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~Seek first to understand, then be understood~
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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, October 6, 2010

PMDD and Maple Syrup

Okay, time to check in again. One of the things I make a point of here is to be as honest with you as I possibly can. But my information is only as good as what I have personally experienced, so I can’t—and won’t--recommend things I haven’t tried. I’m just as eager—and sometimes just as desperate—as the next woman to find a way to feel well all the time, but I’m not one to just throw things out there to see if they stick. I’ve chased enough dream cures for PMDD in my forty years to know I don’t want to send any of you down the same road of futility and despair.

Because every time one of these so-called “miracle cures” fails to take away our PMDD, we tend to blame ourselves, and not the product we just spent another $20, $50, or $100 on. The problem must be with us, right?---not the stuff in the pretty package with all the glowing testimonials of how it worked for other women.

Wrong. The only problem here is you fell prey to hope.

That said, the only thing I know for sure is a woman with PMDD needs to pay careful attention to what she eats and drinks, and needs to listen to the signals her body sends her about whatever she is putting into her body, be it food, drink, supplements, creams, hormones, or medication of any sort. It’s only through this total body awareness that we’ll be able to get a handle on our PMDD.

Our bodies are amazing, and communicate with us constantly. Think aches, pains, tingles, queasiness, sleepiness, nervousness, whatever. Unfortunately, we’ve been conditioned to ignore these distress signals from bodies, and therefore our health and well-being, as long as we are able to get done all the things we need to do. It’s this ignoring of our bodies that leaves us wide open to using and abusing them in ways that invariably come back to haunt us, via cravings and weight gain, irritability and mood swings, and susceptibility to illnesses of all sorts, both physical and mental.

So the number one thing you need to do is take the time to get to know your body, what nourishes and sustains it, and what sends it, and therefore you and your life, out of kilter.

Last week I thought it was the cottage cheese bringing me down. I’ve since figured out that it was--and it wasn’t. It wasn’t bringing me down in the way I thought it was. As most women with PMDD, I need a certain level of carbs to be functional. Carbs are the precursor to making serotonin, which is a hormone a woman with PMDD lacks during certain times of the month.

There aren’t a lot of carbs in cottage cheese :). So after coming off the fast, which was a cleansing fast, and not one I would recommend for everybody (which is why I’m not openly promoting it here), I was (and still am) determined to watch my calories. Not count them—never again will I count calories—but I am determined in general to stick to a reasonable level of healthy fuel for my body intake.

Full fat cottage cheese is 30% fat—that’s what makes it so tasty. But by eating the cottage cheese, I was putting something in my body that wasn’t going to help improve my mood. What I should have been eating was something that would provide some healthy carbs to fuel my serotonin production.

In short, I substituted fat for carbs. And while it satisfied my hunger and the pleasure/reward area of my brain, it did nothing to improve my mood, or sense of mental clarity and well being. The key, in my case, is to keep a steady supply of carbs in my system, so my body has enough resources to make the level of serotonin I need to stay happy and focused. There are a few ways to do this. One, by eating some dense, healthy carbs—like oatmeal, or multi-grain toast with no sugar added preserves, or even bananas, grapes, apples, or oranges. (But you have to be careful about eating too much fruit if you have problems with insulin resistance.)

Another way to boost your serotonin levels is by exercising moderately. Too much exercise, and you deplete your body’s stores of carbs, therefore defeating the whole purpose. So a nice, moderate, 2-mile walk really helps. Maybe a some kind of dance (Zumba is great for this) or Pilates class. But if you don’t have time for that, even 10-20 minutes of walking or light aerobic exercise will help—just enough to get your heart rate up and break a light sweat.

A third alternative is to take some 5-HTP. I have two kinds here…one with 37 grams per capsule, and one with 100 grams per capsule. That way I can take whatever I need, based on whether I feel like I need a big boost in mood and focus or a small one. However, it is not recommended that you take 5-HTP if you are already taking any MAOI drugs or SSRI anti-depressants. The main reason being that they accomplish the same purpose so you could easily overdose by taking both. For more information on Serotonin Syndrome, go here.

An alternative to 5-HTP is to take a SSRI-type antidepressant—but only while you are feeling symptomatic. There’s no need to take any kind of drug every single day, day in and day out, for something that troubles you only part of the month. SSRIs have been proven to help with symptoms of PMDD in 60% of the women who take them. You won’t know if you’re one of the 60% unless you try. But what they don’t tell you is that for PMDD, you only need to take them when you are feeling symptomatic. It’s just easier to prescribe one for you to take all the time, and when it starts to fail, up the dosage (and all the unpleasant side effects). It’s like we can’t be trusted to know when we need a boost and when we don’t.

But while an anti-depressant takes a few weeks to kick in for those who are truly depressed, if you have PMDD, a SSRI can somehow affect the part of your brain that boosts your serotonin level within hours. So yes, I have a 10 mg prescription handy for those days when nothing else seems to work. But those days are few and far between, Thank God (in six months I’ve taken them three times, for 2-3 days each time), and I much prefer to use the natural methods of treatment available.

Other options are to increase your intake of Vitamin D, or to simply get more sleep. I realize that this last one is the least simple of the options available, but sometimes nothing less will do. For it's when we sleep that our body has a chance to re-set itself, and put everything back into balance if it can.

I did mention that while on the cleansing fast, I had no symptoms of PMDD. My guess is this was due to the maple syrup component of the fast, which kept a slow, steady supply of carbs circulating through my body and brain all day long. One serving of maple syrup contains 53 grams of sugar, 10 more grams than a can of regular soda. But all sugars are not alike. Sodas not only don’t add anything to your body but calories, they actually rob your of vitality and nutrition, and leave you dehydrated, to boot.

But since I was using organic Grade B maple syrup, I was getting all of the nutritional benefits (Grade B organic maple syrup is filled with all sorts of vitamins and minerals), without any negative side effects. However, at one point I was running out of Grade B syrup, and since the Whole Foods store was on the other side of town, I went to the grocery store instead to find a replacement to get me through the weekend.

No dice. All I could find was 100% pure Grade A maple syrup (not organic). One serving of that, and I had an immediate headache and was sick to my stomach. I went to the internet to find out why, and learned that non-organic Grade A maple syrup is sometimes processed with formaldehyde.

My body was letting me know I was not giving it something that was good and healthy. Back to the Whole Foods store I went, and the problem immediately went away.

So now I sweeten my tea with a little Grade B organic syrup, and it does wonders to keep the healthy carbs flowing.


  1. You've choosen to share what has worked for you and with enough detail to provide clarity without cumbersome information overload. Thank You!

  2. Thanks for your blog..its great!