Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a group of symptoms related to the menstrual cycle. It can affect menstruating women of any age and the effect is different for each woman. PMS symptoms occur 1-2 weeks before your period starts. The symptoms usually go away after you start bleeding. For some people, PMS is just a monthly bother. For others, it may be so severe that it makes it hard to even get through the day. Read on to learn how to deal with PMS symptoms.
Causes of Premenstrual Syndrome
Causes of PMS include;
- Low progesterone-to-estrogen ratio
- Disrupted sodium metabolism (causing water retention and bloating) often caused by stress or eating a lot of salty foods
- Abnormal neurotransmitter response
- Stress (which causes increased cortisol)
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Low levels of vitamins and minerals
- Consuming caffeine and alcohol, which may alter your mood and energy level
Symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome
The majority of women experience PMS symptoms for a few days prior to the onset of menses; however, some women experience symptoms for the full two weeks from ovulation through the first few days of menstruation.
Symptoms of PMS vary from woman to woman and range from mild to severe. Some women have several physical symptoms, some only a few or none.
Physical symptoms of PMS include:
- Bloating with periodic weight gain
- Water retention
- Digestion issues (upset stomach, diarrhea, constipation)
- Changes in appetite with or without food cravings
- Breast tenderness
- Muscle and joint pain
- Skin outbreaks (pimples)
- Loss of sexual desire
- Cyclic Cramps
Emotional and behavioral symptoms of PMS include:
- Moods swings
- Irritability or anger
- Crying spells
- Depressed mood
- Poor concentration and memory
Emotional symptoms of PMS can be severe. Loss of emotional control can affect parenting, relationships with spouses or significant others, job performance, and more.
How to Deal With PMS
There are many ways to deal with your PMS.
1. Eat Whole Foods
PMS can affect your body’s ability to regulate insulin, which affects your blood sugar and energy levels. Eating processed foods, which tend to contain more sugar and less fiber than whole foods, will only make things worse.
A study found that women who consumed more sugary foods and drinks were more likely to experience PMS symptoms.
Instead, reach for whole grains, healthy fats, vegetables, and unprocessed proteins. Eating clean can help regulate your insulin levels so your body can turn food into energy at a steady pace — and you can avoid the hanger that makes PMS even worse.
2. Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Vitamin B6, calcium and magnesium help your body to manufacture brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, such as serotonin (feel-good hormone), which you need to maintain a stable mood. Decreased neurotransmitter levels cause the depressive symptoms in PMS, which can make you so miserable each month.
If you naturally have a lower background level of serotonin and the levels fall further premenstrually, then you’re more likely to suffer from PMS.
3. Get Plenty of Sleep
PMS-related fatigue means you need your rest. If you can, work your schedule so that you can get extra sleep when PMS hits. That could mean going to bed early, if you work a regular 9-5 job or sneaking in a nap, if your schedule is more flexible.
4. Limit Caffeine Consumption
Even though caffeinated drinks can serve as a diuretic to reduce bloating and constipation, caffeine can increase your anxiety.
One study found that the more caffeine (coffee, tea or soda) women drank, the more likely they were to experience symptoms of PMS. That doesn’t mean you have to give up coffee altogether. Just maybe downsize from the usual trenta when your period is incoming.
5. Go Gluten Free
Gluten-containing grains can affect the liver enzymes that process hormones to throw your hormonal balance even more out of whack. To see if a gluten-free diet will alleviate your symptoms, try to lay off gluten for a month.
Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley, malt, farro, durum, and other grains. Gluten-free grains include rice, buckwheat, corn, and quinoa.
Within the days leading up to your period, be sure to keep some organic, creamy avocados close by. Slice them in half and enjoy with a sprinkle of sea salt. Follow with a few sips of water and then wait about 15 minutes. The healthy fats in an avocado are able to fill you up, leaving less room for the other junk you might be craving.
7. Avoid Alcohol
While a drink or two may help you feel better, it’ll make your body feel worse. Alcohol will only dehydrate you, and you want to stay as hydrated as possible during your period. If you must, try just having one glass of wine and skip the liquor or beer.
Your PMS symptoms may be painful or annoying, but they don’t have to interfere with your life. Take the time to learn about your body and its schedule and adapt your behavior to it.
Exercise is an important part of any healthy lifestyle. Whether you choose to go to the gym, practice yoga, walk, run, or dance in your living room, you need to move. Your heart, your muscles and your lymphatic system need it.
