image from because i’m addicted
Lauren Zielinski is a Certified Nurse-Midwife, and the founder of a grassroots women’s health movement called New Moon Rising Events. New Moon Rising works in cities across the US to hold free, day-long workshops that foster discussion about reproductive health, political advocacy, natural medicine options, and community connections.
Let’s talk about Premenstrual Syndrome, also known as PMS. Three out of four menstruating women report experiencing PMS in some form every month. Additionally, four out of four women have blamed their *less than pleasant* behavior towards a significant other on “PMSing.” (That’s not actually a statistic… but I would believe it!) The reality is, the majority of fellow females experience PMS in some form and it significantly impacts us, month after month.
Do any of us understand why we feel the way we do pre-period? Cue short science lesson: What is it exactly that causes PMS? You guessed it: hormones! In the case of PMS, it is specifically the lack of hormones when in a post-ovulatory state. Every month after you ovulate – if there is no fertilization and implantation of an ovum (egg) resulting in pregnancy – estrogen and progesterone take a nose-dive (this is usually 7-10 days before your period actually starts). This steep drop in hormones brings on the changes in your body you relate with PMS.
Hold up! The great news is: there are actually quite a few ways to take care of your beautiful bod in order to encourage that pre-period hormonal swing to be less steep. Read below for a few tips that can be easily added to your daily mix to assuage the cramps, bloating, mood swings and general emotional tenderness that come along with your monthly moon time.
photo from the coveteur
The fluctuation of hormones that occurs every month actually causes your body to retain water, causing the dreaded pre-period bloat that many women experience when they’re PMSing. Sodium or salt when ingested causes water retention to increase even more than it’s already bound to. One way to help cut the poof is by generally decreasing your sodium intake for the 7-10 days in your cycle pre-period. If you experience pretty bad bloating – think about gently:
- Checking the labels on foods you eat for high sodium content
- Attempt not salting your food after your meal has been prepared
- Avoid salty foods in general
photo from wild poppy goods
Brain Fog and Clumsiness?
This is my favorite tip for a symptom many women don’t even realize is connected to PMS! Have you ever noticed you drop everything and are super clumsy when you’re PMSing? (I do! Oof!) That clumsiness is actually also relative to the increased water retention of the premenstrual state. Extra fluid surrounds your brain in a very small but impactful way – this ever-so-slight increased pressure changes your coordination and induces dropsy-ness. Wild, right?! The best way to feel more clear and centered is by, you guessed it, avoiding salt in the same way as mentioned above.
Cramps are never really fun, amiright? There are a few well-researched natural remedies that are proven to help aid in cutting crummy cramps! If you are a period-time cramper, try one or more of these natural remedies:
- Up your Omega 3’s! Some research actually says fish oils work better than ibuprofen (aka Advil) for cramps! A la natural awesomeness! Omegas 3’s decrease inflammation body-wide which can in turn decrease pain associated with uterine contractions (cramps). Omega 3’s are best absorbed when ingested via diet — so try to eat more wild caught fatty fish (salmon, herring, sardines, tuna, trout, cod, mackerel) Also try increasing non-fish forms of Omega 3’s: chia seeds, flax seeds, walnuts, eggs, spinach, wild rice, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and tofu. And/or, take 1000mg of fish oil supplementation a day (every day of the month, not just during your period.)
- Throw in some Magnesium! Let me introduce you to my personal favorite supplement. I love magnesium for so many reasons. One reason magnesium is good for female health is that this naturally occurring element helps muscles relax and function better by increasing the absorption of calcium, as well as helping regulate estrogen metabolism (think balance). Added bonuses: magnesium helps you sleep more deeply, ward off hormonal headaches, and can relieve constipation if you suffer from it. Yay for this super element! Try taking 250 mg by mouth 2x per day. (Decrease the dosage if it causes you any stomach upset).
- Add in Vitamin B6. 50 mg daily of B6 in combination with fish oil has been proven to help with cramps! Kewl! This works by helping produce “good prostaglandins” (prostaglandins are chemicals your body makes that act like hormones). During your period “bad prostaglandins” cause increased uterine cramping and pain. A little B6 every day actually fights these cramp-creating bad prostaglandins by upping your “good” prostaglandins, which can help relax and widen the blood vessels in your uterus – counter-acting the bad guys! You go girls!
- Clary Sage and Cypress Oil. Essential oils for cramps are basically a way to obtain the concentrated benefits from plants in a topical form. Clary sage helps balance your hormones and cypress oil helps with circulation to the womb, which can decrease pain. Being sure to use good quality oils, combine a few drops of oil with a pump of lotion and rub into your hands, then massage into your lower abdomen/womb area, and apply a warm compress or heating pad for 2-5 minutes. Quick, easy and smells delicious. This can be awesome before bed or when you’re hanging at home with le crampiness.
photo from st. agni
When your hormones be a’swingin’ during that time of the month, there’s a good chance you feel snappy, easily annoyed, tearful, and in need of a lot of love, attention and reassurance. Again, the major drop in progesterone and estrogen described above is what causes these funky not-fun symptoms.
If you feel that your symptoms are causing you to isolate yourself from loved ones or affecting intra-personal relationships, day-to-day or work life, you might consider doing some research on PMDD (Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder) and see a provider for help.
If you just feel extra blah or bitchy every month, consider a few of these gentle natural remedies and lifestyle changes:
- Vitex (chaste tree berry) Supplement. 240mg daily can help balance your estrogen to progesterone balance. This increased balance can help with mood swings (and added bonus – decrease acne).
- Cut back on caffeine: don’t worry you don’t need to TOTALLY avoid coffee (I would so not do that to you,) but if you tend to drink more than a cup or two a day, consider weaning back a little when you’re PMSing. Avoiding caffeine can help you feel less anxious, less depressed, more hydrated and help you experience less breast tenderness.
- Eat a half or full avocado every day: Yes, I am serious! You’re welcome! Your avocado obsession is now justified. This delicious fruit is high in healthy fat, magnesium, potassium and fiber and helps balance your hormones! I’ll leave it up to you if you want to ingest that in guacamole form or not though.
- Treat yo self: Lastly, through all of your PMSing woes, don’t forget to listen to your body and what she is telling you! Nourish her, get good sleep, take long baths, drink nice tea and be gentle on yourself. You’re an amazing being!