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How To Battle PMS, And Win Every Month!

Written by Dr. Pramod Mane on Fri, 11 November 2022

Key Highlights

  • Eating a well-planned diet that includes all food groups can help you manage many PMS symptoms successfully. Go easy on carbs.
  • It's not enough to eat the right things, but also eat at the right time. Commit to a scheduled time for all your daily meals.
  • Poor sleep quality has a big impact on PMS symptoms. Proper sleep at night can help you be your energetic best through the day.
  • A daily exercise routine can be very effective at keeping those PMS blues at bay.
  • Find out your body's vitamin and mineral score. Resolve deficiencies with supplement if needed.
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When in ancient Greece, Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, had noted that "The blood of females is subject to intermittent 'agitations' and as a result, the 'agitated blood' makes its way from the head to the uterus whence it is expelled," he knew that period triggered physical and psychological issues in women.

The world over, in every century, there has been an understanding that something in women's bodies changes during their period, which also changes their mental state and behavior. In 1837, an English physician James Cowles Prichard had observed, "Some females undergo a considerable degree of nervous excitement, morbid dispositions of mind are displayed by them at these times, a wayward and capricious temper, excitability in the feelings, moroseness in disposition, a proneness to quarrel with their dearest relatives and sometimes a dejection of mind approaching to melancholia."

How you could be adding to your PMS woes?

In the past few decades, the awareness of PMS has gradually but steadily gone up among women, their partners, GPs, gynecologists, psychiatrists, and other health professionals.

An increasing number of conventional—as also complementary and alternative—practitioners offer a range of PMS treatments to ease the standard pattern of discomfort and fatigue. However, PMS can be just as effectively handled if you correct a few of your habits that could be making it worse.

Though the changes required are simple and can be easily incorporated, it's only when you do them committedly and consistently that you will notice the amazing results.  Following are the lifestyle changes that can serve as effective ways to relieve PMS:

1. Eat right

Be mindful of what—and when—you eat. Food is not just fuel to fill you up and provide you with energy; every food group has a vital role to play in your mental and physical well-being.

It's important to have a variety of food, instead of going overboard—or even eliminating—one food group. If you have low levels of zinc, iron, B vitamins, magnesium, Vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids, chances are you could be battling mood swings and fatigue daily, not just around your periods.

The days leading to your period can only make these symptoms worse. Similarly, reckless consumption of processed carbs can cause your blood sugar to fluctuate rapidly and cause irritability.

2. Plan your diet well

Make sure your meals include complex carbohydrates to reduce mood symptoms and food cravings.

  • Complex carbohydrates are found in foods made with whole grains, like whole-wheat bread, pasta, and cereals.
  • Other examples are barley, brown rice, beans, and lentils. Calcium and Vitamin D have a significant impact on your hormones.
  • Add calcium-rich foods, like yogurt and leafy green vegetables, to your diet. Soak up some morning and late evening sunlight, for a few minutes every day, to maintain your body's Vitamin D quotient at an optimum

Annoyed with the puffiness and bloating that makes you feel tender and sore all over?  

  • Reduce your intake of fat, salt, caffeine, alcohol, and sugar. Excessive sugar makes your kidneys retain water and sodium.
  • Similarly, salty foods can force your body to retain more water to maintain its water-to-sodium ratio.
  • All those savories, colas, and desserts that you tend to go overboard with before your period translate into water weight that ultimately leaves you feeling heavier and sluggish. This, in turn, has a pronounced effect on your mood.
  • Irregular eating habits can also compound the symptoms of PMS. Maintain a disciplined eating schedule, and stick to modest portions. Eat six small meals a day rather than three large ones, or eat slightly less at your three meals and add three light snacks.

3. Exercise regularly

  • Get regular aerobic physical activity throughout the month. Besides helping you achieve your best body weight, exercise stimulates the release of endorphins—a group of peptides produced by your pituitary glands and central nervous system, which prompt your body to be more relaxed, and generate a sense of well-being, and partly alleviate depression and anxiety.
  • Endorphins can also cause a marked reduction in pain and discomfort.

