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~Seek first to understand, then be understood~
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If you're looking for information on a particular topic, type that word in the search box below. If I have written about that subject, a list of posts will appear. If no posts come up, I haven't written about it...yet. Emails, and questions in the comments section for possible posts, are welcome.
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I have a "friend" who shows up once a month. She turns my world upside down, over and over again.
I am a good person, caring and sweet, but when she comes to visit, I could rip off your head.
She takes no prisoners, foul words she does spout, I try to keep the words in, she lets them come out.
People don't understand me, or what this is about, to have this creature inside my head.
I despise who I am, half of the time, I feel sorry for my daughter, family and friends.
There's no way to describe it, for those who don't know, it's a living nightmare, she really needs to go.
~Neysia Manor, Rest in Peace

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

PMDD and Losing Weight

The bottom line is losing weight is impossible without making your PMDD worse. You have to balance your hormones first--and that includes your thyroid hormones. It's not just about estrogen and progesterone, ladies.  If you take nothing else from this post, take that. (The only reason to read further is to learn how I came to that conclusion.  Although the update below is definately worth reading.)

UPDATE: February 16, 2013...I have finally found the key to MY weight loss...I recently read that almost everyone is deficient in iodine.  According to Suzy Cohen in the 24 Hour Pharmacist, iodine is not produced in the body, and is necessary for thyroid and breast health, among other things.  Apparently we used to receive iodine in our baked goods, but now we receive the additive bromine instead.  Bromine can deplete iodine, leading to even further deficiencies. 

Basically, iodine levels in Americans have steadily declined over the last 40 years, and studies have made a connection to iodine deficiency and an enlarged thyroid, which I have had for years.  However, my thryoid levels were always within the so called "normal" range, so I refused to take thyroid medication. 

I won't try something unless I see it mentioned in four or five different reputable publications  -- meaning publications that don't have a vested interest in my using their product.  Finally, I decided to try Iodoral, which can be obtained in health food stores and online.  I've been taking it for two months.  My energy level perked up almost immediately.  Instead of being basically useless after 8:00 p.m., I've been regularly able to stay awake and alert until 11:00 p.m.  For that alone it was worth taking the supplements to me. 

Not much happened with the weight in the first month.  But in the second month it has really started to come off, to the tune of approximately 2 pounds per week.  This is the same thing that mysteriously happened when I tried taking Metformin, which I was unable to continue taking after three weeks due to the side effect of severe headaches, but in those three weeks, my weight went down 2 pounds per week, with NO changes to my diet or exercise levels.

The same thing is now happening with the Iodoral, and with no ill side effects.  I am currently taking the IOD 50, containing 50 mg of elemental Iodine per tablet, but when my iodine levels are back to normal, as can be determined with a urine test ordered by my doctor, I will switch to the 12.5 mg maintenance dosage.  Throughout all of this, I am in communication with my doctor, and I generally have my basic metabolic and/or hormone levels checked every six months.

The 24 Hour Pharmacist also recommends the 12.5 mg dosage of Iodoral for breast tenderness, but says to back off if you experience an unpleasant brassy taste, runny nose, or acne-like skin lesions.  (Fortunately, I have experienced none of these on the 50 mg dose.)  She also recommends that you take fish oils while on iodine to keep things in balance.  The only fish oil I recommend is from Green Pasture and is called Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil.  I do this because it is not processed with heat, which basically kills the effectiveness of most fish oil capsules, especially the kind you buy off the shelf.  You can get Blue Ice online in a liquid form or in non-gelatin capsules.  One 500 mg a day capsule will do, two if you are feeling particularly fatigued.  I realize Blue Ice is more expensive than most, but I feel I am worth it, and besides, what good is paying less for a product that might say fish oil on the label, but doesn't even work?

And now, back to the original post....

For the past several years I’ve been trying to lose weight. I tried Weight Watchers, I tried various eating plans--low carb, glycemic index-based, hormone balancing--I tried exercise—cardio and strength training--I tried combinations of all three. I was determined, come hell or high water, to shed those excess pounds that had gradually appeared around my middle.

Well, hell is exactly what I got.

PMDD begins with an imbalance in a woman’s hormones, but through some complicated process scientists and doctors have yet to fully understand, the end result involves a lack of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates mood. Lack of serotonin in the brain = depressed mood.

