Updated: Jul 19
Did you know that a question often asked in the medical field is: “Is PMS real?”
Some MD’s say yes, some say no, and some still say it’s all in our heads. Medical professionals who recognize PMS as an issue say that approximately 80% of menstruating women have suffered PMS symptoms at some point in their life.
What does PMS actually stand for?
PMS stands for “Premenstrual syndrome.”
The syndrome manifests itself in a mix of physical and emotional symptoms during the one or two weeks before menstruation that can make you feel like violent world revolutions are taking place within your mind and body.
One of the first steps to making sure PMS doesn’t pull you under is understanding it.
#1 Strategy: Understand and Record
The symptoms of PMS vary from woman to woman, and even from cycle to cycle, but they tend to occur in somewhat predictable patterns.
Keeping track of the symptoms you experience over several cycles can help you to identify the patterns of your personal battle and equip you to identify triggers and anticipate the timing of your symptoms. Once you know what to expect, you will be more prepared to implement further strategies to deal with and lessen your symptoms.
PMS symptoms generally start to show up 6 to 10 days before menstruation and disappear once a woman’s period begins. They may be barely noticeable one month and intensely severe the next.
It’s important to understand that at least half of these symptoms are mental and emotional, as this will help you to view them from a distance, giving you greater power in controlling them.
Crying (that you can’t really explain)
Changes in appetite/food cravings
Poor concentration/memory, trouble thinking clearly
Weight gain because of fluid retention
Constipation or diarrhea
Yes, the list is long, and you could probably add to it (for example, get specific about those “mood swings;” and does anyone else just feel like they have someone else’s brain for a few days, and why does that “foggy brain” come right on the heels of some of your sharpest ideas?).
Keep track of the symptoms you notice for at least two months. Document when
they appear, how severe they are, how long they last, when you ovulate, and when menstruation begins.
When you record triggers you can identify activities, foods, etc. that seem to aggravate or alleviate symptoms. And by expecting certain symptoms, you are better able to have a plan in place to deal with them. Now let’s move on to a few strategies that have been proven and suggested by other PMS sufferers as well as medical professionals.
#2 Strategy: Eat, Drink and Be Wary
One strategy to help you deal with some of the physical discomfort associated with PMS, is to be wary of what and how much you eat and drink while your symptoms are present.
Eating small amounts several times a day, rather than two or three large meals, can reduce bloating, cramps, and nausea. Limiting your salt intake can help reduce fluid retention.
And not giving into the crazy food cravings that may hit you—especially if they involve salty or sugary snacks, coffee, or chocolate (argh!), is key. Caffeine can increase your insomnia and headaches and further scramble your brain and emotions. Also try to avoid alcohol as much as possible.
Choose instead to eat wholesome foods, such as:
Fresh fruits and vegetables (especially leafy green) and whole grains.
Calcium-rich foods like sardines, yogurt, cooked kale, and broccoli
Foods high in vitamin E, such as wheat germ, almonds, sunflower seeds, and spinach
Fish high in omega 3 fatty acids, such as salmon, sardines, and anchovies.
Avocado: balances hormones and is high in good fat, fiber, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin B6
#3 Strategy: Exercise (Naturally)
Staying active is one of the best strategies for increasing your overall health. While you may not feel like jogging around the block once PMS has hit full force, a brief walk, swim, or another aerobic form of exercise can lift your mood, eradicate feelings of fatigue, ease irritability, and give you a chance to just enjoy some dedicated "me" time.
Making 30 minutes a day of medium to vigorous exercise a regular part of your lifestyle will benefit your entire body, mind, and spirit, leaving you ready and able to deal with PMS while lessening the affect it has on you.
#4 Strategy: Work at Relaxing
Stress just makes everything worse, so work at relaxing.
It’s an unfortunate truth that most of us are unable to fling ourselves on our bed or hide out in a dark corner whenever our life becomes especially stressful or frustrating, so finding other empowering ways to relieve tension and ease anxiety are crucial. Turn to an activity or thought that brings you happiness and peace.
Try some of these mindful practice tips:
Improve your posture to release stress. Sit up straight. Stand up and stretch. If you have the opportunity, lie flat on the floor, stretch out to your full length and then relax. Concentrate on each muscle one at a time, making sure none of them remain tight.
Breathing deeply and steadily can also help you relax and de-stress. It’s helpful in pushing you toward sleep when you’re lying bed wide awake. Lie still, tune out your tumbling thoughts, and just breathe slow and methodically.
Journaling, even if it doesn’t end up making any sense, can help relax the mind and release feelings of tension, confusion, and anger.
#5 Strategy: Search for Alternatives
There are various herbal remedies and vitamin/mineral supplements recommended for dealing with PMS. Care is always recommended when it comes supplements as you will need to educate yourself as to their appropriate use and dosage.
Massage and acupuncture may also relieve PMS symptoms. For continuing severe cases, you may wish to consult your doctor for further help.
Bottom line - if you have ever struggled with PMS, you know it is real, and it can be powerful. But the good news is you can beat it before it beats you! Just remember that by raising awareness and implementing a few key measures, you’ll be armed to beat it rather than letting it defeat you month after month.
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Mayo Clinic Staff: www.mayoclinic.org
Stacy Baker: www.womenshealthmag.com
Josh Axe, MD: www.draxe.com
Joseph Mercola, DO:www.articles.mercola.com
Madeline Vann, MPH andLindsey Marcellin, MD: www.everydayhealth.com