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Conquering PMS, naturally: Diving into the Science of it all with Dr Hannah Watson

Conquering PMS, naturally: Diving into the Science of it all with Dr Hannah Watson - The Sabi

By Dr Hannah Watson

Do you dread the arrival of your period each month because of the emotional rollercoaster and physical discomfort that often precedes it? Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) can be a real drag, affecting 48% of women who are of reproductive age. The good news? PMS doesn't have to rule your life! We sat down with Dr. Hannah Watson to get her expert advice on what helps and what doesn't.

Dr. Hannah Watson is a qualified UK-based GP (General Practitioner) with a passion for women's health.. Since 2002, she has served the North Leeds community, developing a keen interest in the impact of nutrition and lifestyle on wellbeing.

She has received specialised training in Bioidentical Hormone Therapy through the Marion Gluck Training Academy, enabling her to formally assess, investigate, and prescribe these therapies when appropriate.

In this article, we sit down with Dr. Watson to dive into the latest scientific research on how dietary choices, stress management techniques, sleep hygiene practices, and specific supplements can reduce the monthly burden of menstruation. By understanding how your lifestyle is impacting your cycle, you can choose what your body needs to conquer PMS to experience a smoother, more balanced cycle.


What are some initial steps women can take to manage PMS symptoms?

Dr. Watson:  A great place to start is your diet.  Focus on small, frequent meals packed with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein. This approach helps regulate blood sugar, reducing mood swings and fatigue.  It's hard, but its also important to limit salt, sugar, caffeine, and alcohol which often worsens symptoms like bloating and mood swings. During the luteal phase (roughly days 14-28 in your cycle), your hormones drop significantly which can lead to intense cravings and a desire to indulge in those very treats that worsen your symptoms


Can you explain this connection in more detail?  Is there a way to manage these cravings without giving in to them?

Dr. Watson: Research suggests a high-glycemic diet (think sugary treats) can exacerbate mood swings, while excess salt can contribute to bloating, a common PMS culprit. Caffeine withdrawal may also lead to headaches, another frequent PMS symptom. Alcohol acts as a depressant and disrupts sleep, both of which can worsen PMS. Consider swapping sugary snacks for berries, satisfying your sweet tooth with a healthy twist. Replace caffeinated beverages with calming herbal infusions like SABI’s Calming Herbata, and try jazzing up your water choices with sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice, frozen fruit, lemon or lime slices or a sprig of fresh herbs like mint, basil or even parsley for a festive, non-alcoholic alternative to your usual drink.


Many women experience mood swings and stress before their period. What are some strategies to manage these symptoms?"

Dr. Watson: During the luteal phase, progesterone levels rise while Oestrogen dips. This can create a feeling of emotional depletion, like having a dwindling emotional bandwidth.  If we're not mindful of this hormonal shift, the stress of keeping up with the pace of life (and the commitments we made when we had more energy earlier in the cycle) can easily overwhelm us.

Breathwork, mindfulness and meditation have been shown to be powerful tools for managing stress and anxiety, which can significantly worsen PMS symptoms. Studies have demonstrated that mindfulness meditation can be effective in reducing emotional reactivity and improving mood – a welcome benefit during PMS.

Additionally, Yoga offers a multi-pronged approach, combining gentle movement with breathwork and meditation. This holistic practice promotes relaxation and stress relief, making it a valuable tool for managing PMS. Research suggests yoga can be helpful in managing PMS symptoms like cramps, fatigue, and mood swings.


Sleep is essential for everyone, but especially during PMS.  What are some tips for getting a good night's rest?

Dr. Watson: Absolutely! And what we often forget is that consistency is key. I recommend establishing a regular sleep schedule and avoiding prolonged daytime naps to regulate your body's natural sleep-wake cycle. Limiting screen time before bed is also wise. The blue light emitted from electronic devices can suppress melatonin production, a hormone that regulates sleep.

Magnesium supplements may also be beneficial. Magnesium deficiency is linked to insomnia and anxiety, both of which can be exacerbated by PMS. Studies have shown magnesium supplementation can improve sleep quality in some individuals.

The type of magnesium, dosage, and time of day you take it can all affect absorption. Some common types include magnesium citrate, glycinate, and malate. Magnesium citrate is known for its laxative effects, so if you experience digestive upset, consider glycinate or malate, which are generally gentler on the stomach. Transdermal magnesium, applied as a lotion, oil or salts, can be an option for those with sensitive digestion and may offer more immediate relief.

To improve magnesium absorption, consider the following: consuming it with vitamin D, which aids absorption; including sources of vitamin K and potassium in your diet, which support magnesium balance; and being mindful of factors that might reduce absorption, such as excessive alcohol consumption.