One thing that helps to create serotonin in the brain is carbohydrates. What do women with PMDD crave? Carbs. So no, you’re not crazy, and you don’t lack willpower. Your body is telling you what it needs with a vengeance. Your craving for carbs is simply your body telling you what it needs to bring it back into balance. This is why at times we can’t seem to stop ourselves from eating the sugar, the pasta, the chocolate, the quick fixes.

The problem only worsens when we reach for carbs with little or no nutritional value to feed our need for serotonin, but that’s a post for another day.

Today I want to talk about diet and exercise and PMDD. Exercise overall is good for anyone, so let’s get that right out of the way. While you’re exercising, you’re boosting your immune system and endorphins, strengthening muscles, including or especially your heart, building bones, toning, firming, and burning calories. The problem for a PMDD woman, however, is when our bodies are out of balance, and especially when we’re having an episode of PMDD, exercise can make the PMDD worse. (Again, for you to experience the full benefits of any exercise program, you have to balance your hormones first.)

What do most diets tell you to restrict these days? Carbs. What does a PMDD woman crave? Carbs. What happens when she doesn’t get them? PMDD. What happens when she gets the wrong kind of carbs? More PMDD. What does any kind of cardio or strength training exercise do? Burns carbs. What does a PMDD woman *need? Carbs. Do you see where I’m going with this?

This time last year I was a mess. I had made a vow in January of 2009 I was going to lose those excess 20 pounds, no matter what it took. I was restricting carbs and doing 45 minutes of cardio five times a week. That wasn’t working, so I upped it to an hour a day. I ended up with such a lack of serotonin in my brain that my PMDD episodes were lasting not just days, but weeks.

Something had to change. I went on a research binge and read everything I could get my hands on about PMDD. I found out I was causing my own problems by restricting my carbs and exercising so much, thereby burning the very carbs I needed to produce serotonin in my brain. My body was screaming in protest, sending me into longer and deeper troughs of PMDD.

So the first thing I did was start listening to my body. When it wants carbs, it gets carbs. I did, however, slowly get rid of 95% of the non-nutritional carbs in my fridge and cupboards, and replace them with healthy, nutritional carbs. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, you know the drill. The problem is not that we don’t know what’s good for us, it’s that we’re unwilling to make the change to better eating habits, until the pain of living in hormonal misery all the time forces us to make the change.

My eating habits today are 100% better than they were a year ago, and they weren’t that bad to start with. I’ve never been a fan of sugar, can’t eat corn syrup at all. It gives me a headache and makes me grumpy. Sugar makes me nauseous. So I started with eating better. I realized I was self-defeating myself with so much exercise, and made the mistake of stopping altogether.

Just until I get my hormones back on track, I told myself. Well, four months and ten pounds more later, my hormones were still out of whack and I was well out of shape…

Slowly, one baby step at a time, I had to get back into the swing of things. I had to get my body back up to the level of exercise I had been at before, or risk gaining even more weight, plus increasing other associated health risks.

But boy did my body protest. No matter what I did, every time I moved it in a different way, it got stiff and sore for a day or two. Before long, everything was hurting. This didn’t make sense…what the heck was going on?

Well, for one, I’m getting older, and it takes longer to get into the swing of things again once you’re older. Even if you’re just a little bit older, I quickly learned, when you’re at my age, which is 52. Muscle response times just aren’t the same.

So after pulling a few muscles and nearly incapacitating myself, I settled for walking. Baby steps. I joined a walking challenge at my YMCA, 100 miles in 100 days. Shouldn’t be a problem, right? I started with 1-2 miles a day, and quickly moved to 2-3 miles a day, then 3-4 and 4-5. It was amazing how the miles piled up. In the first 50 days, 19 of which I skipped off and on, I already had 85 miles.

How was that possible? I was going to reach 100 well before the deadline.

So I upped my personal challenge to 200 miles in 100 days. With just three miles a day of walking, I could easily make that. An added bonus was we could use time on the treadmill, cardio, or cycling machines to count toward our mile totals. During the course of the second part of the challenge, I started with ten minutes of cardio on the elliptical, and worked my way up to 30. Any more than that, I’ve discovered, starts sending me into the negative carb column again.

On Monday I completed my walking challenge. I did 203 miles in 100 days. I’m now regularly walking 20 miles a week. And you know what? I haven’t lost a single pound. I weigh exactly the same as I did at the beginning of the year, when I once again made a resolution to lose weight.

So….I improved my diet 100%, and I went from nothing to walking 20 miles a week. Things shifted, sure, and tightened and toned, but the scale, she wouldn’t budge.

