Functional medicine offers the chance for relief from debilitating premenstrual symptoms using a whole body approach that considers brain and gut function in addition to hormones
Debilitating PMS goes far beyond monthly mood swings and bloating—it can interrupt a woman’s daily life and cause severe physical distress. Enter the standard medical answer to almost any menstrual problem, which is to simply prescribed birth control pills and “see how it goes”.
This type of approach, to mask the symptom, doesn’t address the root cause of the problem and, in fact, allows it to become worse. Instead, new research is supporting a whole body approach that looks at more than hormones. Indeed, more than simply a woman’s “issue”, hormones are part of a “super” system that affects us all.
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To back up and take a quick look at a woman’s monthly cycle, we can see that estrogen is more dominant in the first two weeks (this is known as the follicular phase); during this phase, a follicular stimulating hormone (FSH) is released by the brain and signals the ovaries to increase estrogen levels and release an egg. Estrogen reaches its peak around day 12, then ovulation occurs around days 13 and 14, which is when an egg is released and enters into the fallopian tube. At this point the estrogen level drops drastically and around day 14 or 15, the progesterone level rises rapidly, hitting its peak around day 21 (luteal phase). So during the second half, a woman will be progesterone dominant.
The point of this is that hormones are controlled by brain signals throughout the menstrual cycle, and each month a fresh wave of new hormones is produced, utilized, degraded, and cleared out of the body. If either the timing is off, or if the metabolism is off, or if the ability to detoxify is off, it will create any number of issues.
Enter the importance of a “super system”—the interrelated brain, hormone, gut synergy that occurs monthly. So why do some women have debilitating monthly PMS symptoms? While there are many possibilities, the primary place to begin looking is in the gut microbiome. For instance, if there is gut dysbiosis—an overgrowth of bad bacteria in the gut that overcrowds good bacteria—it can create estrobolome dysfunction. Those good bacteria activate enzymes that break down and metabolize estrogen, clearing it out of the body so that when the next month’s wave of estrogen is produced, there is not an overabundance of it.
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Inefficiencies in hormone detoxification put women into estrogen dominance, which leads to debilitating PMS. It can also have dire consequences beyond PMS, such as breast cancer, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a number of cancers, infertility, obesity, metabolic syndrome, and even cardiovascular disease and diminished overall brain function.
In order to pinpoint and correct the root cause of debilitating PMS—while also taking important steps to help prevent other serious health conditions—a comprehensive functional medicine testing needs to be the first step, beginning with a simple stool test.
Learn more about this topic? Download the “Menstrual Cycle Hormones” video replay from the Root Cause Solution Radio Show, where I discuss this topic in-depth and answer listeners’ questions.
Dr. Doug Pucci, Founder, Pucci Wellness, is a functional medicine expert in practice for 30+ years. Voted 1 of 12 Doctors to Watch in 201 Magazine, he was honored to receive both The Best Of 2020 Awards for Functional Medicine in Oradell, NJ, and entry into Trademark Publications’ Who’s Who Directory, Honors Edition, for his pioneering work.
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READ MORE: New to Functional Medicine? Learn how you can conquer the symptoms of hormonal, metabolic and thyroid imbalances during life's important transitions using the 5 Foundational Principles of Functional Medicine. Get off the medication merry-go-round and conquer your health issues naturally.