PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, is a collection of symptoms that occur about 3-7 days before a woman’s menstrual cycle. Symptoms can be:
- Physical – for example: bloating, cramps, weight gain
- Mental/emotional – for example: mood swings, irritability, cravings, fatigue
But let’s get real — if you’re reading this, you know what PMS is. It’s those ugly symptoms that interfere with your life every month. And although PMS is a common occurrence (up to 1 in 4 women report moderate or severe PMS each month), it is not a physiological response that you have to live with. By naturally balancing our hormone levels, estrogen and progesterone, we can lessen the severity of these monthly symptoms. To start, be sure to include anti-inflammatory plant-based foods in your diet daily, manage stress, and don’t skimp on sleep to see even greater impact from the suggestions below.
Let’s review some of the most effective natural therapies to help ease PMS symptoms each month.
To reduce pain
The best way to lessen menstrual pain or discomfort is to prevent it in the first place. Since pain and cramps can occur due to overly tense muscles, well-absorbed minerals like magnesium glycinate can make a world of difference if taken regularly. Plus, the glycinate form acts as a natural anxiety reducer too!
If you’re looking to take something acutely in times of pain (regular over-the-counter anti-inflammatories can be hard on the liver and digestive tract), the traditional herb cramp bark can come to the rescue. Dose up to 4 times per day and be sure to start at the first signs of cramping.
To reduce swelling & water weight gain
The days before our menstrual cycles are associated with elevated estrogen, which can bring on more water retention and swelling, especially in the lower half of the body.
Many people think drinking too much fluid causes swelling when in fact, it’s often due to a lack of electrolytes (sodium, calcium, magnesium, chloride) that prevent water from circulating easily throughout your body. Simply add a scoop of a balanced electrolyte powder to a glass of water every day and see how this small change can make a huge difference.
To reduce bloating
Perhaps one of the most common PMS symptoms I hear about in my practice is bloating. The general feeling of fullness and an expanded waistline can easily be reduced by being extra diligent with diet, exercise and a helpful digestive enzyme.
Since bloating is made worse by inflammatory foods, try to stay away from wheat, dairy, and refined sugar a week before your period arrives. Additionally, aim to get moving daily with a simple walk outdoors or your favourite fitness class. Still having issues? One of the best ways to prevent bloating from a meal is to help your body better digest the proteins, carbohydrates, and fats you consume. Try a complete digestive enzyme with larger meals like lunch and dinner, when dining out, and while travelling.
There you have it! Simple solutions to help reduce those pesky PMS symptoms quickly and safely. As a final reminder: consistency is key; always tackle your symptoms when they first start. Or, better yet, in the weeks leading up to the problematic period.
And if you’re looking to go the extra mile when it comes to “greening” your period, check out this post on natural period products.
Let us know which natural options work well for you in the comments!
* Doctor’s note *
Severe PMS or hormonal imbalances that have not improved with natural diet and lifestyle changes may warrant further investigation. Comprehensive hormone testing (through saliva or urine most commonly) can be done with your naturopath or functional medicine doctor to determine and treat the root cause of the symptoms.
Dr. Laura Belus is a Naturopathic Doctor that focuses on detoxification and hormone balance for weight loss, stress management, and greater energy. She believes in making simple, yet powerful, changes to diet & lifestyle habits that create lasting results. She practices in Mississauga and Toronto.