As if your period didn’t cause enough drama, you have to suffer for the week or two before it even arrives. Try some of these tips to keep your sanity, or at least some of it.
Exercise. I know that moving is the last thing you want to do, but it may be the best thing for you. According to Dr. McAllister, it can counteract stress, boost endorphins, even out your blood sugar levels, help curb your appetite, and keep you from gaining weight. It doesn’t matter what kind of exercise you engage in, but do something you like. Aim for 30 minutes per day.
Relax. A lot of the mood-related PMS symptoms, such as crankiness and mood swings, can be reduced by using relaxation techniques. Try yoga, meditation, and deep breathing exercises, says Dr. Jepson.
Prepare for it. Keeping track of your cycle may make it easier to deal with it. When you know your period is coming up, it’s not such a shock when you start having mood swings. Dr. Kornstein says that knowing the cause may help women not overreact to situations.
Keep a diary. If you keep track of your cycle and the PMS symptoms you experience, you will know exactly what to expect, and you can plan accordingly. For example, if your worst day is three days before your period starts, it’s probably not a good idea to schedule your big job interview on that day.
Be optimistic, but realistic. While smiling may flood your body with happy hormones, it won’t cure your blues completely. Keep this in mind so you don’t get frustrated when your moodiness lingers.
Steer clear of stress. Easier said than done, I know. But if you can try to avoid situations you know cause you stress, do it. If your overly competitive sister makes you crazy, skip lunch with her that week.
Create calming environments. Your environment can be a big source of stress. Try surrounding yourself with your favorite colors (blue is very calming) and play soft music. If you can keep your emotions in check, everything will go a lot smoother.
Take deep breaths. When we are tense, we take shallow breaths. This type of breathing can make your PMS symptoms even worse. Take slow, deep breaths to keep your cool.
Take a salt bath. Dr. Lark suggests taking a mineral bath for total body relaxation. To your bath, add one cup of sea salt and one cup of baking soda. Don’t exceed 20 minutes of soak time though, because hot water can zap your energy and leave you feeling worse.
Drink chasteberry tea. Most experts say this is this best herbal remedy for PMS. You can drink chasteberry as a tea, or find it in other formulations at your local health food store. If all you have is tincture, mix 5 to 15 drops into a small amount of water three times a day.
Try rosemary. Rosemary could help level your hormones, which reduces your symptoms. To make tea out of it, pour one cup of boiling water over one teaspoon of dried rosemary leaves. Cover it and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Drink it while it’s warm. Have a cup before lunch and a cup before dinner for three days before you get your period.
Go to bed earlier. If one of your symptoms is trouble sleeping, try going to bed a few hours early a couple days before your PMS usually sets in. This may help you fight fatigue when it actually starts.
Talk about it. Everything is easier to deal with when you talk about it with other people, and PMS is no exception. I’m not sure how much your boyfriend or husband wants to hear about it, but your friends and family can be a good place to start. There are also support groups you can seek out.
Eat right. We all know about the ice cream and potato chip cravings that come with the territory, but if you eat right, your blood sugars will stay normal. This is important because low blood sugar can aggravate the symptoms you’re already dealing with.
Focus on fiber. Instead of reaching for yet another chocolate bar, pick a fiber-rich food like oatmeal. This will keep you full longer and keep you from grabbing whatever you find in the office vending machine.
Limit your dairy. Dairy foods, like milk, yogurt, and ice cream, can all make you bloated. PMS does enough of that on its own; don’t add to it!
Skip the salt. Salt makes you retain water and can also make you bloated. And if you can’t fit into your favorite skinny jeans, that’s definitely not going to help your mood.
Good protein and fats. Now that you’ve eliminated the craving foods that just make you feel worse, what are you going to eat? Stock up on foods that are rich in omega-3s, such as salmon, avocados, and nuts.
Cut out the coffee. According to Dr. McAllister, “caffeine can stimulate the adrenal glands and trigger production and release of stress hormones, making PMS symptoms worse.”
Keep drinking. While you’re giving up coffee, drink lots of water and green tea. Even though is sounds counterintuitive, water actually keeps you from retaining water. And green tea can dial back the pain and inflammation you may be experiencing.
Supplements may help.
Vitamin B6 can help with lots of PMS symptoms, including mood swings, retaining water, tender breasts, bloating, cravings for sugar, and tiredness. Make sure you talk to your doctor because B6 is toxic if you take too much of it.
Fish oil or flax oil are great anti-inflammatory products, which is important because inflammation is what causes a lot of the pain and other symptoms associated with PMS.
Calcium and Vitamin D3 can cut problematic PMS by up to 40%. An Archives of Internal Medicinestudy states that 1,200mg of calcium and 400 IU of Vitamin D are the magic numbers. Again, check with your doctor.
Magnesium and calcium work together to curb carb cravings. It can also help you sleep better, reduce muscle cramps, keep your blood sugar levels in check, and lower your migraine risk.
PMS pills may help. If addition to a daily multivitamin, some drugstores carry products that are made just for PMS. Pamprin and Midol are just two. Talk with your doctor if you find a product you are interested in.
Meet the Experts:
Steven Jepson, M.D.
-Medical Director of The Utah Dermatologic and Medical Procedures Clinic
-Author of 7 Ways to Look Younger Without Undergoing the Knife
Susan G. Kornstein, M.D.
-Professor of Psychiatry and Obstetrics-Gynecology
-Executive Director of The Institute For Women’s Health at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA
Susan Lark, M.D.
-Distinguished Clinician, Lecturer, and Women’s Health Expert
-Author of several books, including Hormone Revolution
-Maintains the website www.drlark.com
Rallie McAllister, M.D.
-Board Certified Family Physician in Kingsport, TN
-Author of several health-related books, including Healthy Lunchbox: The Working Mom’s Guide to Keeping You and Your Kids Trim and Riding for Life: A Horsewoman’s Guide to Lifetime Health and Fitness
The Doctors Book of Home Remedies by the editors of Prevention Magazine
DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor. Please discuss medical concerns with your health care provider.