Solving the Mystery of PMS

Have you ever had one of those moments when you are going about your day, feeling like you’ve got a handle on yourself and your emotions and then all-of-a-sudden you’re freaking out and completely overreacting? It almost feels like you’re watching yourself cry/scream/fight in some kind of B movie that you can’t turn off. You feel completely out of control and you hear the voice in your head telling you that you need to get a grip/calm down/relax, but that voice is being slapped around by a force that wants to be reckoned with.

It’s a horrible feeling to completely lose control over your words, thoughts, and emotions. Regret and guilt rush in and take over when the anger and frustration have exhausted themselves. Anything said or done in front of your family, friends, or coworkers cannot be taken back and embarrassment and shame fall quickly in line.

My worst PMS moments have been like this, and the term “mood swing” doesn’t seem to do justice to the range of physical and emotional turmoil that I have the potential to feel. A few years ago, I sat in my psychiatrist’s office and awkwardly tried to describe how I awful I felt each month. I explained that I could feel the out-of-control feeling coming on as early as ovulation, and it didn’t subside until day 1 or 2 of my cycle. I took a deep breath when he promptly pulled out a little book, hoping there was a cure for the worst parts of myself in there. He began to read aloud a list of symptoms. With each symptom I answered “yes” to, my chest tightened a bit, and by the end of the list, he looked me in the eye and announced that I had PMDD. (PMDD is basically a more severe set of PMS symptoms that negatively impact day-to-day life) I wasn’t really surprised and anxiously waited for something…anything that would help me. The only alternative he presented to me was to increase my medications at ovulation and taper off when I felt better.

I was already eating Paleo and was making a conscious effort to use my nutrient-dense diet to come down from the sky-high amounts of drugs that had been prescribed to me at the onset of my adrenal fatigue/depression. It was shortly after this appointment that I sought out acupuncture and herbal remedies to help with the monthly mood swings. I found relief in this practice, but not in the fees that were not covered by my insurance. For the next 6 months or so, I continued the herbal treatments with some relief in the form of mood stabilization and increased energy, but struggled with late periods and longer cycles.

A couple of months ago, to my delight, I noticed that I didn’t need to take the herbs as often. I’d feel fine past ovulation and sneak in a couple if I needed them, but generally felt more in control, and I even noticed that I was actually pleasant to be around during the luteal phase of my cycle. I even wrote about how I avoided a meltdown.

And just last month, I felt a little edgy but still under control during a tense conversation with Chad, so I checked the calendar. You can imagine how I felt when I realized I was 1 WEEK AWAY from starting my period–7 days out, and I was in control of my mood. I promptly reported to Chad, “I’m normal! I am only having 1 week of mild PMS symptoms!” His reaction was a priceless mix of fear at having the wrong response and general relief.

I began to ask myself what had happened over the last few months that could have improved my symptoms so significantly. The answer may not surprise you…liver has been dubbed a Superfood in the Paleo world, and now I can safely say that I agree. In addition to regrowing my hair, the liver has helped with my PMS (I mean PMDD). The best part is that it’s not that hard. You may have read that we have been eating 4-6 ounces of liver consistently every week in our burgers or meatloaf. It’s relatively inexpensive, and we have not noticed a difference in the taste of the food. Click here for the burger recipe.

With a little research and a hunch, I also discovered that these nutrients are required to make the menstrual cycle happen each month.  I was listening to the Balanced Bites podcast #32 on my walk a few weeks ago, and when Liz began talking about how Vitamin B-6 and A were key in synthesizing the delicate dance of estrogen and progesterone every month, I listened carefully, knowing that these were in the vitamins that I used for relief of my symptoms.

What I can conclude is that every month around ovulation, my body strips the available nutrients from my liver necessary for the rising and falling of hormones that allow an egg to drop, ready for fertilization. The mood issues come into play when I’m trying to function without sufficient nutrients. When I eat just a few ounces of beef liver each week, I get enough Vitamin A, B-6, and B-12 to allow the hormones to ebb and flow like they are designed to and there’s enough leftover in my system for me to function normally.

[graph courtesy of Fit Day. Nutrients for 1 ounce of beef liver]

You may be asking yourself why I don’t just take the vitamins instead of dealing with cow’s liver. Somehow my body seems to know the difference between the synthetic vitamins pictured above and the real deal. I feel better in the short-term, but the communication of hormones is interrupted and my period is delayed when I pop the pill form.

I think I may be on to something here as anything I read online having to do with PMS and food has to do with so many women being unable to keep their cravings in check. My theory is that the body is low on nutrients just before bleeding occurs. The body is starving for nutrients and tells the mind to go get food. That may explain why we crave sugar, salts, carbs, and all of the foods we know we shouldn’t eat.

In addition to the cow’s liver, I’ve been supplementing with magnesium for cramping and breast tenderness. Chocolate contains magnesium and may be a reason why women can’t stay away from chocolate certain times of the month. Magnesium is an essential mineral that relaxes the body. We also use it for soreness from exercise and help with sleep.

I am so full of hope and overcome with relief as I begin this leg of my journey toward wellness. I have learned so much about what my body needs to function effectively, and after years of living in a depleted state, I can finally enjoy the benefits of a healed and healthy body. In addition, my girls enjoy the liver burgers every week and magnesium supplements a few times per week. Hopefully, they will be better equipped to win the battle over their own hormones someday.

7 thoughts on “Solving the Mystery of PMS

  1. I love the idea of the burgers but we don’t have a meat grinder and the memories of my mother making us eat liver as children has maybe scarred me for life. I know whole foods are always better than supplements, but do you think that the Beverly International Beef Liver Tablets could do the trick in a pinch?

    • Hi, I would say it depends on how the tablets make you feel. I couldn’t find the exact ingredients for the Beef Liver Tablets, so if they don’t have any weird additives, you may get the same benefit. (I think the herbal additives in my vitamins were what messed with my cycle) If you begin to feel better and don’t notice any side effects when taking them, I’d say stick to what works. So sorry you’ve had negative experiences around liver…I can tell you that I had feelings of disappointment when we began adding liver to our favorite meals, thinking that it would *ruin* them, but after a couple of times, I nearly forgot it was there. Good luck! Keep me posted on how the tablets work out. Thanks for your comment :)

  2. This is really good information! Quick question: do you know if there’s a big difference between chicken, pork, and beef liver? Where I am, it seems a lot harder to find beef liver but chicken and pork liver is in every grocery store.

    • Hi Shannon, I know that all organ meat is very nutrient dense, so I would say for the sake of making your life easier, try the grocery store liver and see how your body responds. We typically eat 1/2 pound per week (about 2 ounces each). Lots of Paleo bloggers recommend US Wellness meats for quality, grass fed beef liver. Here’s the link, if you’re interested in ordering it on line. http://www.grasslandbeef.com/Detail.bok?no=534

      Keep me posted! Good luck.

  3. Pingback: PMS – PMDD… Whatever. Need a solution! « Gal About Town

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