The (Natural) Secrets to Relieving PMS Symptoms

By Susan E. Sklar, M.D.
Lydia deals with a host of hormonal issues every month. As her period gets closer, she not only deals with a rise in IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and PMS (premenstrual syndrome) symptoms of increased overall sensitivity, she also suffers through a distinct rise in anxiety. If that’s not bad enough, she’s also noticed that she feels quieter and more depressed as her period arrives.
For years, Lydia has suffered in silence, with little help from anyone. Her gynecologist suggested Brexanolone, anti-depressants, and oral contraceptives, at separate times. However, none of them worked. Not only that, they’ve created a host of other problems that have left her reluctant to try anything else at all: mood swings, lack of sexual desire, and more. She’s run out of options.

Like Lydia, many women suffer from hormonal symptoms from PMS every month, often while having their symptoms written off as mere exaggerations. You, like Lydia, may feel as though you’ve tried everything on the market and then some, and yet nothing has really worked for you. Here’s the good news: these symptoms are not normal, and you do not have to suffer through them every month. Equally importantly, you don’t have to do this on your own. Indeed, there are many natural strategies that, with a little help, can help reduce symptoms and leave you feeling more like yourself again.

What Is PMS?

PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, occurs within one or two weeks of a woman’s anticipated period. Many women experience symptoms that clear up as bleeding begins, signaling the start of a period. However, others may notice that symptoms linger for a couple of days. Symptoms may include:

  • Increased acne
  • Tender breasts
  • Bloating
  • Cramping
  • Lower back pain
  • Increased constipation or diarrhea
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Increased feelings of stress
  • A notable increase in anxiety
  • Greater depressive symptoms than normal
  • Sleep problems
  • Exhaustion
  • Mood swings

Symptoms may vary from one woman to the next: some may have every possible PMS symptom, while others may note a handful of symptoms that make it more difficult than usual to go about their days. Unfortunately, all too many women simply ignore severe PMS symptoms, assuming that it’s a normal part of their hormonal cycle.

When PMS Symptoms Become PMDD

PMS symptoms cause a host of their own problems. When PMS becomes particularly severe, however, it can often be classified as PMDD, or premenstrual dysphoric disorder. For many women, PMDD takes over many aspects of their lives, destroying relationships, sabotaging opportunities, and making it impossible for these women to live normal lives.

Women with PMDD have extreme PMS symptoms that occur as early as 10-14 days before their periods are due to arrive. It may include, in addition to so-called “normal” PMS symptoms that occur at a more serious level, things like:

  • Episodes of rage, which may seem to come on out of nowhere
  • Insomnia
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Decreased interest in activities that the woman normally enjoys

PMDD is not a “normal” thing that simply occurs once a month, and you don’t have to be a slave to it. Your overall lifestyle can make it easier to control symptoms of PMDD in a healthy way.

Supplements That Can Help

When it comes to treating extreme PMS or PMDD, supplements are one of the first lines of defense. Also, they are one of the easiest healthy changes to make. By adding these supplements to your diet, you may find that symptoms of PMS become easier to manage.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 offers a host of advantages, including hormone regulation. For women looking for an easy and effective way to start improving their overall health, adding vitamin B6 is one of the best places to start. Taking Vitamin B6 50 mg once or twice a day can make a big difference. Not only does this handy little vitamin help many women start regulating those out-of-control hormones, but it can also improve the quality of sleep or help reduce symptoms of insomnia, boost overall brain health, and decrease inflammation. Vitamin B6 also offers a healthy dose of immune support that can help prevent you from getting sick on top of the symptoms you’re already dealing with.

Calcium

Calcium doesn’t just reduce some of the physical symptoms of PMS, including bloating and fatigue. It can also help with many of the emotional symptoms: sadness, mood swings, and anxiety. Adding a calcium supplement into your diet once a day can help you overcome many of the PMS symptoms you suffer from each month.

Magnesium

Magnesium offers a number of powerful benefits in your body — especially when it comes to PMS. Not only does magnesium help you sleep better, which can help you feel less irritable the next day, it often helps ease the headaches that come all too commonly before your period. In addition, magnesium helps many women stabilize their moods –and in many cases, it can help fight off some of those sugar cravings, which may help keep your blood sugar, and your mood, more stable. A dose of 250 mg per day of magnesium can make a big difference.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E, like many other supplements, treats both physical and emotional symptoms of PMS. Women who take a vitamin E supplement may note some changes in the breast tenderness and aches and pains that go along with PMS as well as a steadier mood.

Chaste Tree Berry (Also Called Vitex)

Chaste tree berry, or Vitex, is known for enhancing fertility. However, even if you don’t have a baby on your radar any time soon, chaste tree berry can still offer a number of key advantages when it comes to moderating PMS or PMDD. Chaste tree berry can help with breast tenderness, decrease symptoms of anger and irritability, and help moderate hormones so that as you move toward your period, you notice fewer cyclic differences in your overall mood and inner balance. Further, chaste tree berry can also help regulate your period, relieve insomnia, and help with painful periods and vaginal dryness.

