Author: Diane Dean, RN, LPC
Sugar cravings. Bloating. Irritability. These symptoms are hard to ignore, and they keep you in waiting for that horrible monthly cramping to kick in. And although surely, sometimes unjustly, blamed for those challenging mood swings, a woman’s menstrual cycle undoubtedly has a profound effect on her body. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) encompasses physiological symptoms that occur during the second half of the menstrual cycle. Scientists aren’t sure what exactly causes PMS – estrogen and other sex hormones tend to hover at normal levels during the premenstrual period. But, here’s the good news--lifestyle choices and natural remedies can help you reclaim your cool.
Cut Down on Coffee
There’s no getting around it – caffeine has become as common as bottled water these days. If it’s not coffee you’re drinking, you may be taking in an Earl Gray or even a pick-me-up energy drink. But caffeine flares up PMS symptoms. Caffeine intake increases adrenaline and cortisol (your stress hormone) levels, which can cause irritability and anxiety. It also can throw off your established sleep cycle, which can lead to further irritability the following day. Many women also report that consuming caffeine correlates directly to breast tenderness. Yet, if you’ve just got to have that cup of Joe to function in the morning, try taking it sans sugar. Fluctuating blood sugar levels have also been associated with worsened PMS symptoms.
Keep the Water Coming
Bloating can arise from the body retaining too much water. On the other hand, dehydration can lead to irritability and headaches, so think moderation. Green tea (in moderation) and cranberry juice are good options for hydrating. For a natural choice, supplements containing sweet fennel, a natural diuretic and an herb related to dill, can be effective.
Try and Relax
PMS often equals overwhelm and stress, and conscious relaxation can help. While what relaxes one person may not relax another, a few strategies seem like universal soothers. Drawing a warm bath and using aromatherapeutic candles may sound trite, but creating an environment that lowers your level of stress-related hormones can do wonders for many PMS symptoms. Some women’s health supplements contain pasque flower, which, in addition to helping with headaches, are also naturally-occurring antispasmodics. Antispasmodics decrease muscle spasms, which can alleviate cramps and have an overall comforting effect.
Fine-tune Your Diet
Instead of eating three larger meals a day, try eating more than three smaller meals. Spacing out your food intake will relieve pressure on the abdomen, helping with cramps. Also, keep an eye out for your mineral intakes. Calcium, Magnesium, and Vitamin B6 are all thought to help alleviate PMS symptoms. Your best bet is to try and find a multi-vitamin that incorporates these three and other important minerals. Finally, try to avoid eating a lot of salty foods. An abnormally high salt intake can lead to water retention which can worsen symptoms.