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Health Store Help

Independent health store advice on combatting hormonal issues and PMS

Looking for advice on natural wellbeing? Your local independent health stores can offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise. This issue we speak to Elaine Melican, manager of Open Sesame in Ennis, Co Clare

Inside the female body there is a constant complex interplay of sex hormones that kickstart at puberty and continue to fluctuate throughout our lives. For some women maintaining this delicate balance can be difficult, causing premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and other hormonal issues. Typically occurring about two weeks before a woman’s period and disappearing once it has begun, PMS is a problem many of us experience at some stage in our lives. There are many different symptoms associated with PMS which can include mood swings, fluid retention, food cravings and skin problems.

For many there is no one cause of the hormone imbalance, but by supporting the body in a number of areas the symptoms of PMS may be lessened. Fortunately this can be done by making a few small changes to your diet and lifestyle.


• Fibre from vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, and wholegrains.

• Ground flax seeds may help reduce constipation and balance hormones.

• Wheatgerm is high in magnesium and vitamin B6, both of which are known to help alleviate PMS symptoms.

• Omega-3 fats, by eating more oily fish such as sardines, herring and wild salmon, as well as organic eggs and walnuts.

• Eat organic food where you can, especially animal products, to avoid xenoestrogens from pesticides.


• White breads, cakes and biscuits.

• Sugar and foods containing sugar – chocolate, sweets, soft drinks, honey, treacle.

• Beverages – alcohol, tea and coffee (including decaffeinated).

• Foods containing caffeine.

• Limit dairy products – there are many hormones present in dairy products.

• Xenoestrogens – chemical compounds that can mimic oestrogen in the body, found in plastic, parabens and pesticides. Examples include plastic water bottles, plastic food containers, make-up, cleaning products and pesticides on our foods.

Maintaining balanced blood sugar levels can also help reduce symptoms. This can be achieved by eating regularly throughout the day and including a small amount of protein, such as nut butter or hummus, when eating carbohydrates.

Dietary supplements

There are a number of supplements that may help to ease symptoms by improving metabolic function and hormone metabolism.

Magnesium – nature’s tranquiliser, magnesium has been shown to be useful in alleviating PMS symptoms, with more effect if it is taken with vitamin B6.

Evening primrose oil/borage oil – both excellent sources of omega-6 which has been shown to improve many PMS symptoms, including headaches, irritability and bloating. Best taken with an omega-3 oil, such as fish or flax.

Vitamin E – helps stabilise unbalanced hormones and reduces breast tenderness.

Chaste berry fruit extract, also known as agnus castus, can help balance the hormones and has been found in studies to be effective in reducing PMS symptoms.

Dandelion root – can help with liver detoxification and works as a diuretic.

Isoflavones from soy or red clover – can improve oestrogen detoxification. They can be taken as supplements or consumed in the diet.

Probiotics will replenish healthy bacteria in the gut and help normalise oestrogen and hormone metabolism.

Address your stress

Low grade, ongoing stress can have a big impact on your health. Try to find an outlet you enjoy to increase your mental wellbeing, which will have a knock-on effect throughout the body. Take a hot bath at night, get a massage, try yoga, learn deep breathing or meditation, go for a walk or run. These techniques and others can help balance hormones.

Alternative therapies

Therapies such as acupuncture, reflexology, reiki and homeopathy can also help. Ask family, friends or in your local health food shop for recommendations on therapies in your area.

Who’s who and what’s what at Open Sesame, Ennis

Owner Sally Smith opened Open Sesame in August 1988, and then later expanded into the current premises. Elaine Melican has been the manager of Open Sesame, which also has a store in Gort, Co Galway, for the past seven years. “We have a good range of stock and customers can often find products here that you can’t find elsewhere. I love getting new stuff in and love to flick through catalogues and choose new products. There is always something new, someone asking about new research or something they read about online. We get passing trade and tourists, but also have many loyal customers who come in to ask questions. Word of mouth has given us a great reputation for knowledgeable and helpful staff.

“At this time of year customers ask us about aching joints, coughs, colds and flu. Weight loss and detox is a big concern too. Out stock is very wide ranging with lots of food including herbal teas, local honey and coffee, alternatives to milk, a big gluten-free section and a diabetic range. Our expanded chilled section includes raw milk, kefir which has boomed, kombucha, sauerkraut and probiotics.

“We stock natural cleaning products, cider vinegar, everything you need in a baby range, and a protein section for sports fanatics with powders and bars. We carry a massive range of supplements for children to adults and older people. We advise people to treat skin issues from the inside out but also sell natural skincare as well as other body products such as deodorants.

“If we don’t have something in we will do our best to get it for you. We try to make people feel comfortable. There is space to move around and buggies are welcome. Open Sesame is a bright and colourful store with friendly and approachable staff. We hold in-store talks, tastings, have a good website for online shopping and loyalty cards.”

Visit: Open Sesame, 35 Parnell St, Ennis, Co. Clare. www.opensesame.ie
Speak to: Manager Elaine Melican a qualified nutritional therapist, who does lots of courses to keep up to date. Clare O’Neill, previously a natural skincare rep who has been a reflexologist and baby massage instructor for over 15 years. Geraldine O’Loughlin, a beauty therapist who worked in a pharmacy in Dublin.

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