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If you’re a menstruating woman, you likely know what I’m talking about when I mention premenstrual syndrome or tension (PMS or PMT) - physical & emotional changes that occur in the 1-2 weeks leading up to your period each cycle. In Australia, a huge 75% of menstruating women experience some level of PMS. However, there is a more severe form of PMS, called ‘Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder’ or ‘PMDD’ that affects only 3-8% of women. It’s not as widely spoken about as PMS but it’s crucial we shed more light on this condition, as many women are suffering in silence.

So, what’s the difference between PMS and PMDD?

Signs of PMS may include:

- Mood symptoms such as feeling teary, irritable, angry, quick tempered, anxious, flat or low mood

- Fatigue

- Fluid retention

- Skin breakouts

- Bloating, nausea & changes in bowel habits

- Breast tenderness & swelling

- Insomnia

- Headaches

- Cramping, period pain

- Food cravings, increased appetite

- Premenstrual spotting before the period begins

Signs of PMDD may include many of the above listed symptoms, but in a more extreme manner, as well as:

- Increased inflammation & muscle pain

- Lack of interest in activities usually enjoyed

- Low/no motivation

- Significant fatigue and needing to sleep more than usual

- Significant & sudden depression and/or anxiety

- Anger & aggression

- Feeling out of control & overwhelmed

- Crying spells

- Social anxiety, avoiding certain situations & environments

- Poor self-image

- Paranoia

- Trouble concentrating & forgetfulness

- Heightened sensitivity to rejection & other people’s emotions & behaviours

PMS and PMDD are both caused by the hormonal fluctuations that happen after ovulation, and although PMS is incredibly common, the symptoms are not normal! Supporting hormonal balance, and often boosting progesterone production gives women significant improvements with PMS symptoms.

On the other hand, PMDD is a little more complex, and supporting progesterone levels alone is not the answer. PMDD is likely caused by a drop in serotonin, our mood hormone, after ovulation. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter or hormone found naturally in the brain and digestive system that affects mood & causes physical symptoms. Therefore, the naturopathic treatment for PMDD often involves using specific herbs, nutrients & amino acids to boost serotonin production, as well as supporting hormonal balance.

Any woman can develop PMDD, however there are risk factors that can increase the likelihood of it occurring:

- Women with a family history of PMDD

- Women with personal or family history of depression, postpartum depression or other mood disorders

- Smoking

Mainstream medical management of PMDD is usually either hormonal contraception, such as the oral contraceptive pill, or antidepressants. Many women are not happy with these two options, understandably, and this is where naturopathic treatment is sought out.

There is some impressive clinical research behind particular herbs and nutrients for the management of PMS and PMDD, so if you’d like support, please reach out! Our highly qualified Naturopaths support women with PMS and PMDD in the Darling Health clinic on a weekly basis. You do not need to and should not be suffering through your monthly cycle!! Naturopathic treatment can make an enormous difference, we are here to help.

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