Premenstrual (and menstrual) syndrome, PMS, is not for the faint of heart. Side effects include everything from headaches and pelvic/abdominal cramping to lower back pain, tender breasts, irritability, and a queasy tummy.
While hormonal birth control and over-the-counter medications can be used to minimize periods and PMS and to relieve pain and discomfort, they also come with their own set of risks and side effects.
7 Natural & Chemical-Free Ways to Treat PMS Symptoms
You should always check in with your doctor before making any significant changes in your routine. That said, the following methods are proven, chemical-free and healthy ways to cope with PMS.
1. Focus on anti-inflammatory foods
Anti-inflammatory diets should be called “the way we should all eat” diets. They focus on lean proteins and “whole” unprocessed foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, natural or low-glycemic sweeteners, and whole grains. These foods are known for reducing inflammation, which also reduces any inflammation-related side effects.
Click Here to learn more about anti-inflammatory foods and diets.
The simple act of focusing on an anti-inflammatory diet has a positive impact on PMS symptoms. It is also a natural way of treating other reproductive health issues such as PCOS and endometriosis.
2. Eliminate known inflammation triggers
Just as there are foods that eliminate inflammation, there are also foods that make inflammation worse. Foods and substances that are known to increase inflammation, which exacerbates PMS symptoms (as well as endometriosis symptoms), include:
- Red meat and processed meats
- Refined grains (any bread products, pasta, tortillas, crackers, and other snacks made with white flour as opposed to “whole-grain flour”
- Artificial food additives, including preservatives and colors
- Processed or refined sugars
- Most soda products (if you like sweetened carbonated beverages, look for products sweetened with natural options like Stevia, honey, blackstrap molasses, xylitol, monk fruit, etc.)
- Diet soda products (artificial sweeteners are unhealthy and known inflammatory triggers
- Saturated fats
- Trans fats
- Gluten and casein
- Aspartame (This is a faux sweetener used in many diet sodas. It is not good for you)
In addition to helping you reduce PMS symptoms naturally, avoiding these foods also supports overall health and minimizes your risk of other health conditions such as arthritis, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Establishing eating habits that steer clear of these foods also helps to minimize menopause symptoms down the road!
3. Purchase a few heating pads
The continued presence of warm heat on the pelvis and abdomen can soothe and reduce cramping and tenderness. Heating pads are affordable and can be kept on hand near your bed, under your work desk, near your favorite reading or TV watching spot, etc. Make sure to purchase heating pads with automatic off functions, so it turns itself off if you forget.
4. Exercise for at least 30 minutes
We get it. Sometimes severe PMS symptoms make you want to curl up in the fetal position and stay in bed all day. In fact, if this is the case, you should visit your OB/GYN and let her know about how serious your PMS experience is. It could be that you have endometriosis or a hormone imbalance that’s making your symptoms more severe than they should be. For those with “normal” PMS, do your best to exercise every day.
Womenhealth.gov states, “Researchers have found that some women have fewer painful cramps during menstruation if they exercise regularly…regular physical activity, like walking, which may also help you feel better during your period.” Just 30 minutes of gentle to moderate exercise is enough to get the circulation flowing, triggering an endorphin cycle, reducing inflammation, and acting as a mellow pain reliever. Plus, establishing a healthy exercise routine also provides preventative protection from conditions like osteoporosis.
5. Eat some high-quality dark chocolate
We knew you’d love this one. Eating an ounce to 1.5 ounces of high-quality chocolate per day (organic is best to avoid inflammatory preservative triggers) counters PMS symptoms by:
● Relaxes blood vessels due to antioxidant properties
● Lowering blood pressure
● Increasing circulation
● Boosts magnesium levels (a mineral known to relieve bloating, inflammation, fatigue, and depression)
● Enhancing your mood
● Boosting energy levels
● Reduces stress hormones
Visit 8 Best Dark Chocolate Bars, According to Dieticians, to begin sampling chocolate that is as good for you as it is for the earth.
6. Focus on stress management tools
That’s a perfect segue to our next healthy tip for reducing PMS symptoms: keep those stress hormones at bay. Unfortunately, our systems are in a “fake” state of fight or flight due to our participation in 21st-century lifestyles. This means your stress about traffic, work, bill paying, or dating strife triggers the same response as if you saw a lion or your life was truly threatened.
The difference is that your version is self-created by a worried mind or history of trauma and repeats itself rather than being a one-and-done like it would in nature. Stress hormones worsen PMS symptoms (and inflammation) so try using one of these apps to reduce stress.
7. Keep your favorite essential oils on hand
Multiple studies support the use of essential oils for supporting or reducing the symptoms or side effects of PMS. Examples include:
While smelling essential oils you enjoy provides relaxing properties, a 2013 study showed that women who massaged an essential oil combination onto their abdomen and pelvis reported reduced PMS discomfort. Women who used the essential oil combo (cinnamon, clove, rose, and lavender mixed in a carrier oil) also reported bleeding less than usual.
Would you like more support and relief from your PMS symptoms? Schedule a consultation with OB/GYN Associates of Spokane.