Vegas, NV: Victory Belt Publishing.
Kresser, C. (2019, June 21). How to recover from long-term use of birth control pills. [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://chriskresser.com/how-to-recover-from-long-term-use-of-birth-control-pills/