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Posted by portugalpress on February 15, 2018

Having battled with period trouble myself, I feel strongly about this topic. Women tend to grin and bear PMS, pain or heavy flow as if it’s the norm – yet it really doesn’t have to be this way.

I’ll say it again: just because PMS, heavy or painful periods are common, doesn’t mean they’re normal. All of it can be avoided by taking a few simple steps towards holistic hormonal health.

Periods: a barometer of health

Think of your period as a monthly report card on your health – it’s there to tell you what’s wrong, and what you might need to change. What a great tool, eh?

The female hormones oestrogen and progesterone fluctuate naturally each month according to each stage of the menstrual cycle. PMS happens either when the body becomes over-sensitive to this fluctuation, or when there is too little or too much of a particular hormone in circulation.

Healthy ovulation

Progesterone connects with GABA receptors in the brain and has a soothing, calming action. It is also anti-inflammatory and boosts thyroid function.

This lovely hormone is produced in the ovaries each month by the developing ‘corpus luteum’, so the only way to make sure you’re getting enough of it is to have a strong, healthy ovulation.

Magnesium, vitamin B6, zinc and selenium are essential for ovulation – so, first get yourself a good multivitamin. I love the BetterYou Multivit and Magnesium oil sprays as they bypass digestion and are easily absorbed.

Make sure there’s nothing wrong with your thyroid or blood sugar levels as these can affect ovulation too. And most importantly, don’t stress! Stress affects ovulation and lowers progesterone … find a meditation practice that suits you and stick at it.

A great herb for boosting progesterone is Vitex agnus castus – probably the most well-researched herb for PMS. At the correct dosage, it promotes ovulation by suppressing prolactin secretion from the pituitary gland. It also contains opiate-like constituents which explains its calming effect, helping with premenstrual anxiety and sleep problems.

Inflammation and pain

Underlying inflammation is another thing that affects ovulation and lowers progesterone.

The simplest way to reduce inflammation is to avoid sugar, wheat, dairy and excessive amounts of animal protein, and eat lots of vegetables. If you think you might have specific food intolerances, try to address these too.

My favourite herb for inflammatory period pain, uterine or gut inflammation is turmeric, or Curcuma longa. This golden wonder spice is better at reducing inflammation than aspirin and ibuprofen, and has none of the side effects.

Add it to almond or rice milk with black pepper for a delicious anti-inflammatory drink, or to eggs, vegetables, rice, sauerkraut … anything! Up to 8g per day is tolerated and safe. And always use organic.

Oestrogen excess

On the other hand, there’s oestrogen. A weak ovulation leads to too little progesterone and too much ‘unopposed’ oestrogen, but our modern environments are also very ‘oestrogenic’ which adds fuel to the fire.

Things like antibiotics, alcohol in excess and dairy products increase oestrogen by damaging gut and liver function and promoting inflammation, for example. Iodine deficiency increases cell sensitivity to oestrogen, and plastics, pesticides and other environmental chemicals expose the body to synthetic forms of oestrogen, causing a build up in the tissues over time.

The result? Breast tenderness and irritability, fluid retention, heavy or painful periods, fibroids and endometriosis, breast and uterine cancers.

One marvellous herb that reduces oestrogen excess and boosts female fertility is Angelica sinensis or Don Quai. It contains weak phyto-oestrogens that sit on the body’s oestrogen receptors and block the action of stronger oestrogens. Angelica is also my favourite herb for women with a weak or pale flow or clots, as it promotes circulation to the uterus.

Looking after your liver is also a great way to keep oestrogen at bay, as the liver is responsible for detoxifying all our hormones. Have a look at my blog post on liver health for some ideas on how to do this.

Healthy, happy hormones

I will be running a few workshops on women’s health in 2018 where you will be able to learn even more about how to have healthy, happy hormones – and you can always come and see me for a consultation, either in Luz or Aljezur, if you need help figuring out the best strategy for you.

By Poppy Burr

Poppy, BSc MCPP, is a qualified medical herbalist practising from Aljezur and Praia da Luz. To book a consultation, visit
or call on 969 091 683.