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PMS & PMDD: A Gyno-Spiritual Look At The Goddess Within

Lissa Rankin's picture
Yoni Prayer, by Heidi Richardson Evans

Yoni Prayer, by Heidi Richardson Evans

Hiya, Pinkies! It's Healthy Thursday, so for today's post, I'm going to answer a question that one Pinkie submitted about PMS. Let's rock this joint and Own our Bodies, our Health, and our Femininity.

I'm a sufferer of severe PMS (my doctor calls it PMDD), and girl: SUFFER is the word. The whole issue is a stew of contradictory thoughts & worries for me. It mucks up my mojo worrying about how Goddess-dissing it seems that I have such problems surrounding my cycle. My condition is totally screwing up my relationship. I'm confused about treatment & what it all means, gyno-spiritually, if you will. I didn’t seem fair that I should have to endure this, all because Eve ate that damn apple.

I hear you, sister. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or it’s evil stepsister, the more severe premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), can rob even Pink Goddesses of their mojo for those few days before the menstrual cycle begins. You may feel like you’re rockin’ in love, joy, and acceptance 24 days out of the cycle, but the 4 days before your period you turn into a raging lunatic. If you feel this way, you’re so not alone.

Most women experience symptoms of PMS from time to time- mood swings, chocolate cravings, bloating, irritability. But the more serious PMDD can seriously affect your quality of life. Makes it hard to Own Femininity, eh? It’s enough to make a Goddess like yourself resent being born female. So what can you do?

Natural Tips For Minimizing PMS Symptoms

1. Eat a whole foods diet. You've heard it before, but it really does help. That means cutting back on sugar, refined carbohydrates, dairy, caffeine, processed foods, and saturated and hydrogenated (trans) fats, and instead adding fruits, veggies, and whole grains, especially during the luteal phase (second half) of your cycle. Sorry, but that means bye-bye chocolate.

2. Increase essential fatty acids by eating nuts, seeds, and fish.

3. Manage your stress effectively. Try yoga, meditation, massage, or guided imagery CD's.

4. Engage in regular aerobic exercise. A good, long hike helps regulate your hormones and your stress, and it builds up happy-making endorphins.

5. Take a multivitamin and 1200mg of calcium/day.

6. Talk to an integrative medicine doctor about how to use supplements to help your PMS symptoms. Alternative medicine therapies like acupuncture and Reiki can also help.

Criteria For PMDD

To meet criteria for this diagnosis, you must experience five or more of the following symptoms during most of the week before your menses, and they must interfere significantly with your daily life and relationships. At least one of the first four symptoms must be present.

1. Significantly depressed mood, hopelessness, self-deprecating thoughts

2. Significant anxiety, tension, feeling irritable, uptight.

3. Sudden mood changes of sadness, weepiness, or easily feeling rejected

4. Anger or irritability or increased conflict with others

5. Lack of motivation for usual activities

6. Difficulty concentrating

7. Lethargy, easily fatigued, low energy

8. Changes in appetite, overeating, food cravings

9. Sleeping too much or insomnia

10. Overwhelmed, feeling out of control

11. Additional physical symptoms, such as breast tenderness, swelling, headaches, join or muscle pain, bloating, weight gain

You Can’t Always Be Superwoman

Some theorize that PMS/PMDD is nature's way of making you slow down and take stock of your life. You can't be Superwoman all the time, and maybe your body is telling you it's chick-flick night, and you need some personal, quiet time. In general, gynecological issues stem from the second chakra. When our bodies struggle with second chakra issues, it’s an invitation to explore what might underlie the outward symptoms of PMS/PMDD.

The Gyno-Spiritual Side of PMS

From a gyno-spiritual perspective, this may mean that the spiritual challenge you face is learning to interact consciously to form unions with others who support your personal path of awakening. Sometimes, this means releasing relationships that cripple your growth.

The energy in the second chakra enables us to cleave from the tribe (as represented by the first chakra), develop a sense of personal identity, and establish boundaries. In our second chakra, we also deal with issues such as sex, money, power, relationships, and addictive substances. It’s also the center for creation. The energy of the second chakra gives us the power of choice. When we feel our choices are taken from us, we may manifest this in the form of gynecological troubles.

As for Goddess-dissing, climb on into the Red Tent with us and vent away, if need be. Nothing wrong with telling your truth, the way you see it. We Goddesses can handle it.

A Few Words About Eve


Mojo Mentor & biblical scholar Alice Langholt shares a few thoughts about Eve. "Eve's foray with the forbidden fruit had more to do with her independent spirit, intense curiosity, and well...a good dose of pink mojo spunkiness than something sinful or shameful. I don't consider PMS/ PMDD a punishment for the biblical woman's independent streak. In fact, most biblical women had minds of their own and took charge of their situations when they felt the need. Women in the bible are strong, independent, and made decisions regardless of rules or expectations of subservience. So don't go blaming Eve - in fact, let her be a positive example to you that you can take charge of your situation and change it. You have the power."

