PMS Symptoms and Natural ways To Reduce Them

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A Natural Approach to Improving Your Menstrual Health

You know the drill. Everything is going fine, you’re productive, life is moving along smoothly, and then something changes. Maybe you’re more emotional than usual, or you’re dealing with headaches and insomnia that’s interfering with your daily life.

If you’re the kind of woman who keeps track of her period, then it’s easy to check the calendar and see that the dreaded week (give or take a few days) is coming up. But before it starts, you have to battle something else – PMS.

It’s not easy to continue to work through the pain, but women were built strong, and we can handle it.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t find ways to make it a little more bearable though.

If you don’t want to take pain pills (or maybe they don’t work for you when you do,) that doesn’t mean you should have to suffer in silence. Here are some natural behavior and diet changes you can make to improve your menstrual health long-term.

Know Your Body

First, let’s start with what PMS is. Premenstrual Syndrome may begin a few days or even up to two weeks before your period. It can include symptoms such as cramping, headaches, fatigue, bloating, acne, breast tenderness, and mood swings.

One of the best ways to combat PMS is to know when it’s coming so that you can prepare yourself. If you don’t already, consider keeping track of your period in a journal or on an app.

Doing this allows you to see patterns in how long your period lasts, whether it’s typically early, late, or right on time, and how much time you have before your PMS will begin.

It may not seem necessary – after all, keeping track of your period won’t prevent PMS – but this can actually be a beneficial tool.

If you know your period is due, it may give you peace of mind the next time your emotions feel off-balance, or you overindulge when eating, to know there’s a reason behind it.

Knowing when your period, – and consequently, your PMS, – is coming can help you decide when to treat, and maybe even prevent, some of your worst symptoms.

Incorporate New Habits

There’s always room for growth – especially when it can reduce the effects of PMS.

By incorporating some new habits into your routine, you can vastly improve your experience. Your period may be a necessary evil in your life, but with these strategies, you can reduce it to just a minor annoyance.

Meditation

First and foremost, PMS is a medical condition. You are not making it up or being dramatic. There is an actual biological reason that your period may affect you so much.

That being said, a change in mindset can still work wonders on your menstrual health.

I get it. Trying to remain positive, when it feels like you’re being stabbed repeatedly in the abdomen with forks and safety pins, isn’t high on your to-do list.

But did you know that women who reported high levels of stress in the weeks leading up to their period were more likely to report experiencing moderate or severe PMS symptoms – both emotionally and physically?

Stress causes all kinds of chaos in the body. Being able to identify and reduce these feelings is critical.

One of the best ways to do this is meditation. It’s very effective at healing your mind, which can, in turn, improve your body.

Meditation is a proven and successful tool against pain. It’s not just a mind-over-body mentality. Studies have shown that subjects who were coached in mindful meditation experienced lower levels of pain than subjects given a placebo method.

Meditation can also help protect you from mood swings. PMS may bring about feelings of depression and anxiety, but meditation quiets the mind and boosts both your focus and mood.

Exercise

Exercise is another useful tool. While it may be the last thing you want to do when you’re cramping, it’s also one of the best things you can do.

Exercise releases endorphins, which works quickly and is effective at reducing pain.

That doesn’t mean you should do a high-intensity workout. Fatigue is another symptom of PMS and can be just as distracting as cramps. 

Instead, focus on moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. Walking and light jogging can release enough endorphins to combat those cramps and may even give you an energy boost for the fatigue. Yoga is another good option.

Even stretching can be useful, especially on the days when your pain is severe enough that you don’t want to get out of bed, let alone go for a jog.

Aromatherapy

If you don’t have time to meditate or exercise, you can try aromatherapy. The helpful thing about this is that there are several ways you can use essential oils and you should try them all to see what works best for you.

Whether you rub a few drops onto the back of your neck, incorporate them into a massage, drop them into a bath, or diffuse them, essential oils can help with cramps, sleep, and nausea.

