Premenstrual Syndrome and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Christina Morris, L.Ac.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) refers to the emotional and physical symptoms that occur before menstruation. Some of these symptoms may include irritability, depression, outbursts of anger, breast tenderness, anxiety, lethargy, aggressiveness, change in appetite, changes in libido, skin eruptions, crying, loss of concentration, changes in bowel movements, low back pain, clumsiness, distention of the abdomen, and insomnia. PMS varies from woman to woman and can also change from month to month. Symptoms usually occur anywhere from 1 day to 2 weeks before the menses. It is estimated that 70% to 90% of women experience PMS during some time of their childbearing years.

Traditional Chinese Medicine views PMS as a result of an imbalance or disharmony in the body. Premenstrual syndrome can be a form of energetic stagnation or deficiency that prevents the free flow of energy (Qi) in the body. This imbalance can be aggravated by excessive consumption of dairy and greasy foods, stress and inactivity, overworking, lack of rest and excessive sexual activities. A licensed acupuncturist would be able to diagnose and treat this condition based on the theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine through acupuncture, herbology, and massage.

Western Medicine treats specific symptoms associated with PMS through diuretics, progesterone, oral contraceptives, Vitamin B6, antidepressants, progestins, progestaglandin inhibitors and medications for discomfort. PMS is still not fully understood in Western Medicine.

Dietary recommendations that may ease PMS include eating a low-fat diet and a high complex carbohydrate diet including: vegetables, whole grains, peas and beans. Drink at least 6-8 glasses of water, increase aerobic activity, reduce stress and practice relaxation exercises. Avoid salty foods, red meats and processed foods as well as caffeine. Proper diet, exercise, adequate sleep, and stress reduction can all aid in balancing the body and reducing premenstrual syndrome.