Originally posted on the Be Well Blog
When it comes to PMS, it feels like there are good months and there are bad months. Sometimes, it even feels like there are good years and bad years.
Yet, most women experience PMS symptoms at some point in their menstruating lives. These symptoms can range from a few days to almost constant, depending on the person. And the symptoms are all over the place too. They include fatigue, breast tenderness, moodiness, bloating, cramps, anxiety… and the list goes on.
So, what is a woman to do? Ideally, we need to balance out our hormones, which we can go about in many ways.
A great place to start is with the basics. Are you eating the right foods, getting enough sleep, managing your stress, exercising regularly, and eliminating properly? Addressing these basics can create the foundation for long-term symptom relief and even help manage menopause when it eventually comes your way.
Let’s be realistic, it might feel overwhelming to tackle everything at once, so start with one area and see what impact it has. While one person will see results from changing their diet, another person might experience more relief by eliminating alcohol the week before her period.
Pick one suggestion and jump right in. Got it under control? Then pick another, and keep going!
Eat a healthy diet
- Eat low carb – If you want to support your moods, then eating a low carb diet is a great place to start. Cut out sugars and refined carbs, and replace them with quality whole foods to balance out your blood sugar, and the hormone roller-coaster that is connected to it. Read more: How Low-Carb Can Change Your Life
- Eat healthy fats – Your hormones are made from fat, so you need to consume enough nutritious fats to support a healthy balance. Focus on healthy fats like olive oil, coconut, avocado, ghee, fatty fish, and nuts and seeds. Stay away from inflammatory oils like corn, soy, canola, and sunflower. Read more: Our Favorite Healthy Fats to Stockpile in the Kitchen
- Eat consistently – Eat evenly spaced out meals throughout the day to help balance your blood sugar, hormones, and moods. Strive to ensure all meals have whole food proteins, fats, and complex carbs. Have healthy snacks when you need to. Read more: Compose the Perfect Plate (recipes from Dr. Lipman’s new book, How To Be Well)
- Experiment with alcohol and caffeine – Try removing your evening cocktail and morning coffee for a few cycles to see if this helps reduce or eliminate PMS symptoms. If that is too big a commitment, then you can make your goal to try to reduce, or eliminate, alcohol and caffeine consumption the week before your period.
- Get quality animal products – Look for animal products that are organic, pasture-raised, and sustainable, to help you avoid hormones, antibiotics, and GMOs (conventionally raised animals are often fed GMO feed). If this isn’t helping, experiment with eliminating dairy. Though it doesn’t help everyone, some women find the removal of dairy from their diet reduces PMS symptoms, including acne. Read more: All Dairy is Not Created Equal
Get some sleep
Lack of sleep can cause all sorts of hormonal imbalances, including exacerbating PMS symptoms. Shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep, especially the week before and during your period.
Sometimes this may feel easier said than done, as your period can seriously disrupt sleep. Do what you need to help you through the night. Cool your room, use a heating pad for cramps, change your sleep positions, and try the other suggestions in this list! Read more: Top 10 Sleep Mistakes (and Their Solutions)
Create an exercise routine
Consistent exercise is important for managing PMS symptoms. Create a physical activity routine that you do all month, but feel free to adjust it according to your energy before and during your period. You might have high energy for spin class during part of the month, but only enough energy for a restorative yoga class at another time. That’s okay! Adjust your plan, but keep moving! Read more: How to Fit Exercise into Your Daily Routine
Manage your stress
Stress can throw your hormones out of whack! Each person’s management of stress is very individualized, so do what works for you. That might mean exercise, journaling, or meditation. Whatever your thing is, do it! Read more: 4 Fantastic Health Benefits of Meditation
Daily bowel movement
Elimination is important to help maintain the balance of your hormones. Your body gets rid of excess estrogen through bowel movements, so strive to get enough fiber to keep things moving. Fiber-rich foods include leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fruits, and beans. Also, be sure to drink plenty of water, eat healthy fats, and keep exercising too. Read more: Keep It Moving: Banish Constipation, Drug Free
Usually, a combination of these basics will help you manage PMS symptoms. Even with these steps, some months still might be harder than others. If you are thrown off track, try to get back on the wagon as soon as you can.
If you feel that you need additional support, you can try herbs and supplements, acupuncture, and other alternative therapies.