Stress, the Liver, and PMS

Last month, a client came to me, surprised at her exacerbated PMS symptoms. She was under some extra stressors at work, but had made marked changes in her diet to reduce sugar and increase her vegetable consumption, both of which are known to decrease PMS. Not two weeks later, I was also shocked to discover some crazy mood swings preceding the start of my own cycle. I’ve had a marked increase in stress myself as of late – an impeding graduation in NYC and a teary farewell to wonderful people I have bonded with over the last 10 months, moving into a new office and launching an event, ramping up marketing efforts and trying to find that delicate balance of meeting the needs of my Love, myself, and my business.

After the fact, I was laughing about my own experience with Michael (who had the misfortune of receiving some of my inner-teen angst) and marveling over how I didn’t see it coming – even when I was in it and wondering what on earth was wrong with me (it seems amnesia is a PMS symptom as well).

The little voice in my brain that stores every bit of information on natural medicine and holistic health I’ve read piped up with the word “liver”.

In Chinese Medicine, anger is associated with the liver. Excessive anger impairs the liver from doing its job; the Chinese would call this “Liver Qi Stagnation”. Anger is resistance, a response to refusing to accept what is presented to us because it does not fit within our ideas or beliefs. It isn’t always aggressive – often taking the form of guilt or frustration, and it even has a positive role – perseverance and determination.

Biologically speaking, the liver is the filter. It filters and breaks down many compounds in the body. Among these is estrogen. Liver is responsible for breaking down excess estrogen in the body.

Estrogen dominance, or an abnormally high estrogen to progesterone ratio, is a common factor in PMS symptoms. Excessive estrogen is common in this country due to environmental toxins (plastics, fertilizers, pesticides, hormones in livestock, etc) coupled with a diet which stresses the body and is poor in nutrients needed for protection and detoxification (ie; sugar, caffeine, alcohol, refined flours, and so on). On a day to day basis, our liver already has a full plate (pun intended). Add some extra stress to constrict and tighten the body and we have a situation ripe for mood swings, bloating, and cramps.

Next month I will talk about what can be done to detoxify the liver and alleviate PMS through our food and lifestyle choices. In the meantime, I’d like to hear your thoughts on this piece, and if you would be interested in a workshop or detox weekend focused on cleansing the liver and alleviating PMS. Please email me with your PMS tales and what you have noticed about stress and PMS in your life! Does this ring true to you?

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