It’s the hormones. They’re still not in balance. I can tell by the way my body feels, and how it responds to exercise. The harder I exercise, the worse I feel. 4-5 miles a day was too much. 3 is a good number for me, in a combination of the elliptical and walking. Too much cardio and I burn too many carbs and feel wiped out afterward. A two-mile walk, however, especially on a bad day, energizes me and improves my mood.

So…now that I’ve got the eating and exercise habits sorted out, next on my list is balancing the hormones from within, through good nutrition. I’ll keep you posted on that as it develops. In the meantime, if you’re cutting carbs and exercising like a fiend and still feeling miserable, maybe this post will help you to figure out why.

23 comments:

  1. Thank you for your website. I'm in the same position. . . refusing to treat this with meds. but struggling with the carb/exercise cycle. I noticed that you used the Core Balance Diet at one point. Did that help the PMDD at all?

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  2. Hi, Julie,

    I just discovered your comment today, 6/30. Yes, the Core Diet helped my PMDD immensely. I was doing the neurotransmitter balancing plan. I hadn't felt so good in ages--EXCEPT--and this has nothing to do with PMDD--the diet was heavy on cheese, and I found that the cheese increased my peri-menopausal hot flashes. So I stopped the diet in an effort to get some sleep at night. It worked. The hot flashes went away.

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  3. Hi,
    I am still trying to understand how to live with PMDD. The more frustrating this to me is how is affect my life for a significant amount of time and reverse changes that I have done in the previous week of my 'normal life'. The most difficult and frustrating thing is my weight gain. For example, I have gain more than I0 pounds. I have been eating anything .ANYTHING......During this week, I just lost control and lost energy, which limit my opportunity in going to the gym. Any recommendations of which diet I should use, so I can stabilize my hormones and begin the process of a healthy lifestyle?

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    1. I'm sorry, but I can't recommend any one diet over another. I did go to weight watchers for a while and I saw the exact thing you are talking about...my weight would be down one week and up the next, consistently, and consistent with my times of ovulation and the week before menses. This zig zag pattern continued for months, but always in a downward direction. So that was good news. I quit going though, because 1) I felt embarrassed every other week when the weight went up, and 2) my chemical sensitivities were acting up at every weigh in, because of all the perfume in the room. I'd have to take a Benadryl just to get through it. And that was just from weighing in. No way could I actually stay in the room long enough for a meeting. So, since I had figured out the pattern and was basically doing things on my own anyway (not attending meetings due to the perfume in the air), I decided to save the monthly fee and quit. A later program that really helped me was entering my eating and exercise habits on myfitnesspal.com. That was free but time consuming. The same zig zag pattern prevailed, and after a while, I just got tired of it. At the time I was also looking for ways to spend LESS time on the computer and more time moving, due to a frozen shoulder. That finally healed, and I haven't returned to any diet/exercise plans since, but both of those worked to a limited level for me.

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  4. Oh my gosh, Liana! I'm so sorry about the struggles you've been through:-( I am in my crazy week of hormones, but I feel I'm doing better the last couple of cycles. Have you heard of Femarone 17? It's a natural progesterone cream that has done WONDERS for me!! It has really calmed my nerves and helped my moods too.
    http://www.wiseessentials.com/natural-progesterone-cream/progesterone-creams-paraben-free/femarone-17-3-oz-pump
    It's the most natural progesterone I've found on the market; I've had other creams and pills and they haven't been as natural and as effective as this one.

    This PMDD really sucks! I have struggled with my weight for years because of the unbalanced hormonal act I'm always trying to juggle. I did weight watchers too and was able to lose about 15 LBS around Christmas time through spring, but I have no such luck now! What gives?! I feel discouraged, I want to throw in the towel, but I know that's not an option. If I find anything new out, I'll throw it your way. God's blessings to you :-)

    -Sarah

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    1. Hi, Sarah,

      Thank you for your suggestion..I will check it out! The problem I have found with progesterone creams is you can't tell the good ones from the bad ones. Some work, most don't. A lot of it is just marketing hype. So I really appreciate your taking the time to let me know about this one!