Just Slow Down

I could wax on gyno-spiritually- and we can talk more about this sometime- but let me bring it back home for a minute. If second chakra mumbo jumbo is too woo woo for you, think of it this way. Perhaps PMS is simply your body’s way of asking you to slow down. What if you take this time to listen to your body, write in your journal, and reflect? What would that feel like? Is there something else going on in your life that might need to be addressed? Do you really hate the direction your life is taking? Are you unhappy in a relationship? Do you have some things in your past you might need to address with a therapist? Are you not living authentically? Our bodies are often the mirrors of our souls and psyches, so take stock, and make sure you’re not ignoring some glaring issue in your life.

Treatment Options For The Goddess With PMDD

If you’ve checked deeper and all is well, don’t despair. Apologize to your friends and family for chewing their heads off, but blame your hormones. If you’ve tried everything natural and nothing helps, talk to your doctor about a trial of continuous birth control pills. By taking the Pill every day and skipping your cycle, you can often eliminate PMS symptoms altogether. Talk to your doctor about how bioidentical hormones or birth control pills can help. If you have PMDD, you can blame your brain chemistry. If the serotonin levels in your brain are low, you may benefit from supplements that naturally build up your serotonin levels, such as 5-HTP or tryptophan. As reluctant as I am to throw Prozac at people, if you’re really suffering, you may even benefit from a trial of an anti-depressant, either daily or during the last two weeks of your cycle. You don't have to be a complete mess before your period. Take charge of your life and your health, and help your body help you by treating it like the temple it is.

Wishing you premenstrual bliss (or at least acceptance of what is),

Dr. Lissa

*Dr. Lissa Rankin's book What's Up Down There? Questions You'd Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend will be published Fall 2010 by St. Martin's Press.


This blog, and the book on which it is based, is a complement to - not a substitute for - professional advice and intervention, and is not intended to replace the advice of a gynecologist or medical professional, who should be consulted about any health care issues that may affect the individual reader. The information contained in this book is the product of observations made by the author in her practice, as well as her review of relevant literature in her field of expertise. The literature at times reflects conflicting opinions and conclusions. The views expressed herein are the personal views of the author and are not intended to reflect the views of any group or organization with whom the author is affiliated.


Clare Allcard's picture

Please could you tell me who

Please could you tell me who painted the picture of Eve... I need to know as I want to use it in a book and need to find out if it is under copyright... Many thanks.

Lissa Rankin's picture

Yes, Cajsa- thank you for

Yes, Cajsa- thank you for bringing that up. I'm a big fan of acupuncture and it can be very helpful for PMS. Sending you love & loads of healing juju- Lissa

Cajsa's picture

Thanks Liisa, Tomorrow I'm

Thanks Liisa,

Tomorrow I'm also trying acupuncture for the first time in my life, not because of the PMS, but because of something else (a compulsive disorder that I unfortunately suffer from). But I have also heard it should be effective on PMS, and that is also when I experience the symptoms of the disorder the most. So fingers crossed it will work, along with the Aloe Vera.

Great to participate in this discussion!

With Love,


Lissa Rankin's picture

Thank you Cajsa- Julia Ross,

Thank you Cajsa- Julia Ross, a friend of mine and author of The Diet Cure and The Mood Cure, puts clients who suffer primarily from the mood symptoms of PMS on a serotonin-enhancing diet. When we eat foods that are naturally rich in tryptophan, such as whey protein shakes, scrambled eggs, milk, lean meats, etc., the tryptophan turns into natural serotonin. The serotonin is then found in the blood stream, in the gut, and is synthesised in the central nervous system, acting like natural Prozac.

I've never heard of the aloe vera remedy. Thanks for sharing! Also, chaste tree berry supplements can help. Be well! With love Lissa

Cajsa's picture

Hi all, I am so happy to

Hi all,

I am so happy to finally find some intelligent discussion on PMS and PMDD. I have also been suffering from this for a long time. It basically feels like my world is falling apart during these days. Sometimes despite doing Yoga, exercising, eating healthy etc. But if you continue doing these things consistently I believe, like som many of you, that the symptons can be reduced. I have never heard about the Gluten theory before. I will search the internet of course, but I would still be interested in finding out what sort of foods you should cut out from your diet, cause I'd definately be willing to try this out. I have also heard Aloe Vera is supposed to be a very good remedy during PMS if you take a few shots of the gel every day suring the 7 days before your period.

That's my contribution for now. Lovely to "hear" all of you!


The Doctor Is In: Let’s Talk About The New Pelvic Exam Guidl's picture

[...] disorders like

[...] disorders like hemorrhaging or menstrual cramps that cause you to miss important life functions. * PMS/PMDD that may be hampering a happy [...]

