Struggling with PMS? Understand what it is and how you can ease your symptoms

You have probably heard of PMS and if you menstruate you have probably also experienced it. But what is it and how can we ease the symptoms?

Struggling with PMS? Understand what it is and how you can ease your symptoms

You have probably heard of PMS and if you menstruate you have probably also experienced it. But what is it and how can we ease the symptoms to have a more manageable second half of our cycle.

What is PMS

PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome—a condition in which people who menstruate experiences physical and emotional changes before and during their period. Some people who menstruate have only minor symptoms, while others may have severe symptoms that disrupt their daily lives.

PMS affects people who menstruate of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds; there’s no single cause of the condition but rather many factors that contribute to it.

Why does PMS occur?

PMS is caused by hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle. Some of these changes include an increase in progesterone and estrogen, which can affect the way your body stores fat and releases energy.

What are normal PMS symptoms?

About 50% of people who menstruate report experiencing some kind of physical symptom during this time (like water retention), but many also report feeling emotionally sensitive or irritable as well as having food cravings or headaches that last for about 6-10 days, before their period starts.

PMS is made up of a variety of symptoms, including bloating and fatigue as well as mood swings or depression.

Common physical PMS symptoms include:

  • Bloating
  • Fatigue
  • Tender breasts
  • Increased hunger and cravings
  • Joint pain
  • Swollen hands and feet
  • Pimples and Breakouts
  • Weight gain
  • Muscle ache

Common emotional PMS symptoms include:

  • Tense of anxious
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Anger
  • Not wanting to socialise

Elara’s community most frequent and felt PMS symptom

  • 31% - Bloating
  • 29% - Mood swings
  • 25% - Tender breasts

When are PMS symptoms not normal?

There are approximately 3-8% of people who menstruate whose symptoms are so debilitating. Symptoms are so severe that they may cause them to miss work and damage relationships with their loved ones. They may feel severely depressed, anxious or even suicidal. This is called premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD.

However, there currently is no definitive test that can diagnose PMDD, making it very difficult for those experiencing it to get medical support.

How to reduce PMS symptoms?

There are a few lifestyle changes you can make to help you manage and reduce PMS such as:

  • Avoid alcohol
  • Reduce caffeine
  • Exercise about 30 minutes a day
  • Eat a varied diet (i.e. loads of vegetables)

However, supplementing with the right minerals and vitamins can also play a big role in helping reduce PMS symptoms.

Here are a few tips on how to tackle the most common PMS symptoms:

How to reduce bloating during PMS?

  • Supplements: such as fish oil supplements that contain omega-3 fatty acids and calcium citrate tablets to ease cramps and bloating.
  • Take magnesium: this will help especially with bloating. Not to mention that magnesium with B6 is also great for supporting better sleep.
  • Avoid foods that cause gas: such as broccoli and brussels sprouts, beans, cabbage, cauliflower and lettuce.
  • Avoid fast foods with high sodium: excess sodium makes the body retain more water which causes bloating.
  • Drink plenty of water: upping your water intake may help flush out the excess fluids and help you feel more comfortable.

How to reduce fatigue during PMS?

  • Look at your caffeine intake: this is especially important if you are struggling with sleep or if you feel more anxious around this time. Consider reducing or even eliminating caffeine later in the day (12pm is a good cut off point).
  • Take a warm bath before bed: if you are having trouble sleeping at night try taking a warm bath before bed so that you can relax before going to sleep.
  • Eating healthy foods: that are high in protein, such as fish and chicken —or taking supplements if you don't like eating them! They will help keep your energy up throughout the day. Use caution with caffeine though; too much may cause jitteriness instead of helping with tiredness!
  • Drinking plenty of water: it helps reduce fatigue from dehydration as well as flush out toxins from the body which could cause discomfort.
PMS mood swings

How to reduce mood swings during PMS?

  • Exercise regularly: include movement and exercise can help increase endorphins and lift the PMS blues. Push yourself to do a workout and you’re guaranteed to feel better after.
  • Supplement with magnesium and B6: Magnesium deficiency can cause a slew of symptoms, like anxiety, depression and irritability. Supplementing with magnesium and B6 could help relieve these symptoms.

It is important to know about the common symptoms of PMS and how you can reduce them.

PMS symptoms can be managed by keeping a diary to track your mood changes. You may also want to keep track of your physical activities, food intake and sleep patterns for the duration of your cycle.

  • Record your moods in a journal or logbook throughout the month.
  • Keep a record of what’s going on in your life during this time period

Knowing how you feel day-to-day can help you identify which days are practically bad for you as well as what triggers those feeling. This can help you prepare yourself for rough patches and plan ahead when necessary.

Record your PMS symptoms

Elara user stories around PMS

Some of the most common stories were:

  • Community story: “A mini depression like phase, where I feel the most miss-understood and unloved. I tend to overthinking so much more, especially at night. And that just makes me feel even more tired. Not to mention the back pain. I just don’t feel like doing anything. All my motivation dies.”
  • Community story: “The week before my period I’m clingy, irritable and on the verge of crying 24/7. I argue with my partner a lot more during this time but I can’t help it. Everything upsets me, even though logically I know it’s not a big deal, but I can’t calm down the rage.”
  • Community Story: “I just start feeling huge. I feel bloated and like all my clothes don’t fit. Even if I have been exercising and eating fairly healthy, I feel like everything I put in my mouth adds weight. It’s not just aesthetics - I just feel really uncomfortable. Like it’s not my body.”
  • Community Story: "My sex drive goes off the roof. I feel so much more horney and usually within 2 days get my period. It’s weird because I start eating a lot, feel bloated and my boobs hurt but I’ll want sex more.”

If you suffer from PMS, tracking your symptoms and testing some of the suggestions above, mainly exercising at least 30 minutes every day, eating a varied diet and getting good sleep can help you manage and hopefully reduce your symptoms.

References:

  1. Fathizadeh N, Ebrahimi E, Valiani M, Tavakoli N, Yar MH. Evaluating the effect of magnesium and magnesium plus vitamin B6 supplement on the severity of premenstrual syndrome. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2010 Dec;15(Suppl 1):401–5.
  2. Romans SE, Kreindler D, Asllani E, Einstein G, Laredo S, Levitt A, et al. Mood and the Menstrual Cycle. Psychother Psychosom. 2013;82(1):53–60.
  3. Romans S, Clarkson R, Einstein G, Petrovic M, Stewart D. Mood and the menstrual cycle: a review of prospective data studies. Gend Med. 2012 Oct;9(5):361-84. doi: 10.1016/j.genm.2012.07.003. PMID: 23036262.