You’ve mentioned the benefits of Magnesium for sleep. Are there specific supplements you recommend for PMS relief?

Dr. Watson: B vitamins and folate are crucial for mood and stress response. Deficiencies can lead to depression and irritability, common during PMS. Calcium supplementation can also improve mood and reduce bloating and cramps. It's important to note that calcium and magnesium compete for absorption, so consider taking them at different times of the day.


Dr. Watson, this has been incredibly informative. Is there a final message you'd like to share with our readers?

Dr. Watson: PMS doesn't have to be a monthly struggle. By incorporating these evidence-based strategies and listening to your body's unique needs, you can take control of your PMS and experience a smoother, more balanced cycle. Remember, millions of women experience PMS, but it's not something you have to suffer through alone. With a little planning and self-care, you can transform PMS from a dreaded visitor into a manageable part of your monthly cycle.

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ABOUT DR. WATSON

Dr. Watson is a qualified UK-based doctor with extensive experience in general practice. Since 2002, she has been dedicated to providing comprehensive care to patients in North Leeds. Her passion lies in treating patients holistically, addressing the root causes of health concerns alongside symptoms.

Beyond her core practice, Dr. Watson has developed a keen interest in women's health and the influence of nutrition and lifestyle on overall well-being. She believes in the power of food to nourish the body and acknowledges the potential benefits of targeted supplementation.

Dr. Watson is a certified practitioner of Bioidentical Hormone Therapy, having trained with the Marion Gluck Training Academy in London. She is committed to staying current in this field and values the ongoing support of her peers. Her expertise allows her to assess, investigate, and prescribe bioidentical hormones to patients seeking this treatment option.

On a personal note, Dr. Watson is a mother of two daughters. She enjoys an active lifestyle with her family, including their two cats and a whippet dog.

 

HORMONAL & PROUD

Created as a brand to help women navigate the toughest moments in pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum — and practically every stage of life –– The SABI aims to change the narrative around our hormones from one of taboo, embarrassment, and loneliness to awareness and pride. As more than a wellness brand, The SABI offers a carefully-crafted line of products to carry you through your hormonal journey, including rituals, supportive tools, and ancient herbal remedies that have been tested time and time again by women and now come backed by medicine. The SABI is a blend of science and nature conceived by women who have experienced the joys and deep struggles of bringing a child into the world, the pains of a heavy, difficult period, miscarriage, and difficulty conceiving.

We offer you an invitation to get to know your body and its cycles better –– an invitation to really understand what is going on inside. Learn to use your hormonal cycle to your advantage no matter your stage of life, and know that you can support and balance your hormone levels. Look for the right sources of information. Know that there is help, and know that you’re supported.

 

DISCLAIMER

The SABI blog and articles are not meant to instruct or advise on medical or health conditions, but to inform. The information and opinions presented here do not substitute professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals for your unique situation. 

 

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-Peng AW, Juraschek SP, Appel LJ, Miller ER 3rd, Mueller NT. Effects of the DASH Diet and Sodium Intake on Bloating: Results From the DASH-Sodium Trial. Am J Gastroenterol. 2019 Jul; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7122060/ 

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-Wu R, Liu LL, Zhu H, Su WJ, Cao ZY, Zhong SY, Liu XH, Jiang CL. Brief Mindfulness Meditation Improves Emotion Processing. Front Neurosci. 2019 Oct 10; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6795685/ 

-Pal A, Nath B, Paul S, Meena S. Evaluation of the effectiveness of yoga in management of premenstrual syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Psychosom Obstet Gynaecol. 2022 Dec; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35697020 

-Nowakowski S, Meers J, Heimbach E. Sleep and Women's Health. Sleep Med Res. 2013; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4327930/#:~:text=Menstruating%20women%20 

-Didikoglu A, Mohammadian N, Johnson S, van Tongeren M, Wright P, Casson AJ, Brown TM, Lucas RJ. Associations between light exposure and sleep timing and sleepiness while awake in a sample of UK adults in everyday life. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2023 Oct 17; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10589638/ 

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-Abbasi B, Kimiagar M, Sadeghniiat K, Shirazi MM, Hedayati M, Rashidkhani B. The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Res Med Sci. 2012 Dec;17; https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23853635/

-Young LM, Pipingas A, White DJ, Gauci S, Scholey A. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of B Vitamin Supplementation on Depressive Symptoms, Anxiety, and Stress: Effects on Healthy and 'At-Risk' Individuals. Nutrients. 2019 Sep 16; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6770181/ 

-Arab A, Rafie N, Askari G, Taghiabadi M. Beneficial Role of Calcium in Premenstrual Syndrome: A Systematic Review of Current Literature. Int J Prev Med. 2020 Sep 22;  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7716601 

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