- PMS is a series of symptoms, including mood swings, fatigue, and depression, that occur around the time of menstruation. PMS affects 75% of menstruating women, but 20% of those are affected severely.
- PMS is triggered by hormonal imbalances, stress worsens the symptoms and environmental and genetic factors are also associated with PMS symptoms.
- Clean eating, adding vitamin and mineral supplements or probiotic supplements to your diet, exercising, and acupuncture may be effective for managing your PMS symptoms.
Nobody likes to live at the mercy of uncontrollable mood swings, anxiety attacks, or low energy levels, but unfortunately, for many people who experience PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, these pesky menstrual symptoms are all too common. PMS symptoms, including psychological symptoms, and physical symptoms, typically rear their head around the monthly menstrual cycle, and for some people they can disrupt their daily activities and impact their quality of life.
Fortunately, PMS symptoms can be managed so that their effect is less severe. If you’re plagued by uncomfortable menstrual symptoms each month, keep reading to learn strategies to help reduce them.
What Is PMS?
PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, is a series of symptoms that occur around the time of menstruation. While the duration of symptoms varies from person to person, PMS symptoms often begin around a week before the monthly period begins and last several days into the period.
Some people think PMS is just an unpleasant side effect of being a woman, but that’s not exactly true. While it’s normal to feel mild period pains around your menstrual cycle (after all, menstruation is literally the process of your uterus shedding its lining), if your PMS symptoms are becoming so painful that you cannot even function, you might need to consider whether your lifestyle choices could be exacerbating your symptoms.
How Many People Experience PMS?
About 75 percent of women experience symptoms of PMS. Of these, 20 percent experience severe symptoms and require medical attention. (1)
PMS affects each person differently. For instance, some women may experience severe muscle cramps or mood symptoms like feeling overwhelmed, while others might not notice any changes at all.
What Causes PMS?
While the exact cause of PMS is not currently known, the spike in symptoms seems to be due in part to:
- Hormonal issues—Estrogen levels and progesterone levels in the body may make PMS symptoms worse
- Stress management—Stress levels may worsen PMS symptom severity, but stress is not the main cause
- Genes—Your genetic makeup can probably increase the likelihood of developing PMS
- Environmental factors—Your environment may play a role in whether you experience PMS symptoms
Common Premenstrual Symptoms
People who experience PMS may experience the following common symptoms: (2)
- Mood swings
- Inflammation and pain
- Insomnia and fatigue
- Food cravings
- Breast tenderness
- Change in sex drive
PMS vs. PMDD
For some people, PMS is a precursor to a more serious medical condition called premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD. (3) PMDD is essentially a more serious form of PMS. With PMDD, you may experience severe premenstrual depression, tension, and irritability every month. PMDD is a serious condition that can greatly impact your daily life.
There are no lab tests to diagnose PMDD, but keeping track of your period and making a diary about your symptoms can help your doctor to diagnose it and determine a suitable treatment for you.
Effective Treatment Options To Manage PMS Symptoms
For people looking for traditional treatment to manage the mental and physical health issues that come with PMS, there are many options available. Over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen or diclofenac may relieve some of the pain, while others take birth control pills to balance the hormones that can worsen PMS. In some severe cases, antidepressants may be used in order to combat anxiety and depression from PMDD.
Because PMS symptoms can be a monthly occurrence, some people desire to treat symptoms homeopathically to avoid constant medical use and the side effects associated with them. Fortunately, most of the symptoms of PMS can be avoided through simple lifestyle changes and herbal remedies.
Natural Remedies to Treat PMS Symptoms
With a few simple changes and supplements, you can experience an improvement in symptoms from PMS and PMDD without taking medication.
Clean Up Your Diet
If you consume a poor diet, transitioning to a more balanced diet may help reduce your PMS symptoms. By simply replacing calorie-heavy food with nutrient dense food, you can begin to fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to reduce stress and other symptoms of PMS. This will help you maintain the balance of your hormones and that will in turn aid in avoiding premenstrual syndrome symptoms completely.
One major food category to shy away from is sugary foods. Excess sugar in the body requires increased insulin, which leads to increased fat levels in your body. Unfortunately, fats are estrogen factories and high levels can disrupt your hormonal balance so significantly that PMS symptoms may be triggered (and your vaginal health, too!. Reducing your sugar intake can help prevent PMS from occurring in the first place.
Here are some other dietary tips to keep in mind as you transition to a PMS-free, healthful diet: (4)
- Avoid salty foods
- Say no to oily foods
- Cut out caffeine from your routine
- Reduce your consumption of dairy products
- Eat more veggies
- Consume high levels of fruits, nuts, whole grains, and beans
- Eat organic food to avoid pesticides
- Consume omega-3 fatty acids through fish like salmon
- Cut out alcohol
- Do not skip meals
- Do not eat within 3 hours of bedtime
Taking supplements is one of the easiest ways to avoid the symptoms of PMS or PMDD. (5) Pick up the following from your favorite grocery store to start managing your symptoms immediately.
