Natural Approach to Alleviating PMS
When it comes to health and wellness, we try to cover all topics and walks of life. So, let’s talk about menstruation! As nice as it would be to get quick messages each month saying “You’re not pregnant! See you next month!” we all have to deal with the reality of being women. As someone who has suffered from severe cramps to the point of sometimes passing out, I am always on the lookout for a way to relieve my symptoms without relying too heavily on over-the-counter painkillers.
Common PMS symptoms include headaches, dizziness, irritability, bloating, breast tenderness, nausea, vomiting, food cravings or aversions, weight gain, irritability, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and cramps. The severity of symptoms, along with the length of your period, varies due to numerous factors for each woman including genetics, diet, activity level, age, hormone levels, environment, and stress, just to name a few. There are many things that can help alleviate these symptoms naturally. Some strategies that work for one person may not work for another, but here are some things for you to try:
- Put some heat on it! It’s a tried and true remedy for a reason. It works. Heat relaxes the muscles of the uterus, which results in less pain and increased blood flow. Use a low to medium heat setting if using an electric heating pad. You can also take a warm bath with Epsom salt, lavender, or peppermint essential oils. These oils may also help by simply mixing them with a carrier oil and rubbing on your tummy when you experience cramps.
- Eat the right foods! Many of us have serious salt and sugar cravings once a month and it is hard to control. So here are some dietary suggestions to help curb those cravings and keep you on track with the healthy lifestyle you have dedicated so much time and energy toward:
- Iron rich foods are important this time of month, especially if you have a heavy period. Best options include grass-fed red meat, dark chocolate, liver, lentils, spinach, and sardines.
- Dark chocolate! Yes, dark chocolate (look for 70% or darker) can help alleviate muscle cramping and give you a mental boost in addition to providing some iron. Of course, this is to be savored in moderation. 1-2 small squares may be what the doctor ordered, but more than this could leave you feeling worse than when you started after a sugar crash.
- Fiber-rich foods can help you feel fuller longer and prevent cravings. Best options include nuts, seeds, legumes (beans and lentils), berries, green leafy veggies, squash (especially acorn and hubbard squash) as well as whole grains such as quinoa and buckwheat.
- Exercise! Many studies show exercise can boost metabolism, curb cravings, fight fatigue, and reduce stress and anxiety by releasing endorphins and feel-good brain chemicals. It also can help reduce pain and inflammation caused by cramping and bloating.
- Natural Supplements and Vitamins*:
- Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that is abundant in nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils. There is preliminary evidence that vitamin E supplementation may benefit women with PMS symptoms.
- Calcium can reduce symptoms of fatigue, cravings, and depression.
- There are some studies that a magnesium deficiency can lead to PMS symptoms. A recent study found that women with PMS who took magnesium supplements found that their symptoms improved. Many women feel relief from cramping when they take a calcium/magnesium supplement.
- Some herbs that are known to help decrease symptoms include:
- Chasteberry – Known to help with menstrual cycle irregularity, cramps, bloating, and breast tenderness.
- Maca can help with stress, anxiety, mood, and low sex drive.
- Black cohosh can help with irritability and sleep disturbances.
- Burdock, in addition to its anti-inflammatory effect, it is a powerful diuretic so it can help reduce excess fluid and bloating associated with PM.S
- Switch to natural feminine products. Surprise! Tampons and pads may contain chemicals such as chlorine dioxide. In fact, there can be up to 3,000 different chemicals used in these products! Some of these chemicals are known carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, and allergens. The mucus membrane and vascular nature of the vagina could easily absorb these into our bodies. So here are some more organic and natural alternatives:
- Free and Clear Ppads and tampons from Seventh Generation – Made with certified organic cotton, these are also chlorine free and have no scents or deodorants added.
- Lola – A subscription box for organic natural tampons and pads with no toxins, fragrances, or synthetic fibers.
- Cloth pads – washable and reusable.
- Sea Sponges and Menstrual cups – While these two options take a bit of practice in the beginning, they are a good alternative.
*We do recommend that before starting any supplement regimen, you should consult with a knowledgeable practitioner and ideally be tested for nutrient deficiencies.