Lissa Rankin's picture

Marie, I can't tell you how

Marie, I can't tell you how many of my patients discover that all kinds of various ailments improve when they eliminate gluten. Everything from skin conditions to mood disorders to vaginal itching to GI issues. I'm SO glad this cycle has been better for you. Let me know how it goes for you. Sending loads of healing juju for you! Lissa

Marie's picture

Lisa, I just wanted to thank


I just wanted to thank you. I almost do not want to type this in fear of jinxing anything. I decided to go Gluten free about 2 weeks ago. And it just happened to coincide with my PMS. The PMS that i now dread EVERY month because it leaves me feeling completely sick to my stomach for days and days. Well today I started my period and it hit me. OH MY GOD I was not queasy one single day! Not one. I pray it is not a fluke (that is my worry voice thinking for me). But I wanted to thank you for suggesting it. I am going to keep up with it.

Marie's picture

Thanks Lisa! Wish I could be

Thanks Lisa!

Wish I could be your patient too! Anytime I tell a gyno they just say..oh that is normal. And since I am not actually getting sick i just feel like getting sick they seem to ignore it.

Lissa Rankin's picture

I would be interested to know

I would be interested to know what's up with your hormones, Marie. Perhaps you have high levels of estrogen, not balanced with enough progesterone, which can cause nausea. Or maybe there's something going on in your gut that is exacerbated by your hormone fluctuations. I would be really curious what would happen if you cut out gluten altogether for three months...

Just my two cents. Wish you could see me a patient! I could help more...

Marie's picture

Great article. Thanks so

Great article. Thanks so much! I know I want to get tested for Gluten and such. I think I may have a sensitivity at least. Does PMS get worse with age? I am asking because I am 32 and holy moly. I never really had any symptoms before but now I actually feel horrible a whole 7 days before I start. My worse symptom in the nausea. I have never had kids but I imagine the feeling is like morning sickness. I never actually get sick but it is so severe that it keeps me in bed and causes me to call of work many many time. I am not on birth control and do not want to be but I am not sure how to combat this disruption.

Lissa Rankin's picture

Thank you, Sarah, for

Thank you, Sarah, for listening to your body and taking from this post whatever your body needs to grow, mend, and heal. I'm glad I could help and wish you peace and wellness.

Sarah's picture

Thanks for this article. My

Thanks for this article. My mom's a (sensitive, liberal, feminist) psychiatrist and she's been worried about the depths of my PMDD to the point that she was semi-harassing me about getting on medication. I started to get nervous/convinced after listening to her side. But I also trust my body to tell me what it needs and this article confirms what I already felt/intuited, which is that a combination of nutrition and mindful restfulness should be plenty to keep my brain healthy and satisfied. Thanks for the resource.

Lissa Rankin's picture

Just to clarify, what I mean

Just to clarify, what I mean by that is this- if stuff comes up during that time, examine it. Don't reject it, resent it, tell it to bugger off... Explore it. Invite it. And listen to what your body is telling you (which might simply be "Take care of me!")

Lissa Rankin's picture

You're welcome Leeta. You

You're welcome Leeta. You don't have to be a victim of PMS. It's YOUR body. Go with the flow, darling...

Leeta's picture

Thank you Lissa for the

Thank you Lissa for the suggestions. I suffer with PMS and depression, and sometimes while PMSing oh my goodness it can be so rough. This time for example, i had to keep telling myself -your not REALLY depressed it's just PMS, or your not really that angry it's just PMS.. i hate the crying and then the out of control feeling that comes over... i'm going to really work on following the recommendations you listed, -the eating the exercising multi vitamins etc.. it's really what i should be doing any way as a person with diabetes and depression issues.. thanks for the info!

Lissa Rankin's picture

Wow- I feel so blessed to

Wow- I feel so blessed to have so much wisdom to add to what I know medically but am just learning energetically. Thank you, Jean, for contributing such wonderful tips on how women can go with the flow...

Jean Kowalski's picture

Great topic!!! I agree with

Great topic!!! I agree with Alice and utilizing the healing energies of Reiki or any of the energy-based therapies.

One point Lissa brought up was the Sacral Chakra or energy center--the womb. The sacral chakra is the reservoir of our life force energy. From here can be channeled throughout the rest of the body. Think about how the body shifts and changes every month, how the energy can get stuck. The chakra is connected to the element of water and has the characteristics of flow (makes sense right). This is also the seat of our creativity!!! (ahh, now we're getting somewhere!!)

Rather than cuss and swear at the pain and agony that is presenting itself.....go with the "flow"! Movement, as in freestyle dance or tai chi, being flexible in your motions and e-motions, express your creativity--pulling that stuck energy up and out--painting, writing, singing. By taking an active role in creativity, it directly stimulates the life-force energy. Go into the discomfort and allow it to work in your favor.