- Taking vitamin B-6 can reduce anxiety and soothe other psychological symptoms of PMS.
- Magnesium supplements are the best remedy for bloating. High levels of magnesium can also relieve breast tenderness.
- High calcium levels can lessen the fatigue and depression you experience due to PMS. Studies have shown that women who take calcium supplements are better able to cope with PMS than those that don’t take calcium.
- Vitamin D can not only reduce PMS symptom severity, it can reduce the chance of developing PMS in the first place. (6) You can either get vitamin D from food or from supplements, but high levels are required to make a noticable difference.
- Vitamin E is particularly helpful for alleviating the psychological symptoms of PMS, especially depression. It has been shown shown to decrease the symptoms like anxiety and irritability, along with depression. (7)
- Essential fatty acids can help with both your physical and emotional symptoms from PMS. (8)
Try Herbal Supplements
Herbal products and phytonutrients are also a natural remedy to avoid frustrating monthly symptoms. (9) Phytonutrients are chemicals obtained from plants that can be used to treat human diseases. Helpful herbal supplements for PMS include:
- Chasteberry fruit extract—This natural remedy relieves the psychological effects caused by PMS.
- St. John’s wort—This supplement is commonly used for depression and cravings, but it can have severe interactions with other supplements and prescription drugs, so it’s important to be cautious when using it. (10)
- Fennel—This phytonutrient reduces hormonal imbalance and can relieve menstrual pain symptoms.
- Isoflavones—Isoflavones are compounds found in soy that can balance your body’s estrogen levels.
- Flax seeds–Studies have shown that consuming flax seeds reduces the symptoms of PMS. The anti-inflammatory property of flax seeds soothes the pain of menstruation. Additionally, flax seeds contain high levels of vitamin B and omega-3 fatty acids.
- Ginger—Ginger positively affects your prostaglandin system, which in turn reduces the symptoms of PMS like headache, vomiting, or nausea.
- Wild yam—Wild yam has traditionally been used to ease hormonal symptoms of PMS.
Add Probiotics to Your Diet
Probiotics are live bacteria that reside naturally in your body. Probiotics help support a healthy body by balancing your body’s levels of hormones and bacteria to keep things running smoothly. They improve your gut health, digestion, strengthen your immune system and provide other health benefits.
You can increase or rebalance your body’s probiotic levels through your diet or through dietary supplements. Foods like yogurt, kimchi, and sauerkraut contain probiotics. Menopause probiotics can be taken orally as a supplement to help deal with PMS symptoms like bloating, constipation, mood swings, and low energy. (11)
Give Acupuncture a Try
Acupuncture involves the insertion of sterilized needles at specific points of your body by an expert. Needles are inserted at specific energy points. Research shows that acupuncture is an effective remedy to relieve PMS symptoms without any side effects. (12)
Regular exercise is a highly effective way to balance your body’s natural hormone levels—even just 30 minutes of light exercise per day a week can help you fight your premenstrual syndrome symptoms. Try exercises that will get you sweating, like:
- Brisk walking
- Swimming or other aerobic exercises
Stress might not cause PMS, but it certainly makes symptoms worse. (13) Adding stress to psychological PMS symptoms, like anxiety, depression, or mood swings, can exacerbate these difficult symptoms and make them more severe. To naturally reduce levels of stress in your body, try:
- Getting adequate amounts of sleep
- Indulging in a relaxing massage
- Consuming a healthy diet
- Meditation or deep breathing exercises
Your Menstrual Cycle Doesn’t Have To Control You
If you’re tired of dealing with uncomfortable PMS symptoms every month, resorting to drugs and modern medicines is not your only option. There are many options for safe, natural remedies to reduce your PMS symptoms. However, if you treat your PMS symptoms with natural remedies without any improvement in your symptoms, then you should definitely consult your doctor for additional advice.
- Maleki-Saghooni, N., Karimi, F. Z., Behboodi Moghadam, Z., & Mirzaii Najmabadi, K. (2018). The effectiveness and safety of Iranian herbal medicines for treatment of premenstrual syndrome: A systematic review. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine, 8(2), 96–113.
- E. Bertazzoni Minelli, A. Benini, L. Vicentini, E. Andreoli, M. Oselladore & R. Cerutti (1996) Effect of Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum Administration on Colonic Microbiota and its Metabolic Activity in Premenstrual Syndrome, Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease, 9:6, 247-260, DOI: 10.3109/08910609609166465
- Habek D, Habek JC, Barbir A. Using acupuncture to treat premenstrual syndrome. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2002;267(1):23-26. doi:10.1007/s00404-001-0270-7