broccoli sprouts

PMS: Recognizing the Signs and Calming the Craziness

Do you feel like you could snap at anyone who looks at you some days? Or some days do you feel like you could burst into tears at any moment? I get it…I’ve been there! You aren't crazy. These emotions might seem out of the blue, however if you are tracking your menstrual cycle they may actually happen at the same time every month. You’ve got it…this is the dreaded premenstrual syndrome or PMS. 

I see this often in practice and believe it is important to note that even though symptoms of PMS are incredibly common this is not a normal response. There is usually a reason behind these feelings and symptoms and things that can be done to mitigate them, besides jump to the birth control pill. 

Common symptoms of PMS:

  • Very emotional - angry, teary, irritable
  • Fatigue
  • Breast tenderness
  • Cramps
  • Bloating
  • Food cravings
  • Back pain
  • Acne

What is causing PMS:

Throughout the month your hormones have a cycle and rhythm (See the graph to the right). There is a monthly increase and decrease of both estrogen and progesterone, but they happen at different times. We need proper nutrients, a low stress level, proper blood sugar balance and healthy liver detoxification for these cycles to happen properly. If your body, especially your liver, is not able to metabolism estrogen well an imbalance in the estrogen-progesterone occurs and the above PMS symptoms occur. If you pituitary gland, one of the control centres for your hormones, is not stimulated properly signals to your ovaries aren’t regular, again causing an imbalance in hormones. 

Natural Approaches to PMS:

There are many interventions to decrease PMS symptoms however these are some of my favourites to start with. 

Going with the Flow

By tracking your menstrual cycle you become aware of how your body is responding to these hormone cycles and what symptoms or emotions can be contributed to your cycle. Recognizing this may help you get through it more easily and understand why you may be feeling a little crazy at times. Take time for yourself before your period, take a nice bath, go for a massage or get a good sweat on. 

Magnesium and B6

The birth control pill actually depletes our body of both magnesium and B6. Both of these are vital to hormone regularity, therefore both helpful to decrease symptoms of PMS. Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor about the proper dose for you. 

Broccoli Sprouts

In chinese medicine it is believed that PMS is due to “liver qi stagnation.” This means there is stagnation, or a lack of movement, in the liver. Broccoli sprouts, or in particular sulporophane, up regulates an enzyme in phase II liver detoxification important in excreting excess estrogen. Basically, it gets things moving. Adding broccoli sprouts to a salad, smoothie or as a snack is a good addition to your diet. More liver support may be necessary, including turmeric, I-3-C or DIM depending on the severity of symptoms. 

Seed & Oil Cycling

Since there is natural ebb and flow to our hormones throughout the month, creating a similar cycle in our food helps to produce the proper hormones at the proper time. The seeds and oils carry certain oils, vitamins, and nutrients that can help support the body’s production, release, and metabolism of hormones. Some of the seeds used in seed rotation are flax and pumpkin for the first half of your cycle and sesame and sunflower in the second half. We also add omega 3 and evening primrose oil to the rotation. Adding seeds to smoothies, oatmeal or roll them into energy balls are some ideas to eat them daily. There is the most evidence on the benefits of flax to balance hormones and omega 3s to decrease inflammation. 


Acupuncture is able to address "liver qi stagnation" specifically with certain acupuncture points. There are several studies supporting the use of acupuncture for improving menstrual function and reducing symptoms of PMS. "One study found that acupuncture was as effective as NSAID therapy for dysmenorrhea, a cycle with severe PMS symptoms, especially cramping."(1) I find this a very helpful adjunctive treatment for both myself and my patients. 

Again, these are some interventions I like to to start with for PMS. If your symptoms are causing you a lot of distress, please reach out to myself or your local ND for further support. Testing may be necessary to assess hormone levels, or look for any concurrent issues such as PCOS, endometriosis or fibroids. 

In health & happiness, 

Dr. Karen

Food Friday: Sprouting 101

Happy Friday fellow health nuts! It's the long weekend! Im off to celebrate a beloved friend's wedding this weekend and it is going to be beautiful. What are you getting up to?

Lately I have been experimenting with new food prep techniques and making a lot of whole foods myself. What a thrill when you know exactly how your food is made/prepared, hence know exactly what you are putting in your body. I just recently started sprouting because of the ease and the nutritional benefits. Thanks to Costal Healing and Whole Life Nutrition for the inspiration!

Why sprouts?

There are several reasons why choosing to make your own sprouts is beneficial.

  • First of all it is very easy and cheap! You just have to remember to rinse them a couple times a day. Having an at home garden makes me think my green thumb is improving. :)
  • They are very nutritious. Since beans sprout from just adding water, they are packed full of important nutrients that the plant will need in its initial few days. Therefore they are very nutrient dense, with little calories. Other examples of nutrient dense foods are liver, eggs, lamb, leafy greens (especially baby greens).
  • Sprouts have many health benefits. Because of their packed storehouse of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, enzymes and fibre they can help battle conditions such as digestive and bowel issues, blood pressure and cholesterol issues, a poor immune system, skin name it!
  • Broccoli sprouts contain sulforaphane. This is a powerful antioxidant and detoxification chemical. These sprouts can take a little longer to start sprouting so be patient. 

What you will need:

  • 1-L wide-mouth mason jar - You can pick a pack up at Canadian Tire, find at thrift stores or buy a couple at Michaels. 
  • Plastic needlework canvas - You can find this at Michaels for 99 cents (or any craft store). The finer canvas works best for smaller sprouting seeds. (Sprouting lids are available online for a cost, but it is very easy to make your own.)
  • Sprouting seeds - Mung and alfalfa are typically the easiest to start with but broccoli sprouts are even more nutritious. You can find seeds at places like Halifax Seed. 

How to sprout:

  • To make the sprouting lid, trace the metal lid on the needlework canvas. Cut the circle out and insert into the mason jar lid ring (without the inner circle). Voila!
  • Place 2 tbsp of sprouting seeds in the mason jar. Cover with a few inches of water, screw lid on, and let soak overnight in a warm dark place. After 6-10 hours, drain the water. 
  • Rinse the seeds with water twice a day, draining the jar completely each time. Store in a warm dark place, tilted at an angle in a bowl, so any excess water drains out. The sprouts should be moist but not sitting in water. 
  • Once the sprouts have grown a few centimeters and have defined yellow leaves, place the jar in a bright place to be exposed to sunlight to green. Continue to rinse to ensure they do not dry out. 
  • Store sprouts in the refrigerator for up to a week. Enjoy on salads, sandwiches or as a snack. 

Any other at home garden tips?

In health & happiness,

Dr. Karen

(Photo credit: