4 Effective Ways to Ease PMS Symptoms
Expert Recommended Strategies to Fight PMS
Adjust Your Diet
If you find yourself intensely drawn to greasy fries, chips, chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate the same time each month, PMS is likely the cause.
“Cravings are caused by chemicals (neurotransmitters) in your brain that fluctuate during PMS,” explains registered dietitian Daniela Knight. “Serotonin (which makes you feel ‘normal’) levels can decrease prior to menses. Eating high sugar and high fat foods gives you a slight serotonin boost, which explains the cravings.”
Although salty, fatty or sugary foods may help you feel temporarily satiated, they aren’t doing you any favors in the longer run. So curb the cravings before they attack.
“What I find works best for my clients and myself during PMS is to really ramp up the healthy eating,” says exercise physiologist and nutritionist Luci Gabel. “This is the week where you pay close attention to getting those two to three servings of fruits, three to four servings of vegetables, eat whole grain, and make sure the protein is lean and clean!”
By filling up on healthy foods rich in vitamins and nutrients, it gives your body what “it needs to perform optimally and in this case, go through the PMS cycle” and—another awesome side effect—“[your body] will crave less junk,” explains Gabel. Eating healthy during the days leading up to your period is important, but making a habit of it will better equip you to fight cravings before they start and benefit your waistline and overall health.
In the days leading up to your period, Gabel also urges you, “Cutting out the alcohol and down on the caffeine is a good idea” since they can worsen PMS symptoms.
If you’re still having trouble fighting those cravings, check these healthier food swaps to satisfy your cravings.
We get it, when you’re bloated, achy and irritable the last thing you want to do is lace up those running shoes. Truth is, exercise is key to easing the symptoms of PMS, so fight the urge to crawl under a blanket and get active with an aerobic workout—lower intensity, of course, if needed.
As internist Dr. Andrea Ruman adds, “Regular exercise is beneficial—plus the extra boost of endorphins after a gym session won’t hurt.”
It’s important that you exercise all the time to really help lessen symptoms before they start to nag you. Find a way to fit even quick workouts into your schedule each week, while maintaining a healthy diet.
If you just can’t bear to break a sweat during your worst PMS days, opt for yoga. Studies have shown that yoga can be a great source of relaxation when your body is stressed—PMS included. The deep breathing and gentle posing will help ease your mind and body at this tense time.
Consider adding three key PMS fighting supplements to your vitamin regimen: flaxseed oil, calcium and vitamin B.
Holistic and clinical nutritionist Pamela Warren recommends taking flaxseed oil gel caps beginning 10 days before the start of your period. She finds that flaxseed oil helps women “experience markedly improved moods and ease[s] the cramping,” she says.
Warren recommends taking calcium supplements if you aren’t consuming enough through food each day. Calcium is shown to help relieve PMS symptoms like mood swings, depression and cramps, in addition to serving many other functions in the body. Warren explains that “if you are not consuming enough it will leach from your bones”—and we wouldn’t want that. She recommends a daily intake of 1,000 to 1,200 mg of calcium per day to relieve PMS symptoms.
In addition to calcium and flaxseed, Dr. Ruman and Daneila Knight both recommend adding B vitamins to your routine. Studies have shown that a daily intake of 80 mg of vitamin B6 may reduce classic PMS symptoms of bloating, anxiety, moodiness and irritability.
Dr. Ruman says vitamin E and magnesium may also provide relief for nagging symptoms. Vitamin E has been shown to reduce breast tenderness, while magnesium has been shown to help curb sugar cravings (sweet!).
If these natural PMS relief remedies aren’t enough, over-the-counter pain relievers can be helpful. “OTC pain relievers such as ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen may help ease cramps, headaches, backaches and breast tenderness,” explains Dr. Ruman.
If OTC treatments don’t relieve your symptoms, you may want to see your physician for a more tailored treatment plan. “In more severe cases of PMS, prescription medicines may be used to ease symptoms,” Dr. Ruman says. “Also, women on the birth control pill report fewer PMS symptoms, such as cramps and headaches, as well as lighter periods.” Indeed, many a young woman has gone on the pill to ease symptoms associated with menstrual issues.
If you’ve tried the tips above and your symptoms continue to interfere with your daily life, make an appointment with your physician as you may be suffering from Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), a more severe form of PMS. Women with PMDD can “experience severe PMS mood symptoms, such as anxiety, panic attacks, excessive irritability and feelings of sadness or despair,” explains Dr. Ruman. According to the American Psychological Association, approximately three to nine percent of women suffer from PMDD. Physicians may prescribe antidepressants to treat fluctuating serotonin levels in the brain that may alleviate persistent PMDD symptoms.
What have you found that’s helpful in relieving PMS symptoms? We’d love to hear about your experiences (add comments below).
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