Did you know it has only been recently that PMS has become a recognised condition in the medical field? Even then you may need to try and convince your health professional that it is not all in your head. Medical professionals who do recognise PMS as an issue say that approximately 80% of menstruating women have suffered PMS symptoms at some point in their life.
What does PMS actually stand for?
PMS stands for “Premenstrual syndrome.”
The syndrome manifests itself in a mix of physical and emotional symptoms during the one or two weeks before menstruation that can make you feel like violent world revolutions are taking place within your mind and body.
One of the first steps to making sure PMS doesn’t pull you under on your worst days is understanding it.
#1 Strategy: Understand and Record
The symptoms of PMS vary from woman to woman, and even from cycle to cycle, but they tend to occur in somewhat predictable patterns.
Keeping track of the symptoms you experience over several cycles will help you to identify the patterns of your personal battle and equip you to identify triggers and anticipate the timing of your symptoms. Once you know what to expect, you will be more prepared to implement further strategies to deal with and lessen your symptoms.
PMS symptoms generally start to show up 6 to 10 days before menstruation and disappear once a woman’s period begins. They may be barely noticeable one month and intensely severe the next.
It’s important to understand that at least half of these symptoms are mental and emotional, as this will help you to view them from a distance, giving you greater power in controlling them.
· Symptoms include:
· Crying (that you can’t really explain)
· Mood swings
· Changes in appetite/food cravings
· Social withdrawal
· Poor concentration/memory, trouble thinking clearly
· Joint/muscle pain
· Weight gain because of fluid retention
· Abdominal bloating/cramps
· Breast tenderness
· Acne flare-ups
· Constipation or diarrhoea
Yes, the list is long, and you could probably add to it (for example, get specific with those “mood swings;” and does anyone else just feel like something is breathing a bit too noisily?
Keep track of the symptoms you recognise for at least two months. Note when
they appear, how severe they are, how long they last, when you ovulate and when menstruation begins. You can record in your favourite diary or use a period app. I like my clients to use Kindara app as it has a "share to practitioner" function, which makes it easy for me to keep up to date with what changes are happening in real time.
Record triggers you can identify and activities, foods, etc. that seem to aggravate or alleviate symptoms. You should eventually be expecting certain symptoms and have a plan in place to deal with them. Now let’s move on to a few strategies that have been proven and suggested by other PMS sufferers and health professionals.
#2 Strategy: Eat, Drink and Be Wary
One strategy to help you deal with some of the physical discomfort associated with PMS, is to be wary of what and how much you eat and drink while your symptoms are present.
Eating small amounts several times a day, rather than two or three large meals, can reduce bloating, cramps, and nausea. Limiting your salt intake can help reduce fluid retention.
Try not to give into the crazy food cravings that may hit you—especially if they involve salty or sugary snacks, coffee, or chocolate (Dark chocolate is an exception!) Caffeine can increase your insomnia and headaches and further scramble your brain and emotions. Also, try to avoid alcohol where possible.
Choose instead to eat wholesome foods such as:
· Fresh fruits and vegetables (especially leafy green) and whole grains.
· Calcium-rich foods like sardines, yogurt, cooked kale and broccoli
· Foods high in vitamin E, such as wheat germ, almonds, sunflower seeds, and spinach
· Fish high in omega 3 fatty acids, such as salmon, sardines and anchovies.
· Avocado: balances hormones and is high in good fat, fibre, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin B6
#3 Strategy: Exercise (Naturally)
Staying active is one of the best strategies for increasing your overall health. While you may not feel like jogging around the block once PMS has hit full force, a brief walk, swim, or another aerobic form of exercise can lift your mood, eradicate some fatigue, ease irritability—and give you a chance to just enjoy your social withdrawal.
Making 30 minutes a day of medium to brisk exercise a regular part of your lifestyle will benefit your entire body, mind, and spirit, leaving you ready and able to deal with PMS and lessening the affect it has on you.
#4 Strategy: Work at Relaxing
Stress just makes everything worse, so work at relaxing.
It’s an unfortunate truth that most of us are unable to fling ourselves on our bed or hide out in a dark corner whenever our inner life becomes especially painful or bewildering, so you will need to find other ways to relieve tension and ease anxiety. Turn to an activity or thought that brings you peace.
You may also wish to try some of these tips:
· Improve your posture to release stress. Sit up straight. Stand up and stretch. If you have the opportunity, lie flat on the floor, stretch out to your full length and then relax. Concentrate on each muscle one at a time, making sure none of them remain tight.
· Breathing deeply and steadily can also help you relax and de-stress. It’s helpful in pushing you toward sleep when you’re lying bed wide awake. Lie still, tune out your tumbling thoughts and just breathe.
· Some people find that journaling or writing poetry, even if it doesn’t end up making any sense, can help them relax and release tension, confusion, and anger.
#5 Strategy: Search for Alternatives
There are various herbal remedies and vitamin/mineral supplements recommended for dealing with PMS. Care is always recommended when it comes supplements as you will need to educate yourself as to their use and dosage. Always consult a health professional when buying herbal remedies as there are many contraindications to certain medication, conditions and herbs. You want to have the best herbs for YOU and it will save you money in the long run because they will work.
There are a variety of herbs I love to use in my clients tonics. These include:
Bacopa (Bacopa monneri) Bacopa or Brahmi may increase serotonin levels, helping to relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress.
Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) Licorice is a phytoestrogen, which protects our estrogen receptor sites from xenohormones. This helps to protect our body from endocrine disruptors, which are known to cause fertility problems. It is an adaptogen that supports liver health, endocrine and immune system function, which supports hormonal balance overall.
Skullcap (Scutellaria laterifolia) – Skullcap is a wonderful stress reliever that helps to calm the busy mind, reducing depression, irritability and anxiety, or other PMS mood-related symptoms
Californian Poppy(Eschscholzia californica) This variety of poppy provides gentle support for depression, nervous anxiety and tension. It is also a mild sedative, aiding sleep.
Jamaican Dogwood Piscidia erythrina) One of my favourite antispasmodic and analgesic herbs! It is traditionally used for all neuralgic and muscular cramps and spasm. This is an herb that is often relied on by herbalists for women who have unrelenting pain that makes day to day living difficult.
Chaste Berry (Vitex Agnus-Castus) One of the most well known female herbs that is used to treat many issues. May increase libido, improve energy levels and help with issues related to low progesterone.
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) The clue is in the name with this powerful herb. Famous herbalist Nicholas Culpepper 1616-1654 said, “There is no better herb to drive away melancholy vapours from the heart, to strengthen it and make the mind cheerful.” Supports heart health, reduces anxiety, it is a fantastic antispasmodic, bringing quick relief to women with painful periods.
Massage and acupuncture may also relieve PMS symptoms.
If you have ever struggled with PMS, you know it is real, and it can be powerful. You can beat it before it beats you, though. Just remember that by taking control and implementing these key measures, you’ll be able to beat it rather than letting it defeat you month after month. For continuing severe cases, you may wish to consult your health professional for further help.
Mayo Clinic Staff: www.mayoclinic.org
Stacy Baker: www.womenshealthmag.com
Josh Axe, MD: www.draxe.com
Joseph Mercola, DO: www.articles.mercola.com
Madeline Vann, MPH and Lindsey Marcellin, MD: www.everydayhealth.com