The womb has wonderful stories to share with you when time can be shared with it.

Much goddess love and light, Jean

Lissa Rankin's picture

THANK YOU, you Reiki Goddess,

THANK YOU, you Reiki Goddess, you! Great explanation. Wow. Can't you feel that energetic juice coursing through you? I can...

Alice's picture

Sure Lissa! To talk about

Sure Lissa!

To talk about energy work, I want to first talk about energy. We are all energetic beings in a physical body. Around us and connecting us there is unseen (but present) energy. Meditation, yoga, Reiki, and other ways of accessing this energy help us bring outside energy into our own energy field, reducing stress, increasing balance, reducing pain, and giving the body an optimal environment for healing. By doing any of these energetic practices, what we are doing is raising the vibration of our own energy field to access and accept more life force energy into our own.

Reiki is the type of energy work I practice. The word "Reiki" is made of two words - Rei (guided) and Ki (life force energy). What a Reiki practitioner can do is guide some of this energy to another person or to herself for the benefits of reducing pain, balancing, and helping enhance a person's capacity to heal.

I have learned through my practice working with Reiki clients and students that receiving regular Reiki healings, either via self-healing or from a practitioner, can reduce the symptoms of PMS/PMDD because it helps the body and emotions enter a state of balance, reduce cramping and related pain. The emotions are in a state of flux during PMS and Reiki feels relaxing and soothing. It helps release blockages and gives a sense of well-being. So that week in particular, Reiki is of amazing benefit.

Reiki is also effective via distance. Just as energy is invisible, it doesn't require physical proximity to get to its destination. It travels via the intention of the practitioner to send, and the recipient's intention to receive.

I know it sounds woo-woo. It did to me at first too. But I became a believer and a Reiki Teacher because I saw it work time and time again, consistently. I feel the energy when I'm giving a Reiki treatment, and the recipient experiences change for the better.

So in cooperation with a healthy diet, rest, checking in with your emotional state, and other self-care, Reiki really makes a difference. Other energy work can too.

I hope this has been helpful.

Lissa Rankin's picture

You are most welcome,

You are most welcome, sweetheart! Be well...

Heidi Daisybones's picture

Thanks for the wisdom,

Thanks for the wisdom, Darling Doctor Lissa! I ALWAYS forget about calcium, fish, etc. Hopefully reading this now, as in... not during Hell Week, will help me plan.

Thanks so much for including a balance of Mojo Work and solid, less-woo nutrition & science:) A well-rounded plan of attack. I mean... acceptance. Or Menstrual Empowerment. Something! Yay! xo

Lissa Rankin's picture

Alice, many of our readers

Alice, many of our readers don't know what energy work really means. Can you help them understand specifically how energy work might benefit someone with PMS? I'm sure our readers who appreciate this valuable information.

Alice's picture

I want to thank Lissa for

I want to thank Lissa for including me in the article as well. I don't believe that we as a gender are being punished with our cycles, and having a healthy respect for our ability to jump into situations and take the initiative is testament to our strength (and mojo!).

I'd like to add that learning and receiving energy work can help move the body and spirit toward balance, which can be very beneficial. I'm talking here about Reiki (from personal experience) or other kinds of energy work that might suit you, whether yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, or other forms. So be sure you are giving your energy, spirit, and emotional body attention too. We're all connected with our energetic selves and have the power to affect change.

With much love, Alice

Lissa Rankin's picture

I TOTALLY agree with you,

I TOTALLY agree with you, Debra. I test for gluten sensitivity in many of my patients at the integrative medicine center where I work. Thank you for adding this. Sometimes, gluten sensitivity can be so subtle that it manifests in ways we wouldn't even imagine. I appreciate the reminder.

Debra Hope-Riedesel RD,LD's picture

Hi Dr. Lissa, Thank you for

Hi Dr. Lissa, Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on PMS/PMDD! You are the FIRST OB/GYN to talk about diet and limiting DAIRY, thank you. I can't tell you how many women who are lactose intolerant actually cause themselves more problems with calcium, magnesium, and zinc malabsorption, by not limiting dairy, not to mention problems with galactose. I would also like to say many women with PMDD may also be suffering from an undiagnosed gluten sensitivity. Celiac disease and non-Celiac gluten sensitivity are much more common than once thought. The prevalence for Celiac is now 1 in 133 but there seems to be an even higher prevalence of gluten sensitivity. Celiac, an autoimmune disease and the worst form of gluten intolerance is associated with many, many other autoimmune disease & conditions. And of course it would seem women are subject to more autoimmune diseases than men, something like 65% to 35% depending on the disease. Before pushing antidepresent why not test for Celiac or gluten sensitivity? I can't tell you how many women I've found through my private practice who have substantially improved on a GF and sometimes DF diet.

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