9. Heating Pads
The only thing better than laying around at home after having taken a day off work is doing so with a heating pad on your belly or lower back. Invest in a heating pad if you don’t have one; it can ease the cramping so you can skip the medications.
10. Avoid Polyunsaturated Omega-6 Fats
About 97% of the fat in the human body is saturated and monounsaturated fat, with only 3 % Polyunsaturated fats. Half of that three percent is Omega-3 fats, (the other half is Omega-6 fats) and that balance needs to be there.
The body needs fats for rebuilding cells and hormone production, but it has to use the building blocks we give it. When we give it a high concentration of polyunsaturated fats instead of the ratios it needs, it has no choice but to incorporate these fats into our cells during cell repair and creation.
When these oils are incorporated into cells in reproductive tissue, some evidence suggests that this can spur problems like endometriosis and PCOS. In short, the body is made up of saturated and monounsaturated fats, and it needs these for optimal health.
Vegetable oils contain very high levels of polyunsaturated fats, and these oils have replaced many of the saturated fats in our diets since the 1950s. Don’t eat fats like vegetable oil, peanut oil, canola oil, soybean oil, margarine, shortening or other chemically altered fats. Choose fats like coconut oil, real butter, olive oil and animal fats (tallow, lard) from healthy sources instead and eat lots of high Omega-3 fish.
Research shows acupuncture is ace at treating PMS. One study found that acupuncture quelled symptoms in 78 percent of women. Doctors still don’t quite understand how it works, but they believe acupuncture may increase circulation and elevate endorphins, which enhance mood and relieve PMS symptoms.
Most women experience PMS relief within 24 hours after a session, so depending on your reaction, you might get treated once a month in the week before your period.
Reflexology is based on the principle that there are links between various points in the feet, lower leg, hands, face and ears, which correspond with other parts of the body.
A therapist will apply pressure in a form of massage to these areas of the body, which stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system to heal itself.
For example, reflexologists believe that massaging the big toe and ankle calms the endocrine and reproductive systems, helping relieve PMS symptoms.
13. Evening Primrose Oil
Another old favourite, evening primrose oil is used as a universal panacea. While there is no scientific evidence that it helps relieve PMS symptoms, most women with symptoms have tried it. It’s also good for cyclical mastalgia (breast pain).
14. Chaste Berry
There are many all-natural benefits of chaste berry. This herbal supplement, indigenous to Asia and the Mediterranean, helps inhibit the rise of prolactin, which in turn can help calm your PMS mood swings, reduce bloating and ease breast tenderness.
15. St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort has been used successfully to treat mild depression and the moodiness that sometimes accompanies PMS. But careful as it can interfere with the birth control pills and make them less effective. So be sure to consult your doctor before using it.
16. Raw Cocoa
It’s no surprise that your cravings lead you to chocolate bars in the days before your period. In the days before your period, your body crave magnesium because your hormone levels fluctuate dramatically. When your body creates more estrogen, causing cravings and increased breast tenderness, your magnesium levels drop significantly.
This is where the raw cocoa comes in. Cocoa is loaded with magnesium and can positively impact your emotional state, helping relieve common PMS symptoms.
17. Maca (Lepidium Meyenii)
For hundreds of years maca was used by native Peruvians to enhance fertility. Women use maca for female hormone imbalance, menstrual problems, and symptoms of menopause. Maca is also used for weak bones (osteoporosis), depression, erectile dysfunction (ED), to increase sex drive, and to boost the immune system. It has been found to be effective for PMS.
18. Red Clover and Agnus Castus
Red clover is one of the richest sources of isoflavones, a combination of phytoestrogens plant estrogen preparations. Turns out estrogen and phytoestrogens also increase serotonin levels, which is why red clover is believed to increase the production of neurotransmitters.
Agnus castus can help increase the levels of encephalins and endorphins, which are also the feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain.
19. Dong Quai
Dong quai (Angelica sinensis or Chinese Angelica) has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese, Korean, and Japanese medicine. It is one of the most popular plants in Chinese medicine, and is used primarily for health conditions in women. Dong quai has been called “female ginseng,” based on its use for gynecological disorders (such as painful menstruation or pelvic pain), recovery from childbirth or illness, and fatigue/low vitality. It is thought to be more effective in with black cohosh.
20. Pamper Yourself
If you can take a day off, do it. Otherwise get through the day as best as you can, and treat yourself to a relaxing evening. Take a hot bath, have a cup of tea, read in bed – whatever it is that you love the most. Take care of yourself.