About a week before your period is expected, your estrogen and progesterone start to fluctuate rapidly – right around the time you might start feeling miserable, somewhat irrational, crampy, bloated and your breasts hurt like hell. These all-natural remedies, while not a cure-all, can help set your hormones straight.
Cut out processed foods
Naturopathic doctor Fiona McCulloch, of Toronto’s White Lotus Clinic, recommends limiting your intake of processed and sugary foods in general, or at least in the week before your period is expected (yes, just when you might be craving them the most). This can lessen the severity of both emotional and physical PMS symptoms. Sweets cause a spike in blood sugar, which can contribute to moodiness. Processed foods contain salt, which exacerbates bloating, and they wreak havoc on your hormones by clogging up the liver, says McCulloch. When the liver (which is responsible for breaking down excess hormones) backs up, anger, irritability and sometimes depression follows. Boosting your fibre and water intake can help flush out excess hormones.
Eat more leafy greens
Many women of reproductive age are often low in iron, and that can have a significant effect on how much you suffer from PMS. A 2013 study showed that eating plant-based sources of iron, specifically leafy greens and beans, had a positive effect on the moodiness associated with PMS. Leafy greens are also a good source of calcium, and women with increased calcium levels are believed to suffer fewer PMS symptoms.
Stick to an exercise program
Research has shown that if you can find a way to fit in 30 minutes of aerobic exercise five times a week, it can lead to less breast tenderness, bloating and moodiness (including depression). If this seems unrealistic, try to boost your activity in the days leading up to your period.
Consider a supplement regime
According to McCulloch, there is a range of vitamins and herbs that can help manage specific PMS symptoms (though you should always speak to your doctor before changing or adding supplements to your routine).
B6 and Magnesium
McCulloch recommends citrate magnesium or glycinate magnesium to help with cramping and general hormone imbalance. Recent research has shown that a cocktail of magnesium plus vitamin B6 can be more effective than magnesium on its own.
“Vitamin D has a pretty profound effect on our immune system,” says McCulloch, “but also our hormones in general.” In a 2012 study women with painful periods took high doses of vitamin D in the five days leading up to their period. Seventy-five percent experienced less severe cramping and less need for over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs.
Omega-3 fatty acids
The anti-inflammatory properties of fish oils can help relieve the pain of period cramps, says McColluch. They are also known to regulate blood sugar and curb moodiness.
This herb (also known as Vitex), targets the pituitary gland and the opiate receptors in the brain, says McCulloch, and some studies have shown a link with combatting mood fluctuations — as well as helping to alleviate bloating and breast tenderness. Some studies have shown PMS symptoms are reduced by 50 percent for those taking chasteberry.
Dandelion leaf tea
This natural diuretic will help with PMS bloat and weight gain, says McCulloch. Just make sure it’s dandelion leaf, and not the dandelion root.