By Sarena-Rae Santos, Natural Health Blogger
Bloating, headaches, and cramps? Oh, those are so frustrating when I am dealing with PMS every month! Do you have that issue too? As I was writing How to Eat for Your Menstrual Cycle, I quickly learned many women, myself included, don’t know how to support their bodies during their time of the month.
For many women, headaches, bloating, cramps, mood swings, pain, and food cravings will occur during or before their menstrual cycle. For other women, moderate to severe physical and emotional changes are experienced, known as premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMS is also associated with mood swings, tender breasts, food cravings, fatigue, irritability, and depression (1). Studies show that upwards of 90 percent of women report experiencing disturbing PMS symptoms (2).
What if there was a solution to PMS symptoms, like supporting the liver – wouldn’t that be amazing? Well, that just might be the key; let’s discuss it.
Why We Need to Support the Liver for PMS
Although the cause of PMS is unclear, it seems to be related to hormone and brain chemical fluctuations (3). Right before the menstruation phase of a woman’s cycle, she is in the luteal phase. During the luteal phase, hormone levels start high as the body prepares the uterus for potential pregnancy from the ovulatory phase by thickening your uterine lining. If the egg isn’t fertilized, hormone levels decrease as the body prepares for the menstruation phase resulting in decreased estrogen and progesterone levels (4).
For some women, they will experience estrogen dominance and progesterone deficiency, which can affect a woman’s body in many ways, including:
- Abnormal menstruation (heavy/painful periods)
- Decreased sex drive
- Mood swings
- Anxiety and depression
- Breast tenderness
- Hormonal weight gain (5)
If a woman is experiencing PMS, it may be related to estrogen dominance, and supporting the liver is crucial. Excess estrogen is excreted from the body post-metabolic conversion. After the estrogen has been converted to estrogenically inactive metabolites, the body can eliminate it via urine or feces (6).
You may wonder how that has anything to do with supporting your liver, but let me explain.
The liver has many important metabolic functions. It converts the nutrients in our diets into substances that the body can use, stores these substances, and supplies cells with them when needed. The liver also converts toxic substances into harmless substances or ensures they are released from the body (7).
Although estrogen is predominantly produced in the ovaries, corpus luteum, and placenta, a small (but significant) amount of estrogen is produced by nongonad organs, such as the liver, heart, skin, and brain (8).
Let’s look closer at the liver’s role in producing estrogen.
The liver is a site for estrogen production and the main site for further conversion. Once the estrogen is synthesized by aromatase in peripheral tissues, including the liver, it will be released into circulation (9).
In other words, a healthy, supported liver will help store the estrogen needed and release the rest from the body, helping prevent estrogen dominance.
So how do we support our liver? Let’s get into it.
How to Support the Liver for PMS
Whether you’ve read our article 16 Signs of Liver Congestion (and How to Fix It) or not, it’s important to understand the signs of liver congestion and how to fix it.
First, it’s important to remember the liver is one of our “detox organs.” Its job is to filter all the toxins we are exposed to daily so they can be safely excreted. The liver also regulates hormones and transforms or removes excess from the body (10).
Some signs of liver congestion include:
- Weight gain
- Pain in the upper right side (front or back)
- Frequent illnesses
- Poor sleep habits
- Headaches (especially right-sided)
- Sensitivity to chemicals (perfumes, etc.)
- White coating on the tongue
- Hormone imbalances
- Musty-smelling breath
I don’t know about you, but I have quite a few of these, so let’s discuss how to support our liver.
If you read our dandelion herbal profile, you know studies have found that dandelions protect the liver tissue from toxic substances and stress. One study revealed that dandelion leaf extract significantly protected the liver tissue of mice exposed to harmful acetaminophen levels (11). Another study found that dandelion extract may reduce the excess fat levels stored in the liver and even protect against oxidative stress in the liver tissue (12).
Milk Thistle Seed
Milk thistle is well known for its ability to project the liver (13). Milk thistle contains a bioflavonoid called silymarin, which helps to support and detox the liver naturally (14). Milk thistle is often used in alternative health by people with liver damage from alcoholic liver disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, hepatitis, liver cancer, and more (15,16,17). Studies have also shown milk thistle supplementation improved liver function in participants with liver disease, showing promise in reducing liver inflammation and damage (18).
If you read our peppermint herbal profile, you know it may relieve menstrual cramps due to its ability to act as a muscle relaxant. A study of girls with painful cramps found that peppermint extract capsules were effective as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (19). Maybe these effects also have something to do with peppermint liver-supporting properties. For instance, studies suggest that peppermint essential oil might be an effective antifibrogenic agent in preventing liver fibrosis progression (20).
If you read our turmeric herbal profile, you know it has compounds called curcuminoids. Curcumin is turmeric’s main ingredient and has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect (21). Studies have shown that curcumin matches the effectiveness of some anti-inflammatory drugs without the dangerous side effects (22). Turmeric also protects the liver in many ways. For instance, one study found curcumin protected the liver from the arsenic-induced deterioration of antioxidant levels (23). Additionally, clinical trials demonstrate that curcumin does not cause adverse complications in liver and kidney function and is safe, even at high doses (24).
Looking for a simpler way to support your liver? Try Earthley’s Liver Love! Liver Love combines organic dandelion root, milk thistle seed, peppermint leaf, turmeric root, and black pepper in an alcohol or vegetable glycerin base to promote liver health by supporting detox and proper function.