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  5. Just found this out, I was looking for some help to deal with my Pmdd.
    I have been on fluoxetine for e few months and while it did help the mood swings a bit it also made me feel tired, totally switched off any sexual impulse and occasionally I even felt more depressed than normal. I used to take it when I had bulimia and it did work at the time but starting in on and off when the Pmdd occurs it seems not to work for me. So I saw a doctor today and we discussed few options.
    She also suggested to look up on the internet and consider my options.
    Your blog about the importance of carbs lit up a bulb in my head. I myself tried to cut on them and exercising has been hell because I felt more in pain and didn't make me feel better at all, just as you described. I feel a lot less alone in this and a lot less the biatch (forgive the word) I thought I was turning into.

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    1. I found I had to get my blood sugar under control first (fasting level not high, but huge swings after eating) and then I was slowly able to back away from the carbs. A pharmaceutical grade multi-supplement was able to help with this, along with making sure I eat a little protein with each meal or snack. Like a cheese stick or a boiled egg. I still need a certain amount of carbs, which is higher than any recommended on low carb diets, but I don't eat nearly as many as I used to, and almost no refined anything. Good luck and I hope you find some information that helps here!

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  6. I am glad to have found this blog. I have been struggling with the pmdd diagnosis for the last year and struggling with weight gain, mood swings, over eating, etc. It's has been very difficult, but I was relieved to find out that there was an actual physical reason causing all this. I am currently on fluoxetine during the last two weeks of my cycle, and although it does help my symptoms, I am up about 6 pounds and dreading spring/summer. I walk regularly and try very hard to eat healthy, but as soon as I start my meds in those last two weeks, everything goes out the window. So if nothing else, it's comforting to know i am not alone and will look into some of those other options and take this info to my doctor in April. thank you!

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  7. OMG. I don't even know what to say. I could cry from the relief of others having my symptoms and the struggles.

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  8. Thank YOU so much for writing this article, and thank you all for sharing I'm in tears reading all your posts.. Pmdd is so challenging. I have been taking maca powder and 100mg of Sam-e plus a b complex and have felt a difference in the last 2 weeks. I am on day 7 of my cycle and feeling depressed but only a little compared to before maca, b complex and Sam-e. My question to you is you mentioned at the beginning of your post about iodine and weight loss but wanted a bit more info if possible. I just bought vitality work iodine with kelp after reading your post, you really inspired me. Thank you again so much for your post, I anticipate your reply with deep gratitude!

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    1. Hi, MoMo,

      Yes, PMDD is very challenging. I researched your product and it looks like a good choice. Please keep us posted on how it works for you. Also, I'll need more guidance on what you mean by a bit more information if possible. There are too many ways to interpret that. So if you have specific questions, please ask them here or you can write to me at info (at) livingwithpmdd (dot) com and I will respond privately. I'm happy to answer any questions as long as I know which direction we're going :). Have a great day...

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  9. Liana, you really are incredible.. I sent you an email. Thank you SO MUCH!!!!

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  10. i am so glad i found this blog. i just realized i probably have PMDD but without insurance i'm not going to go get an official diagnosis. anywho, i have been on a fat loss program and doing (and believing!) all the right things since october of last year to lose 30 lbs i had regained over a few years. i have lost only 10 lbs since october. i also said, "something is wrong here!!" lol now that i know almost for sure it's PMDD i have hope that the herbs and supplements i just ordered--including the iodine supplement you refer to-- will help me out. i have listened to my body and i also feel that uterine fibroids are at least aggravating the PMDD, if not causing it. so, i will also be working on releasing the cellular memory within my reproductive system to get rid of the fibroids as i balance my hormones naturally. thanks again for this blog and it's been a few months since this post so, how much weight have you lost by now? has it been coming off easier or the same? thanks for this!!!!

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  11. Unfortunately, two weeks after I updated this post on February 16 I found out I would need brain surgery and so I had to stop taking everything in preparation for the surgery. Before the surgery I had lost eight pounds. During my time in the hospital and for two months afterward, my weight remained exactly where I left it March 1, no matter how much or how little I ate. I resumed taking the Iodoral a month after surgery and as before, my energy level increased, but since I started exercising again (walking several miles per week) my weight has once again gone UP, not down. I am beginning to wonder if it was pre-operative stress causing me to lose that weight.
    However, I still like the Iodoral for the energy it gives me, although I have discovered I can not take it too close to bedtime, as it will keep me awake.

