It’s almost impossible not to realise that your period is coming: tender breasts, pimples, and sugar cravings usually make an appearance days or weeks before you start bleeding. While this is no big deal for some women, for others, the days before their period are insufferable. If the signs interfere with your daily life and make tasks difficult, you may be suffering from premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
As reported by WomensHealth.gov (0), 3 out of 4 women experience signs such as irritability, anxiety, bloating, or breast tenderness before their period. When the premenstrual symptoms are frequent or become painful, then we are talking about PMS.
While there’s no cure for this syndrome today, you don’t have to feel drowsy, irritable and anxious, or suffer from painful cramps every month. You can introduce changes to your lifestyle and use natural remedies to forget about PMS forever. Let’s uncover the 7 most common premenstrual syndrome symptoms and how to treat them.
What is PMS?
Premenstrual syndrome is a combination of disruptive physical and emotional symptoms experienced by women after ovulation and before the beginning of their period. Symptoms include headaches, cramps, cravings, mood swings, and breakouts. These symptoms usually go away after your period starts.
Not all women experience every symptom and they can change over time. You may fly off the handle at the slightest thing today and have your feelings under control in a few years, but feel bloated and have painful cramps instead!
While research has not been conclusive, most specialists believe these symptoms appear mainly due to the hormone imbalance that takes place if you are not pregnant. After ovulation, your levels of progesterone and estrogen fall dramatically, causing a myriad of symptoms that range from anxiety and irritability to the urge to eat chocolate and salty snacks. Luckily, there are many natural measures you can take today to reduce your pain and discomfort to manageable levels.
Causes of PMS
PMS is extremely common in women but, unfortunately, doctors have not been able to pinpoint the cause. The only thing that is clear is that PMS is related to the hormonal changes your body undergoes around the time of your period, with estrogen, progesterone, and serotonin being the protagonists.
Although the causes of PMS are not that clear, research shows that some of the following risk factors may worsen your symptoms:
- Sleep deprivation
- Stress and anxiety
- Lack of physical exercise
- Alcohol, salt, and sugar consumption
If you suffer from other ailments such as allergies or migraines, you may notice that they become worse just before your period. When you add the symptoms of PMS to the equation, you may find yourself overwhelmed. Do not forget that you can contact your health provider to help guide you toward a suitable solution.
What Are the 7 Most Common Premenstrual Symptoms?
What are the typical PMS signs women go through? While they differ from woman to woman, some of them are common and recurrent. Here are the 7 most common premenstrual symptoms:
If you’re worried because your hunger for sweets, chocolate treats, or salty snacks increases in the days before your period, don’t! This PMS symptom is much more common than you think. The first studies about food cravings and PMS go as far back as 1953!
Specialists believe that hormone changes are to blame because these fluctuations cause a drop in your sugar levels (1), causing you to crave carbohydrates. Other researchers believe that eating sugar is a kind of natural pharmacological therapy. Carbs increase serotonin levels, also known as the happiness hormone, giving you an overall sense of joy and well-being.
Is there a solution? Well, eating complex carbs, working out, and enjoying time out in the sunshine can help you curb your appetite and reduce your sugar cravings during this difficult time of the month.
This symptom is closely related to sugar cravings. If you succumb to temptation and eat too many carbohydrates and fatty food in the days before your period, this can disrupt bowel function and make you feel bloated or constipated (2). In addition to abdominal discomfort, you may realise that the ring you always wear does not fit during these days. This is because water retention is another common symptom of PMS. Luckily, some natural herbs can help you with bloating and gassiness.
Period cramps are common and natural during menstruation, but did you know that they can also happen even if you are still days away? These cramps tend to be light, commonly felt in your back, and they generally occur 3 to 5 days before you start bleeding. Over-the-counter painkillers, an increased intake of calcium (3), and relaxation can help with cramping. If cramping becomes severe, you should contact your physician.
PMS and headaches seem inseparable, right? From a tolerable ache to sharp pain, many women experience this symptom before their period begins. But why? The answer is simple: hormones. Just before your period, your hormones (estrogen and progesterone) fluctuate wildly making you prone to annoying headaches (4). What to do? Keep yourself hydrated - water is magic! Try to get a good night’s sleep and avoid stressful situations while you wait out this uncomfortable PMS symptom.
Tender or swollen breasts
Also called cyclical mastalgia, tender breasts are also a very common symptom of PMS (5). This breast tenderness ranges in severity and your hormones are to blame. While progesterone makes your milk glands swell, estrogen enlarges your breast duct and unfortunately, none of these processes are painless.