Green Tea

As your period approaches, you may notice yourself craving caffeine, especially if you suffer from exhaustion or tiredness leading up to your period. Not only does green tea help fulfill that caffeine craving without overdoing it, which can make your cramps worse, but it can also naturally lift your energy levels, help with cramping and back pain, and support a more stable mood.

Probiotics

Much of your health, including your hormonal health, begins in the gut. When your gut bacteria are out of balance, you may have a host of problems, including increased symptoms of PMS, struggles with exhaustion, and mood swings that you just can’t seem to get under control. With a good probiotic, however, many women are able to repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria.  This helps healthy estrogen metabolism and leads to a significant improvement in many PMS symptoms.

Progesterone

Low progesterone levels can cause severe PMS symptoms that you may struggle to control: difficulty sleeping, a constant feeling of tiredness, and fast shifts in mood. For some women, progesterone supplements can ease many of those PMS symptoms and leave you feeling better-rested and more comfortable in your own skin again. Some studies confirm these benefits and others fail to show these benefits. We need more information, but in the meantime, progesterone is a safe alternative with very few side effects.

Stress Management Strategies

In today’s society, stress has almost become a badge of honor. People try to do too much, be too much, and include too much in their schedules. They’re more tired than ever, struggling with symptoms of exhaustion and unable to understand why they keep gaining weight and struggling with a host of other symptoms.

As your stress levels increase, so does your production of cortisol. As a result, you may find yourself gaining weight with no apparent reason or struggling to lose weight in spite of a low-calorie diet and regular exercise. Not only that, many women find that increased cortisol production can also lead to increased PMS symptoms: greater irritability, higher tension levels, and more signs of anxiety and depression. Are you ready to take charge of your health? Consider how these basic stress management strategies can help.

Yoga

Practicing yoga on a regular basis–not just when you feel PMS symptoms coming on–releases endorphins, calms the central nervous system, and eases many of the symptoms associated with stress. Over time, practicing yoga can help you feel more centered and grounded, which can lead to decreased PMS symptoms.

Deep Breathing Exercises

In the moment, when stress rises up hard, it can be incredibly difficult to remember to breathe through it. With some basic deep breathing exercises, however–especially when you’re feeling stressed out and overwhelmed–you can help decrease your body’s immediate response to stress so that you can move through it more effectively.

Regular Exercise

Not only does exercise help relieve stress, but it can also help you combat that pervasive cortisol weight gain. As your weight increases, you may also notice increased symptoms of PMS, which may make it harder for you to get it under control. Set aside time to exercise for at least 30 minutes 3-5 times per week. You’ll quickly notice that it elevates your mood, makes it easier for you to sleep, and, in many cases, reduces PMS symptoms.

Taking “Me” Time

As a woman, you may constantly feel pulled in a dozen different directions, with so many things to do that you don’t feel as though you ever have time for yourself. Taking “me” time, however, is critical to your physical and emotional health. Indeed, make sure you set aside time on a regular basis to relax, enjoy the things that are most important to you, and get your stress levels back under control. Take a long, hot bath, read a book for pleasure, not because you have to, or spend some time out in nature on your own: choose the strategy that works for you and find ways to make it part of your regular routine.

Healthy Eating

Insulin regulation can make a big difference in your mood, especially as the day goes on. When your blood sugar goes up, you may get a temporary high that helps you push through. When it drops again, however, you may immediately “crash,” becoming more irritable, more anxious, or more depressed. Not only that, a healthy diet can help you combat weight gain and decrease many common symptoms of PMS. In many cases, you can find some of the vital nutrients that help control your PMS symptoms in the foods you eat! Try adding some of these to your diet:

  • Plenty of leafy greens, for calcium
  • Nuts and seeds (for magnesium and vitamin E)
  • Healthy oils, including olive oil and coconut oil
  • Avocados
  • Lean meats, including shrimp
  • Salmon
  • Chickpeas

A little meal planning can go a long way toward helping you get a better, more balanced diet–and it can ultimately help improve your overall health and reduce many of your PMS symptoms. In fact, a healthy diet is one of your first lines of defense when it comes to keeping those symptoms at bay.

Evaluate for yourself whether adding dairy to your diet works for you: while some women find that dairy can be a valuable source of calcium, others notice that it increases bloating and acne as their period arrives.

Foods to Avoid

Simply adding the right foods to your diet can help increase your overall health, keep you full longer, and decrease many of the symptoms you’re living with. In order to get the full benefits, however, what you avoid can be just as important as what you’re taking in. As PMS symptoms rear their ugly heads, you may suffer from food cravings that make it hard to stay away from your favorite foods–but try to avoid these nonetheless.

Caffeine

While caffeine can give you a much-needed energy boost in the moment, it can lead to a crash later–not to mention increasing irritability.

Excess Sugar and Carbohydrates

When your period is on the way, you may find yourself craving sugar and carbs–but giving in to those cravings can increase your PMS symptoms and make it harder to control your weight.

Alcohol

Alcohol increases many mood problems, including mood swings, depression, anxiety, and rage. Not only that, alcohol consumption can interfere with getting the good night’s sleep you need to help decrease tiredness and other PMS symptoms.

Conclusion

If you’ve been dealing with PMS symptoms for far too long, it’s time to take charge and reclaim your life. Call us today for an evaluation with our hormone balancing program, which can help you get the relief you need.

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