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  12. Hi Dear,

    Teras are welling up in my eyes as I read your post. I read your first few lines n immediately said out loud that 'I knew I was not imagining this!!!!'. THANK YOU! I dont feel so alone anymore. Anyone in my shoes would be losing weight like mad. I work out for hours and eat 70% clean yet I am not losing a single kg. It is extremely depressing when u see others not doing much yet able to lose the weight off. Here I am kicking my ass doing so much and nothing is happening except me feeling stronger n having improved endurance levels. I never knew that this was linked to PMDD. I suspect that I have PMDD. I showcase all the symptoms. I did experience rapid weight loss of 36kg over 5mths. Before that, I never had any form of PMS etc. Only after losing weight rapidly did I experience PMS. Recently, I realised that I no longer suffer frm just PMS. It seems to have gotten worse... n that is how I came to find out about PMDD from your site.

    Thank You very much. I feel you have answered my prayers! Answers I have been searching for... finally.... This may be the solution. I will get myself checked with regards to my hormone levels etc. N I hope that I can finally get rid of that extra weight I have been doing for the past 3yrs now.

    Thank You and just want U to know that your work is very much appreciated. Pls continue doing what U do cos U just 'saved' me. Thank U n GOD Bless U.

    Maya Korrs,
    Singapore

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    1. Hi, Maya,

      I am so happy to have been of some help for you and for all of the commenters above...As for me, I had to start taking blood thinners a few months after my brain surgery in preparation for stent surgery, and that has wreaked all kinds of havoc with my system. The blood thinners wire me and rev me up, so I backed off on the Iodoral, because the blood thinners were already keeping me awake at night and I didn't need any extra energy, thank you. I have since returned to a lower dose of the Iodoral for health benefits, but my weight has not budged in 7 months between the surgery and the blood thinners. In fact, weight gain is a side effect of blood thinners, so apparently I am doing well just to maintain my weight at this point.

      Readers: If you have read this far and have tried adding Iodoral to your diet, please post your results here in the comments section or contact me offline at Liana (at) livingwithpmdd (dot) com. I would really like to know if you had the same results I did -- before all this brain strain stuff. Thanks and have a great day!

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  13. Oops! The correct address is info (at) livingwithpmdd (dot) com.

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  14. Has anyone tried the iodoral?

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  15. Hi -- I have lived with PMDD since adolescence (am now 41). It has ruined most of my relationships and put a huge strain on the others -- even with my closest family members. I have been so puzzled for so long -- why can't any of the 20+ doctors I've been to over the years find any irregularities in my hormone levels? And why can't any of them do anything to help me? All they ever do is prescribe antidepressants, SSRI's. I have been on just about every kind there is. I do suffer from depression, but I believe the depression is a PRODUCT of the PMDD -- not the other way around. I cannot do anything with any consistency, b/c by the time I get on any kind of routine, the PMDD hits again and ruins it all... it renders me useless. I get so sick that I might as well have the flu physically, and be a complete psychopath mentally. I am so tired. Any suggestions for what to say to the next doctor I try? I am currently on Paxil and it's keeping me from killing myself, but is not helping my pmdd symptoms at al.

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  16. Absolutely! Give them this: It's a link to the best medical overview of PMDD I have read to date. If this one doesn't work, it's at the top of the page, right under the search box. I might also suggest that you try a naturopathic doctor, or a naturopathic nurse practitioner if you want to stay away from antidepressants. Because many medical doctors will reach for those treatments first. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/293257-overview To see if there is a naturopathic practitioner near you, go to http://www.naturopathic.org/AF_MemberDirectory.asp?version=2 and for a nurse practitioner, go to http://www.ahna.org/Home/For-Consumers/Practitioner-Directory. To answer your other questions, PMDD doesn't give you irregular hormone levels. PMDD is something that happens in your brain, due to the shifting levels in your hormones. But most blood tests for PMDD will show your hormone levels to be fine. And you are correct in that cyclical pre-menstrual depression is a product of your PMDD. If you have depression at other times of the month, then you might have PME, or pre-menstrual exacerbation of your depression. Only you and your practitioner can figure that one out. But may these links and this information help you to find the right one for you. Blessings, Liana

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    1. P.S. The patient guide in the link below the medical overview link above would be a great read for you, as well, to help you go into the appointment armed with the information you need to know.

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  17. I have been struggling with PMDD like symptom for about 2 years now, My body is not in my control and i have fits of anger and depression, i have gained 7 pounds and i workout 5 days a week and 90% clean. the weight does not come off. I am so frustrated and sad!!.. these symptoms is effecting my marriage and my relationships. I dont know which is more frustrating weight gain or the sinking feeling i have contniously for weeks. my question is once taking the hormones medication does it help woith the weight?

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