To say my hormones have been erratic since the birth of my son is on point. Erratic and dangerously unpredictable about sums up my monthly cycle, or rather the manifestations of my premenstrual tension, a time when my hormones go completely wild.
I had my first period six months after giving birth, when I was still exclusively breastfeeding. I considered perhaps this was affecting the way my PMT had intensified. It was around the time I was weaning the Bean, which meant that there were longer gaps during the day he didn’t feed on the breast. I didn’t bother visiting my GP, I rarely do. Instead I did lots and lots of research. Most of it referenced the modern diet and hormones that enter our body’s from animal produce. This was one of the stimuli behind giving up dairy. A project that has been going well since its inception, on the 1st of August.
What were my symptoms?
1. Nausea: Initially I felt the nausea was so intense, I thought it was morning sickness. So much so, I was prompted to take a pg test. The nausea has so far recurred each month.
2. Back ache: I wouldn’t experience back ache pre-menstruating prior to giving birth. However, it now seems to be a feature during PMT period, and can begin a week before my period starts.
3. Intense fatigue: While this isn’t distinctly different to pre-birth premenstrual symptoms, it is a lot more profound and while I could attribute it in part to having a busy 1-year old, I feel drained of energy and nothing seemed to work in boosting my levels back up, where before birth, there were a number of ways I could increase my energy levels if need be.
4. Emotional: Feeling overwhelmed with emotions, to the point that I could not rationalise with anything. Undeniably the most difficult symptom of this PMT. I became argumentative, unreasonable, weepy, hysteria and basically felt mentally foggy. I’d also experience moments of dread and anxiety, waking up at night feeling hopeless and fearing everything. This did not occur before giving birth.
What actions did I take?
1. Recognition: Recognising to severity of the problem has been crucial in trying to manage it. it wasn’t immediately obvious that the symptoms were drastically different to my pre-natal PMT. It was only with hindsight and reflecting on my behavioural changes (about 3rd period post-natal) did I realise the symptoms had worsened.
2. Research: I decided to conduct my own research without input or advice from a third party, at least at first.
DAIRY: The first convincing argument hat I read, suggested giving up dairy at least one week before your period. Citing a combination of reasons, from hormone imbalance to reducing your animal protein to improve water retention, I acted promptly, by abstaining completely, and still do.
OTHER FOODS/DRINKS TO AVOID: foods that contain high levels of: sugar, caffeine , alcohol and salt are all said to impact on your hormones and disrupt the natural balance
HERBS: I researched a LOT about herbs and about the benefits of certain herbs that have the power to ‘clear foggy minds’ and ‘restore mental clarity’ and ‘return you to your former self.’ So, my PMTEA as I have aptly named it contains the following herbs for reasons explained below:
PMTEA recipe (sourced from Neal’s Yard)
- BURDOCK ROOT – is known as a blood purifying agent and diuretic. The latter is especially good f you are prone to water retention before your period. Another reason to avoid salty foods as well. The most compelling action the burdock root has that convinced me it needed to make into my PMTEA is its power to help the liver metabolise hormones such as oestrogen, this will ease hormone imbalance.
- CHAMOMILE – “Soothe, calm, relax, unwind…” they say. Which is why this herb made it into my PMTEA. So many the manifestation of my PMT: feeling out of sorts, angry, ugly, fat(!!), greasy, uncomfortable, all stem from this basic unnecessary evil: anxiety.
- LEMON BALM – has been used for centuries. It is known for its calming properties, and power to reduce anxiety and ease the symptoms of insomnia. As anxiety is a symptom associated with PMT, this is why it made it to me PMTEA pot.
- SKULLCAP – before entering Neal’s Yard, this was not on my PMTEA list to ingredients to procure. However, the sales assistant convinced me its one of the best herbs for foggy minds.
- GINKGO BILOBA – I took this while studying for my A-levels in the hope it would promote a photographic memory! It did not. Its funny to be reintroduced to it some ten years later. While Neal’s Yard say: “Traditional remedy thought to aid memory and concentration,” I included it in my tea as it is thought to reduce breast tenderness (which I get really badly) as well as reduce water retention.
- PASSIFLORA – is a traditional sedative, so don’t add too much. This was another latent addition to the PMTEA mix, encouraged by the sales assistant. It helps ease anxiety and tension, and won’t knock you out.
AND, is it working?
After several POTs of PMTEA, I certainly feel far more balanced. Seeing and feeling these positive effects, I am now going to implementing more of t
3. Determination: I decided that in order to restore order to my life and be more balanced I needed to be determined in my pursuit of quashing what had become the dreaded PMT. It is easier said than down. Avoiding coffee for example, is not easy, nor is sugar avoidance either.
4. Yoga and running: When I say yoga I know it can be difficult to commit to a class when you’re a busy: mum/employee/business owner/student etc, so try and do about 10 sun salutations at home instead. Yoga and running will boost you circulation, which will oxygenate your blood and improve your circulation. It’ll also help to reduce your anxiety. These activities aren’t limited one per month; rather, you’ll feel a whole lot better if yoga, running or any kind of exercise is introduce to your weekly routine to really feel the positive effects.
The next mission is to track down and try out dong quai. I have read very promising things about this herb and its potency on balancing out hormones. I am also going to take an iron supplement.
Thank you to the following websites for aiding my research and promoting me to look into herbal remedies and create my PMTEA: