My PMS has become progressively worse since I had the kid and I know I’m not alone. When I get together with friends, it’s one of the first things we discuss (besides the obligatory love/hate rant about kids, work and husbands). The conversation usually goes something like this:
“I’m totally out of it today. I think its PMS.” (aka fatigue)
“Me too. It sucks. I feel like I’m going to get a divorce every month.” (aka irritability)
“Look at my boobs; they’re huge right now.” (aka bloating)
“I never had that many zits before. Now I see them all around my chin.” (aka hormonal acne)
My symptoms include anxiety, tears, fatigue and heartburn. I have loose stools, foggy brain, ovulation pain and headaches. My cycle used to be 28 days. Now it’s 35 to 40 days, which also means my PMS can last up to 10 days. I have hot flushes (that’s a temperature surge with no sweats). And I get yeast infections before and after my period, which my GP blames on hormonal fluctuations (either too much or too little estrogen can strike up candidiasis).
…bad PMS is a sign that our body is out of whack and it’s telling us to de-stress and stop doing so much
Aching for relief, I wrote an article for Best Health magazine exploring the monthly roller coaster we’re trudging through and I consulted a handful of experts to please explain what the eff is going on in our bodies. You can read it here to get the full story, but in short, Mary Wong, a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, says bad PMS is a sign that our body is out of whack and it’s telling us to de-stress and stop doing so much. Natasha Turner, a naturopathic doctor and author of the NYT bestselling book, The Supercharged Hormone Diet, agrees with Wong and explains stress increases cortisol and cortisol jumpstarts PMS symptoms.
Since I wrote that article almost a year ago, my PMS, which I would’ve rated as a 7 to 8 out of 10, has simmered down to 4 to 5 out of 10. I know it doesn’t sound like much of a difference but now when that time of the month strikes, it’s just a bumpy ride with some anxiety, angries, a bloated belly and big boobs. I learned a lot from the experts I interviewed for that story and here’s the advice I took to heart to help ease my symptoms.
My PMS Game Plan
Sleep: I was getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep already, so I’ve simply maintained my schedule.
Move: I do yoga at home with My Yoga membership on gaia.com. I do notice the less I move in a given month, the worse my PMS is. I try to squeeze in at least 3 videos a week, even if they’re as short as 20 minutes each.
Eat: I’ve worked in more superfoods in my diet, whether it’s fresh blueberries in my plain yogurt (I do add a dribble of honey to make it tasty) or adding kale and spinach to my smoothies. Caffeine, alcohol and sugar all amp up PMS symptoms, so I’ve cut down but I haven’t eliminated them completely (that’s just mean). I have orange pekoe tea in the morning, a decaf coffee in the afternoon with something sweet (a cookie or a piece of dark chocolate) and at most, I drink a couple of glasses of wine a week.
Supplement: Every day I take a multi-vitamin formula for women, magnesium glycinate (vs. magnesium citrate which can spur on loose stools), Vitamin D3 and chaste tree extract. It took three months of daily intake to notice a difference and never take a break—I did that once while I was vacation and it took another three months for their combined effectiveness to kick in again. Crikeys.
App: Clue, the period tracker. I can record my PMS symptoms and menstruation dates to help me plan for when I’m going to feel on edge, or even when to plan a period-free vacation. It also predicts my ovulation period, which often reassures me when I’m feeling a little hum-drum mid-cycle (oh, that’s why I feel kinda tired). It also archives my history, so I can see if my PMS or period has been off the charts or sporadic for too many cycles in a row. If so, I know to check in with my doctor again.
P.S. I want to add that before I even wrote the article and tried out my PMS game plan, I saw my GP first to rule out a diagnosis like an iron deficiency, mood disorder, PMDD or what I thought was early menopause because my cycles were getting so much longer. She suggested a low-dose antidepressant or birth control pill, which are common prescription solutions for PMS and I would’ve been game for either one if the all-natural approach just wasn’t doing it for me.