Updated: Jan 14
PMS varies in its severity between women, but even for the same woman PMS can vary from month to month. Why is that?
First it is important to understand that PMS should not disrupt your life. PMS is a sign that your body is ready to shed the uterine lining (get your period). When hormones are balanced in the body, nutrients are a plenty, and inflammation is low - PMS should be very mild cramping or discomfort just before your period arrives. You may have a slight change in BM with this as your body adjusts.
If you are experiencing mood swings, headaches or migraines, skin breakouts, severe cramping, fatigue, bloating, and/or heavy painful periods you need to work with a health professional to determine your hormone levels and work to balance hormones, decrease inflammation, and replenish essential nutrients.
In the meantime, try incorporating this food as medicine to help reduce significant hormone fluctuations that trigger PMS or PMDD. This food can also help your body adapt to stress!
What is Maca?
Maca is a tuber, which is like a thick stem that grows under the ground. The rich nutrients maca is known for is stored in the bulb that looks like a radish. Interestingly enough the maca plant is in the brassica family. This is the same family as mustard and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower.
Maca is grown in the mountains, specifically in the Andes mountain range at about 12000 feet elevation. Only very strong plants (which also mean nutrient dense) can grow in conditions like this.
Maca is Nutrient-Dense
Maca is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and B vitamins specifically B2, B3, and B6. This food is also packed with minerals, including: iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium, iodine, copper, and potassium.
Nutrients in Maca Root
Vitamin B2, B3, B6
Maca also contains healthy fats that are beneficial for the heart and have also been shown to help stabilize blood glucose levels and reduce inflammation in participants. (2)
Maca Root for Hormone Support
So why is maca helpful in balancing hormones? Maca is rich in beneficial plant sterols. These plant sterols are similar to hormones involved in our menstrual cycle including estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. My first use for maca with clients is in women with low hormone production, especially estrogen. (1)
A woman may have low estrogen levels if there is damage to the ovaries, a woman is approaching menopause, or a woman has very low of cholesterol.
Maca can also help ease the steep rise and drop of hormones throughout your menstrual cycle.
Maca is an adaptogen. An adaptogen is a food (root, herb, tuber) that works in the body to figure out what the body needs and help the body to achieve balance. Adaptogens also help the body "adapt" to stress.
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How to Use Maca Root
It is a good idea, as with any herb, to start with a small dose and work your way up.
Start with 1 teaspoon maca powder. Take maca with food to avoid nausea that can occur when taken on an empty stomach.
Maca can take a little while to have a full effect on the body and balancing hormones, so you may need to take daily for at least 2 months.
Many studies have shown benefit when maca is taken daily, 3.3 grams for at least 8 weeks. Research has shown maca is very safe, even in doses as high as 15 grams per kg body weight, which is way above what I recommend in my practice. (3, 4)
Your health care professional may recommend you pulse this dose. This means after an amount of time taking maca you will periodically take a break to prevent your body from getting too used to the herb and blocking or dulling the effect.
Where Can You Buy Maca?
There are many options for buying maca root or powder. If you are buying online, make sure you are getting it from a reputable seller that is handling and storing the supplement properly.
One high quality, popular brand that I trust for herbals is Gaia Herbs. You can purchase Gaia Herbs directly from their site in a powder. Gaia Herbs Maca Powder.
You can also sign up for a free patient account on Fullscript, a practitioner-grade supplement dispensary and purchase Gaia Herbs through there along with many other practitioner-grade supplement brands. Create a Fullscript account and order here.
Looking for guidance, support, and a fun learning community?
Liz Riesen, Registered Dietitian
specializes in hormone and digestive health. Often these conditions coexist and share common disruptive symptoms including bloating, weight gain, anxiety, mood swings, irregular cycles, and other inflammatory symptoms.
Liz is trained in identifying and healing food sensitivities, as well as balancing hormones naturally through nutrition and lifestyle.
Follow me @TheHormoneHub