Some women may even feel small or large benign lumps before their period starts, but these are not a cause for concern. You can relieve your breast tenderness by using warm compresses, gentle massage, supportive bras, or natural herbs and supplements.
Women who suffer from PMS may wake up feeling happy and in a great mood only to feel inexplicably sad or angry in the next few hours. If this sounds like you, then you’ve fallen victim to premenstrual mood swings.
Sadness, irritability, and anxiety are all common emotional symptoms of PMS due to the low serotonin levels that characterise this time of the month for women (6). Exercise, mindfulness practices, and natural remedies such as certain herbs or supplements, can be of great help to manage these annoying mood swings.
- Trouble sleeping
Tossing and turning before you fall asleep (or complete insomnia) is another common symptom of PMS. While researchers have not been able to pinpoint exactly why PMS disturbs your sleep, many specialists blame it on ovulation and hormone imbalances during the menstrual cycle (7).
A few days before your period starts, progesterone levels drop. Progesterone is a hormone that induces drowsiness so this change could be why you are feeling restless and struggling to catch those much needed Z’s. To combat this symptom and avoid tiredness, limit alcohol and caffeine, and increase exercise and meditation. These lifestyle adjustments will have you counting sheep before you know it.
If you find yourself breaking out around the same time each month, you can surely blame it on your period. Premenstrual acne is a real thing and can make you look like you entered back into your teen years! It’s one of the most reported PMS symptoms (8) and once again, hormones are to blame.
After ovulation, your estrogen levels lower while your progesterone levels rise, which can cause your glands to produce more sebum leaving your skin feeling oily. Too much sebum can clog your pores and produce breakouts. The lower part of your face (chin, cheeks, and neck) are usually the most affected areas.
Cleanse and wash your face regularly, wash your hands and avoid touching your face, drink lots of water, and make sure that your pillow case is clean. These simple steps can help to limit period breakouts.
How Can I Treat My PMS Symptoms Naturally?
There is no cure for PMS, but there is a lot you can do to relieve your symptoms naturally:
- Try to exercise regularly (at least 30 minutes a day).
- Eat a balanced diet and resist the urge to eat sugar and carbohydrates just before your period starts. Fruits and vegetables are your best allies.
- Do your best to sleep between 7-8 hours each day and take a nap if you need one.
- Keep stress at bay by practising yoga or meditation.
- Include magnesium and calcium in your diet.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Look for natural substances to help you do away with your symptoms. Maca, Berberine Bark Extract, and Wild Yam are only some examples of herbal supplements that can relieve your PMS symptoms. Let’s explore their benefits below.
For centuries, the Peruvian people have been using this root vegetable as an energizer and to increase fertility. It has shown to provide vitamin B6, manganese, iron, copper, and even vitamin C!
Research suggests that maca powder has a hormone-balancing effect that can ease PMS symptoms such as mood swings (9). Consuming maca root regularly (be it in powder or natural supplements) can help you rebalance your hormones, manage painful cramps and mood swings, and improve your overall well being. Maca powder can interact with certain medications, so you should consult your health provider before including maca in your diet.
Berberine Bark Extract
Berberine is a chemical compound prepared out of the roots and bark of an array of plants, with the main compound being Rhizoma Coptidis. Berberine has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries to help with different types of diseases, including diabetes.
In the case of PMS, berberine can help to control sugar cravings and bloating by lowering your blood sugar levels, regulating lipid metabolism, and breaking down carbohydrates more efficiently (10).
Found in North America and some parts of Asia, the bulb and root of the wild yam (also known as Dioscorea Villosa) contains a chemical substance called diosgenin, which was used to make the first birth control pills back in the 1960s.
The diosgenin present in wild am extracts can be turned by a laboratory into a substance that resembles female hormones. Thus, the plant is said to balance your imbalances during the menstrual cycle, improving vaginal dryness, low libido, and PMS symptoms such as menstrual cramps (11). You can incorporate wild yam into your diet in an array of forms, including health supplements, and get rid of those awful menstrual cramps.
The Final Word About PMS
Abdominal pain, emotional turmoil, tiredness, and breakouts are only some of the symptoms you can experience if you suffer from PMS. But the good news is that these debilitating symptoms no longer have to be a part of your life every month!
If you suffer from PMS regular exercise, lots of water, meditation, a healthy diet, and natural supplements such as maca, berberine bark extract, and wild yam can ease your discomfort and help you get off the period roller coaster for good. If your symptoms are severe, contact your health provider for additional help.