Pre-Menstrual Syndrome is a catch-all term that evades precise definition, and remains poorly understood in conventional medical terms. Fortunately, we can step outside that paradigm and look at it through the lens of traditional Chinese medicine, to gain an understanding of what our bodies are experiencing and find relief!
The constellation of symptoms usually call 'pre-menstrual tension' or PMS are generally related to a traditional Chinese diagnosis of 'liver-qi ('chee') stagnation.' Energetic flow through the body is stopped up, clogged or misdirected. Symptoms include headache, irritability, breast pain and tenderness, moodiness and water retention. And of course symptoms like these can affect anyone, of any gender, not only as 'PMS.' If you're struggling with symptoms like these, address some of the following;
1. Stress. No surprise here. Stress aggravates all our physical problems, but especially ones like PMS. Contemplate how you deal with stress. Do you have people you can talk to? Do you make space for stillness in your life, with calm walking, meditation, or a practice such as yoga or tai qi? Do you do the things that give you pleasure, such as hobbies, socializing, recreating, or are those always last on your list?
2. Exercise. Regular exercise moves the Qi! Find something you enjoy, and that fits your lifestyle. If you are sedentary, start by walking more, taking the stairs, parking further away. A Qi Gong practice one of my teachers gave me to help break up that stagnant energy hanging around and making you miserable goes like this:
Stand with your feet slightly apart. As you breathe in, bring your arms up over your head. As you breathe out, bring your hands down to the sides of your body and make a forceful "Hoh!" sound with your exhale. Try to do this 20-25 times, especially in the morning. You can do it a few times during the day if you feel you are reaching the end of your rope.
3. Diet. Caffeine is a notorious PMS aggravator. In TCM, sour flavours help calm Liver energy run amok - so even though you may be craving sweets at this time of the month, try adding some lemon juice to your water and eating sour fruits like tart apples. If you particularly suffer from irritability, breast distention and muzzy-headedness, be careful to avoid fatty and spicy foods. If you are weepy, with headaches, constipation and/or insomnia, make sure you are getting enough nourishment: protein rich foods, rich red foods like beets and kidney beans, and don't load up on cold foods like salads and icey drinks.
4. Treatment. I developed my Swimming Dragon oil blend with Chinese and Western herbs and botanicals traditionally used to move the liver qi. Massaging it on swollen legs or breasts, tender tummies and tight shoulders provides both herbal and massage benefits - you can also discretely apply it to the scalp, especially above the ears, during the day. Order some oil for next month (or anytime). I also can't recommend acupuncture highly enough for PMS and other chronic, multi-faceted issues.