Anyone with a period will tell you: PMS sucks.
There’s no sugar coating it. Not only do we have to deal with menstruation, we also have to deal with PMS… which might just be worse.
Premenstrual syndrome is a very real condition. It results in both physical and mental symptoms that may start as early as two weeks before menstruation. Symptoms usually end a day or so into your period. For some people, PMS can be almost debilitating and really throw a wrench in their daily life.
According to Mayo Clinic, mental symptoms include crying spells, feeling depressed or angry, insomnia and anxiety, as well as physical symptoms that range from headaches to bloating to breast tenderness to GI problems.
Isn’t menstruation just soooo much fun?
Oftentimes, we’re quick to spring for over-the-counter pills to combat PMS symptoms, but there is another option for line of attack. We can take a holistic approach and make lifestyle changes that can help prevent and mitigate PMS symptoms, both physical and mental.
Luckily, if you want to take a more natural approach to dealing with PMS, there are many options you can try. Here are some doctor-approved tips for beating PMS symptoms naturally:
1. Choose Your Foods Wisely
Food can be a healing medicine in and of itself. Eating a healthy, balanced, vitamin-rich diet — regardless of the time of the month — is important, but extra focus should be placed on eating well in the two weeks leading up to your period.
Tiffany Lowe-Payne, D.O. from the American Osteopathic Association recommends focusing on nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, as well as complex carbs (like whole wheat bread or pasta, brown rice, potatoes and quinoa). You should also limit foods that are high in salt, caffeine and sugar because they can increase anxiety, sleep disturbances, breast tenderness and cramps.
2. Satisfy That Chocolate Craving
Stereotypically, people with periods often do find themselves craving chocolate — and Lowe-Payne is all for it. Satisfy the craving with some dark chocolate rather than other types of chocolate candies that are more processed and have more sugars (like M&Ms, for example). The magnesium found in dark chocolate can lessen symptoms of menstrual migraines.
The Harvard School of Public Health has also noted the benefits of dark chocolate! The natural plant chemicals found in chocolate are called flavanols, and they contribute to the health benefits. Dark chocolate has two to three more times the amount of flavanols than milk chocolate.
These chemicals can improve blood flow and lower blood pressure. Just don’t go overboard and eat too much.
3. Get Enough Sleep
Easier said than done, we know. This should be something you always do, but it’s extra important during the time when you have PMS — and it’s about more than feeling well-rested. Lowe-Payne said, “Studies have shown that getting proper sleep not only improves symptoms such as irritability, depression, or anxiety — all of which are associated with PMS — but also helps to regulate hunger hormones as well helping a person to make healthier choices and keep their weight under control.”
Most people with periods can tell you that those cravings around that time of the month are no joke — and they’re hard to ignore. If getting enough sleep can regulate hunger hormones, it can help you deal with cravings a little more responsibly. Sleeping well can also help limit your anxiety and irritability during this time.
4. Apply Heat
A favorite method of many period havers is using heat to provide some relief for those painful cramps, whether with a heating pad of some kind or a good old fashioned hot water bottle. Applying heat to the problem area will help relieve cramping, bloating and overall discomfort.
Why does it feel so good? It relaxes the muscles, which can increase blood fflow and help to reduce pain. Plus, it feels soothing during a time when we definitely need some TLC.
You can also take a nice hot bath, which is great not only for pelvic pain but also for lower back pain. Additionally, a bath can help relax you and decrease that PMS-induced anxiety.
5. Take Your Vitamins
Vitamins that are found in both food and supplements can be beneficial for symptoms of PMS. For example, Lowe-Payne said, “Calcium and Vitamin D are not only good for bone health, but have also been shown to be beneficial with symptoms such as fatigue, cravings and depression as well.”
Previously mentioned, magnesium can also be taken in supplement form.
A lot of these vitamins are already in foods you’re probably already eating (whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, to name a few) but it doesn’t hurt to take them in supplement form. However, you should check with their doctor before taking any new vitamins or supplements to make sure they’re safe for your personal situation, especially if you take any prescription meds.
6. Don’t Forget About Self-Care
PMS can really take a toll on you, so it’s a good idea to give yourself some extra loving during this time, especially if you’re experiencing mental symptoms. If you don’t already have some tried and true self-care methods in your repertoire, Lowe-Payne has some ideas for you.
“Focus on healthy ways to manage stress such as regular exercise or mindfulness activities like meditation, journaling or yoga,” she advised. “These have not only been shown to help lower stress, but may also be beneficial for symptoms such as depression, anxiety and mental clarity as they help to release powerful hormones like dopamine and prolactin, which help to elevate mood, increase relaxation and create an improved sense of overall wellness.”
You Can Do It. Period.
We hope these tips help you have a smoother, more pleasant time as you gear up for monthly menstruation. PMS doesn’t have to ruin your week. You can fight it!
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