PMS comes in many different forms. Some women have terrible pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), with cramping that leaves them bedridden, others find they’re weeping “for no reason,” only establishing it was PMS when they start their period days later.
In fact, PMS is a blanket term of sorts, used to describe a range of symptoms that can affect women at the late stage of their menstrual cycle – before and during their period.
What is PMS?
According to Andrea Sikon, MD, a gynecologist at the Center for Specialized Women’s Health at Cleveland Clinic, “There are guidelines to define PMS, which consists of the recurrence of both physical and behavioral symptoms that interfere with some element of functioning during the second half of the menstrual cycle.” She goes on to say, “If one applies the strict clinical criteria, only 30 percent of women may have actual PMS.”
Symptoms of PMS include:
- Breast tenderness
- Back pain
- Difficulty sleeping
- Upset stomach, diarrhea, bloating
- Changes in appetite or food cravings
- Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
Symptoms are caused by biochemical changes in the form of hormone fluctuations, along with the actually physical discomforts that come along with a uterus that is contracting to shed an outdated endometrial lining.
Women most prone to experiencing PMS are:
- Between the ages of 20 and 40
- Have children
- Have a personal history of a mood disorder or postpartum depression
- Have a family history of depression or other mood disorders
If PMS is severe, most gynecologists recommend taking an oral birth control pill, which balances hormone levels and reduces or eliminate PMS symptoms. Over the counter anti-inflammatory and pain relievers are also an option.
Natural Ways to Relieve the Symptoms of PMS
However, some women aren’t interested in taking prescription medications – and meds certainly aren’t necessary. Sometimes, a little foresight and a few natural remedies are all you need to relieve the symptoms of PMS.
Get to know your menstrual cycle
First, it’s important to know your own body and cycle. If you can anticipate PMS, you can be proactive about preventing some of its side effects. The average cycle lasts about 28 days but there is quite a varied spread from woman to woman. In the old days, we used to put X’s on the calendar when we were on our period; after a few months, we could count the days from the day of our first period, to the last day before the following one, and get an average cycle number.
Now, there are a number of online apps you can use to track menstrual cycles and fertility. This is a simple way to get familiar with your own cycle and set calendar reminders so you are aware, can prepare your mindset and be gentle with yourself.
Limit alcohol and caffeine consumption
Both alcohol and caffeine are inflammatories – they can exacerbate existing inflammation and this can strengthen some of the physical side effects of PMS. Additionally, alcohol and caffeine can interrupt your healthy sleep patterns. You may benefit by avoiding them – or significantly reducing their consumption – 7 to 10 days prior to starting your period, as well as when you’re menstruating.
Eat an anti-inflammatory diet – foods that naturally ease PMS
Anti-inflammatory diets are all the rage these days with the health-oriented crowd – but for good reason. They significantly reduce the side-effects of a myriad of health conditions, ranging from arthritis and cancer, to PCOS and other inflammatory conditions. In addition to supporting your PMS relief, anti-inflammatory diets are good for you – focusing on healthy proteins, lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and the elimination of unhealthy processed foods and sugars.
You can click Here for more information about what an anti-inflammatory diet looks like. Start focusing on making the switch the week+ before your period for best effect – and you may find it suits you as a result of higher energy levels and a boosted immune system.
The list of foods included in an anti-inflammatory diet are identical to those recommended to relieve PMS symptoms – avocados, wild-caught fish, leafy greens, flaxseed and high-fiber foods, for example.
Add a little Maca to your morning smoothie
Smoothies are a great venue for getting some of the healthy anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory foods into your system first thing – berries, greens and flaxseed oil, for example. Maca is a tuber in the radish family that is dried and ground up into Maca powder, available in most grocery store health food aisles Among other things, Maca has been shown to support hormone balance – from reducing PMS symptoms to increasing libido and fertility.
Make sure you’re getting enough magnesium
Magnesium is a catalyst for just about every process that takes place in your body – from making muscles move to helping you sleep and – you guessed it – balancing hormones. Many women find that taking magnesium supplements – or a CalMag supplement that combines calcium and magnesium – help regulate their PMS. Taking magnesium may also improve sleep habits, focus and diminish your cravings for chocolate! Talk to your doctor about the right product and supplement for your age and health history.
Try some essential oils
If you suffer from PMS-induced cramps, essential oils can provide some relief. Clary sage, for example, is associated with hormone balance and support as well as cramp relief. You can rub a couple of drops onto your abdomen and, if you have time, cover it with a warm compress. Cypress oil can be used the same way.
Do you suffer from severe PMS? You may be one of the 8% to 10% of women that have Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). PMDD is characterized by greater-than-normal physical discomfort during periods, as well as more severe forms of anxiety/tension, and/or anger, and/or depression and feelings of hopelessness. Typically, birth control pills or other hormone balancing treatments are required to treat PMDD.
In any case, schedule a consultation with your OB/GYN to discuss your symptoms and create a treatment plan.