Another exciting thing about essential oils is that, because of the variety available, you can find a scent that you like and that works best for you.

Try lavender, sage, and rose oils to improve the quality of your sleep and help with period pain. Peppermint oils can reduce nausea. And there are plenty of other scents out there, some that you may even be able to find in your kitchen cabinets.

Sleep

The last good habit you should try to practice is getting a full night of sleep. PMS can be tiring, and nothing is worse for your mood, stress, and cramps than adding fatigue on top of it all.

When it comes to getting a good night’s sleep, the key is routine. If you go to sleep at the same time every night, eventually you will train your body to feel tired at this time. You should also try to wake up at the same time every day to complete this routine.

Try incorporating a bedtime wind down into your life. This is what you do every day, the hour before you go to sleep.

Try taking a relaxing shower, reading a book, or doing some of your usual morning chores before bed – like fixing a lunch to take with you or setting out clothes to wear.

If you do the same thing every day, your body will begin to associate these actions with sleep. After a little while, this will make it easier for you to fall and stay asleep.

Lastly, try to stay out of your bed unless you’re going to sleep. Otherwise, your mattress will become associated with other activities in your brain and won’t act as a trigger for sleep.

Assess Your Diet

Changing your diet is another way to battle PMS. By taking a look at the foods you eat, you may be able to reduce the adverse effects of PMS on your life.

We often don’t understand how much food affects us until we reduce our intake or remove it entirely. But it’s not all about cutting out the foods you enjoy.

Some foods can actually help combat PMS, and you should incorporate them as much as possible.

What to Add

You may already know the first thing I’m going to recommend to you because it’s the same thing that probably every doctor recommends, no matter what issue you’re facing.

That’s right. Fruits and Vegetables!

We recommend these foods so often because there are very few things they don’t have a positive effect on. But they can be especially helpful when it comes to PMS.

Foods high in B vitamins (like fruits and veggies) can relieve the intensity of cramps.

Vegetables are also high in fiber, which slows down the digestion of sugar and can help regulate your mood.

Try eating more omega-3 fats, like tuna and salmon. These are anti-inflammatory and can also help with menstrual pain.

Be sure to keep an eye on your iron intake. Your iron levels are usually lower during your period and could put you at risk of anemia. Increase your intake of foods like fortified cereals, spinach, baked potatoes, and tofu.

And most importantly, drink more water!

You may think this is counterintuitive when it comes to combating bloating, but it’s actually the opposite. The more water you drink, the less you retain. Not only does it help with bloating, but it can also reduce your breast tenderness and swelling as well.

What to Avoid

There are still foods you need to avoid to improve your menstrual health. You may not have to cut them from your diet completely, but you should steer clear of them right before and during your period to reduce the intensity of PMS.

Stay away from sugars, salts, caffeine, and alcohol when you’re on your period.

I know. This cuts out a lot of the comfort foods you eat during that time of the month. But, often we indulge in these foods more because we already feel crappy and we want to treat ourselves.

This false illusion of comfort may be making your period pain worse. Try cutting them out and see how much of a difference this can cause.

Know When It’s More Serious

Some women may be experiencing other medical conditions and dismissing it as PMS, and so they never talk to their doctors about it. But PMS shares symptoms with other conditions such as depression, endometriosis, ovarian cancer, and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.

These are all treatable, but you can’t do anything about them unless you know about them first.

Come into my office today and talk to me about any concerns you may have. Whether it’s PMS-related, or something more serious, we can figure it out together.

About The Author:

Dr. Karen Threlkel

Dr. Karen Threlkel

Dr. Threlkel received her degree of Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine from The National University of Natural Medicine Medicine in Portland, Oregon. She also holds a Bachelor Degree in Kinesiology from UMD. She is licensed in Naturopathic Medicine by the Government of the District of Columbia Department of Health. Dr. Threlkel is a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, past president & current member of the Washington DC Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

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