Is PMS an illness?

In 2017 I'll be launching a new course on the subject of PMS. It will look at how to deal with mild to moderate PMS symptoms using lifestyle changes, hormone charting, herbs, mindfulness and diet. As part of the course I'll be sending out a PMS-care-kit with a host of natural, hand made, products for creating a monthly relaxation routine. Here's why I've come to create it. 


PMS is a chronic condition experienced by menstruating women which is characterised by distressing physical, behavioural and psychological symptoms that regularly recur during the luteal phase of themenstrual cycle ( from ovulation to the onset of a period) and that disappear orsignificantly diminish by the end of the period (menstruation). -National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome

Definitions tend to be correspondingly general and vague. In current clinical terminology, "PMS" refers to any unspecified periodical somatic, psychological or behavioural disorder which begins in the days before menstrual bleeding and may or may not end with its onset. - Michael Stolberg, 2004

Notice the words "chronic condition" in the definition. Condition does not necessarily denote something negative but when used with the word chronic it becomes negative as this is how we describe long-term illness in medicine. These words hint at the underlying pathologising of PMS. But we don't need to see a set of symptoms as a disease or illness to recognise its existence. 


Most women have tender breasts, bloating, and muscle aches a few days before they start their menstrual periods. These are normal premenstrual symptoms. But when they disrupt your daily life, they are called premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMS can affect your body, your mood, and how you act in the days leading up to your menstrual period. - webmd

Imagine a world where women were the first academics and they decided that the psychological, emotional and physical symptoms men experienced after a heavy meal including; fatigue, poor concentration, stomach pains and belching should be called a syndrome? What if we started calling it post-heavy-meal-syndrome, or PHMS for short? What if we started to look for a cause of PHMS or just told men "it's all in your head"? What if we, decided you need stimulants to deal with the terrible energy depleting effects of PHMS? This is what male academics of years gone by did with PMS. 


We believe that premenstrual symptoms are experienced to a lesser or greater extent by most women and that these symptoms are real rather than imaginary. We do not think, however, that PMS is, as some have argued, either a disease or a neurosis. It is so widespread a phenomenon, in fact, that the absence of the most common symptoms during the premenstruum would be unusual. - The Curse by Janice Delaney, Mari Jane Lupton and Emily Tooth

Although we don't need to see PMS as an illness to recognise its existence, we do if we want to create drugs for it. At the moment the most commonly used medications for PMS are SSRI's (a type of anti-depressant), hormonal contraceptives to alter natural hormone levels and NSAID's (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories) for pain. Although it's great to have these as options there are other treatments available which are not even offered in the doctors consulting rooms which are safer, less addictive and don't have the same side effects. For example; herbs, acupuncture, massage, dietary changes, relaxation techniques, I could go on. 

It seems we know PMS isn't a medical disease. But yet, we behave like it is. We seek out treatment for it, we even take drugs for it. As early as the 4th century BC, men (who were the only academics in that time) have struggled to understand this "monthly malady", as it's sometimes called. I find it amusing that, despite these scholars trying to explain PMS, men (generally speaking) remain befuddled by our PMS behaviours to this day. Though not all men do, of course.

Treating PMS as though it is an illness, and speaking in negative terms about it, is incredibly damaging to our experience both physically and mentally during this time. It increases the likelihood that we will be looking for the negative effects and struggle to see the positive. It also increases the chances we will be expecting to experience pain and look for it, rather than greet it with open arms if it should appear.

I don't try to cure myself of PMS but rather live with it in a harmonious way. I have found that through charting and natural, healthy living, I can enjoy this time of my cycle. It can be a quiet, peaceful and creative time. A time where I have the best intuitive ideas shoot forwards to the front of my mind. The sort of crazy ideas that my ego normally wouldn't allow through for fear or doubt in myself. This is a time of natural Hygge and self-care. This is a time that needs to be taken back. 


They say we once gathered in red tents during our periods. They say we once bled with the moon. Even now there are tribes where the women are separated from the men during this time. I can't think of anything more joyful than to be surrounded by women who are in the same part of their cycle. There is a growing red tent movement in the UK and across the western world.

I am creating a course that hopes to teach you about your hormones again. How to chart them, how to go with the flow of them, how to use them to maximise your productivity, how to use herbs to support yourself through this time and how to trust your instinct that you know what medicines you need. You can find preview shots of the products below and on instagram. There is also a page in the top menu where you can read more about it. It's only available for those in Europe for now, and if you're interested in updates about it just leave your email below.