Like clockwork, millions of American women wage a monthly battle with premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. The symptoms, which affect at least 85 percent of menstruating women, include cramping, headache, irritability, difficulty concentrating, food cravings, and breast tenderness. But, even though hormonal swings are largely to blame, there are steps you can take to tame the roller coaster of your monthly cycle.
Eating a nutrient-rich diet packed with fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains is important if you suffer from the symptoms of PMS. Reducing the amount of overly-processed carbohydrates and sugar that you eat especially during the week before your period can help to relieve many of the physical and emotional symptoms of PMS. It’s also wise to avoid dairy and animal products high in saturated fat, salt, caffeine, and alcohol during this stage in your cycle to lessen the bloating, cravings, and insomnia many women experience. Cravings and excessive hunger can also be tamed by eating several small, balanced meals containing both lean protein and complex carbohydrates throughout the day. Small healthy meals help to balance your blood sugar and can prevent overeating.
Regular aerobic exercise relieves the anxiety and blue mood that can come from fluctuating hormone levels. Walk, jog, swim, or cycle your way to PMS relief. Just make sure to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Endorphins those pain-killing hormones elevated by exercise can help reduce stress, which may worsen PMS symptoms.
Calcium: isn’t just good for your bones, it can also ease PMS symptoms. A study of nearly 500 women finds that taking 1,200 mg of calcium each day for two months reduced almost every symptom of PMS (except insomnia and fatigue). Typical dosage: 600 mg twice a day.
Chasteberry: has progesterone-like effects that can help balance hormonal fluctuations. According to a trial involving 128 women with PMS, taking a chasteberry tincture reduced the frequency and intensity of headache, anger, irritability, depression, breast fullness, and bloating. Typical dosage: Take 40 drops daily.
Fish oil: has been found in clinical trials to ease both the menstrual cramping and emotional symptoms that often accompany your monthly cycle. Typical dosage: 1 gram per day.
Magnesium: has a calming effect and may reduce mood fluctuations and depression. What’s more, studies show that women with PMS are often deficient in this important mineral. In one clinical trial, taking magnesium for three months lessened both the physical and emotional symptoms of PMS in a group of 41 women. Typical dosage: 250 mg per day.
St. John’s Wort: is well known for enhancing mood, so it’s no surprise that it shows promise for PMS by helping to alleviate depression, anxiety, and insomnia. A British study of 36 women with PMS found that those taking the herb experienced better hormonal balance and an improved mood. Typical dosage: 300 mg of a standardized extract three times daily.