4. Get adequate sleep

Many women experience insomnia before and during their period.

  • Consult your doctor to see how you can regulate your sleep. Excessive screen time can make things worse. Once you have retired to bed, avoid interacting with your phone and TV screen. Staying up late to watch a TV series or scrolling aimlessly through social media can delay the release of melatonin and put you off sleep.
  • Sleep deprivation at night can cause you to feel drowsy through the day and aggravate irritability, anxiety, and depression. Try to get about eight hours of sleep each night to curb mood swings.

5. Cope with stress, healthily

Yoga, meditation, massage, acupuncture, and other forms of relaxation training have all been shown to ease stress and tension. Sign up for a session and find out what works best for you.

6. Don't smoke

A 2020 analysis of 13 different studies showcased the effects of smoking on the menstrual cycle. The studies were conducted on 25,000 women of different age groups; the results revealed that nicotine made women 1.5x more likely to experience severe PMS, and, in many cases, even shortened their menstrual cycle.

7. Take OTC medication

Over-the-counter painkillers can help lessen physical symptoms like cramps, headaches, backaches, and breast tenderness. (Do your research well and get to know the side effects and allergic reactions before popping any pill.)

What will your doctor recommend?

If over-the-counter pain medicines don't work, your doctor may recommend any of the following to relieve PMS symptoms:

  • Hormonal birth control - Hormonal contraceptives stop ovulation, which may bring relief from PMS symptoms.
  • Antidepressants - They can help relieve psychological symptoms of PMS for some women. A selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) can help with severe PMS symptoms like depression, anxiety, anger, mood swings, and muscle pain.
  • Diuretics - These pills may help relieve bloating and breast tenderness.

8. Calcium

  • Studies show that levels of calcium and some trace elements in red blood cells are lower than normal in women with PMS, and the symptoms reduced significantly with 1,000 mg of calcium supplement.
  • While you should include milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, fortified orange juice, and cereal in your daily diet, make space for a calcium supplement in your morning routine to minimize fatigue, cravings, and depression.

9. Vitamin B6

  • Vitamin B6 may help with moodiness, irritability, forgetfulness, bloating, and anxiety.
  • A daily dose of Vitamin B-6 of up to 100 mg is likely to be of benefit. Have fish, poultry, muesli, bananas, wheat germ, soybean, quinoa, sunflower seeds, Brussel's sprouts, spring greens, and hazelnuts.

10. Magnesium

  • Magnesium may help relieve some PMS symptoms, including menstrual migraines.
  • Magnesium is found in green, leafy vegetables like spinach, wholegrain rice, rolled oats, and quinoa as well as in nuts like almonds, cashew, walnuts, pistachios, and peanuts.

11. Omega-3s

  • Studies show that Omega-3 fatty acids can be quite the powerhouse of goodness for your mental and physical health.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids not only reduce the psychiatric symptoms of PMS, such as depression, nervousness, anxiety, and lack of concentration but can also minimize an array of physical symptoms such as bloating, headache, and breast tenderness.
  • Your daily quota of Omega-3 can come from flaxseed, nuts, fish, and green leafy vegetables. A daily supplement can also be beneficial.

Several alternative healing techniques like aromatherapy and herbal supplements have also been shown to improve PMS. However, consult your doctor before starting any of these.

Conclusion

No matter how serious your symptoms are, if you're dealing with PMS, there are many treatment options available that can help. The treatment you choose will depend on the severity of your PMS symptoms, your goals, and your lifestyle. Know that you have help available. It's just a matter of time till the clouds are lifted.

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Dr. Pramod Mane

A Doctor of Medicine (MD) in Pharmacology., currently based in Mumbai, India, Dr Pramod Mane, comes with an experience of more than 20 years of working in Medical Affairs in the Pharmaceuticals & Nutraceutical Industry. Director of Medical Services at Mega Lifesciences since 2008, Dr Mane has been associated with several MNCS in the areas of Medical Affairs, Medical Services, Medico-marketing, Pharmacovigilance & Clinical trials in his illustrious career.

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