Premenstrual syndrome — known to almost all of us as PMS — affects 50 percent of women each month. The physical and emotional symptoms include breast tenderness, headaches, gastrointestinal distress, depression, and irritability. Sound familiar?
Symptoms start one to two weeks before menstruation begins. It can make you feel as if you've spent two miserable weeks leading up to your period, one week on your actual period, and just a few measly days with no menstrual symptoms at all. There's got to be a better way!
The good news is that simple and easy-to-implement lifestyle changes can significantly reduce the days you spend in PMS agony each month:
Let there be light. Light is a big help. Whether you make it a point to take a daily walk or swap out your regular light bulbs for full-spectrum ones, the increase in daily rays boosts serotonin levels in the brain, giving you a sunnier mental outlook.
More exercise and rest. As for the physical side of PMS, these solutions may not sound revolutionary, but simply exercising regularly, getting more sleep, and managing stress can do wonders for your spirit and lessen the physical toll on your body.
Try calcium. Calcium — every woman's must-have supplement — can also be a kind of kryptonite for PMS, so be sure to take yours regularly. The government recommends that women ages 19 to 50 take 1,000 mg of calcium a day and that women ages 50 to 70 consume 1,200 mg a day.
Eat healthier foods. Additionally, it’s important to ensure that your diet is working for you rather than against you. We are what we eat, and this is never truer than during that time of the month. Although food such as chocolate, ice cream, and chips can help to soothe those emotional woes (at least for the moment), they can work against your body. Salty foods such as pretzels can make you bloat and retain water, and rich sweets can worsen existing cramps and lead to diarrhea. It is also important to moderate caffeine because too much caffeine can worsen headaches and make you more jittery and irritable.
Yoga and meditation. There are also many alternative treatments that can help curb those PMS symptoms. Yoga or mediation can help you slow down and release the tension in your body, meaning that cramps, headaches, and other physical ailments might decrease. Acupuncture has also been used to treat painful PMS symptoms, and even something as simple as a heating pad or a hot bath can help to lessen cramps and restore your peace of mind.
If your PMS symptoms greatly interfere with your life and these suggestions do not offer you any relief, you should talk to your doctor because you might be suffering from premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which is a severe form of PMS. Excruciating cramps and other PMS symptoms might also be a sign of other medical issues such as endometriosis.
Listen to your body and don’t accept these painful symptoms as a given. Your period should never derail your ability to enjoy life, so talk to your doctor if you think something might be wrong.