Surviving PMS

by Elizabeth on August 23, 2011

I’m one of the lucky women that enjoyed two full years without a period due to extended nursing.  That’s nearly three years if you count pregnancy.  It was a dream!  Not to mention the calming benefits of prolactin, the love hormone and oxytocin, the relaxation hormone, both naturally produced when nursing.  I may not have slept a full 8 hours for two years, but I felt more emotionally stable than I’ve ever felt.

Rainy Days - Photo by David Lofink

Once a memory, the dreaded dark cloud that arrived each month since I was 12, was now a reality.  The look of fear in Jim’s eyes when my mood first began to shift should have been enough of a sign.  Then the tears, abdominal discomfort, fatigue, back ache, insomnia, and anxiety.  Could pregnancy be better than this?  Prior to getting pregnant I had researched enough to find coping mechanisms to alleviate the emotional and physical discomfort I felt each month.  It was now time to pull out that bag of tricks.  If you suffer from any uncomfortable symptoms related to whacky monthly hormone shifts, these six tips may be helpful.

6 Tips to Reduce PMS Symptoms

    #1 Keep Blood Sugar Stable

    Stable blood sugar levels will help reduce symptoms of PMS by keeping hormones as balanced as possible.  Keep blood sugar in check by reducing your intake of refined carbohydrates, eating a balanced snack or meal every three hours, and including protein and essential fatty acids in all snacks and meals.

    #2 Sleep

    Lack of sleep can increase the severity of PMS symptoms by leaving you more fatigued.  Practice good sleep patterns throughout the month to decrease the likelihood of insomnia.  Limit caffeine and alcohol, exercise regularly, and maintain a regular sleep schedule to feel refreshed in the morning and energized throughout the day.

    Swiss Chard - Packed Full of Magnesium

    #3 Magnesium

    Sometimes referred to as the anti-stress mineral, magnesium helps form bones, reduce muscle spasms and regulate nerve and muscle function.  A deficiency of magnesium can exacerbate PMS symptoms such as irritability, muscle aches and depression.  Include magnesium rich foods in your diet to combat PMS.  Almonds, salmon, spinach, Swiss chard, pumpkin and sesame seeds all are high in magnesium.

    Dietary magnesium supplements can also be helpful to reduce symptoms. Studies have found a reduction in mood swings, weight gain, abdominal bloating and breast tenderness by supplementing with a chelated form of magnesium citrate.  Consult your physician for recommended doses.  Include calcium rich foods in your diet to help your body properly utilize magnesium.

    Chaste Tree Shrub

    #4 Chaste Tree Berry

    Commonly referred to as Vitex agnus-castus, chaste tree berry has been used since ancient Greek times as a treatment for PMS.  Chaste tree berry has been found to gently and naturally regulate the production of estrogen and progesterone.  Supplements of chaste tree berry may reduce headaches, breast tenderness and depression associated with PMS.  Dr. Tori Hudson, N.D. discusses recent studies on Vitex on her website.  Dr. Hudson’s Vitanica line of hormone balancing supplements designed for women are definitely worth checking out.  For details on studies conducted using Vitex to reduce PMS symptoms, click here.

    #5 Vitamin B6

    B6 acts as a coenzyme to help metabolize proteins and amino acids in the body.  In addition B6 plays an essential role in the production of serotonin, dopamine, and melatonin – all involved in mood regulation.  Studies have found that supplemental doses of B6 can reduce PMS symptoms.  However taking more than 100 mg per day can be dangerous.  This month was my first try at B6 supplements and I was amazed at the reduction of my symptoms.  Foods rich in B6 include fish, poultry, eggs, kale, bananas, avocados.

    Read more about B6 supplementation at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Center for Women’s Mental Health website.

    Mood Enhancing Upward Dog Pose by Lululemon

    #6 Yoga

    What isn’t yoga good for?  Of course regular exercise of any kind is helpful at reducing premenstrual symptoms, but yoga is specifically effective because it allows us to slow down and tune in to our inner world.  Simple yogic breathing and meditation can make a world of difference to symptoms of anxiety, depression, back pain and fatigue.  Incorporating a few basic postures into your day can relieve specific symptoms.  Pull out your yoga mat and allow yourself some quiet time, if only for ten minutes, your kids will thank you later.

    Click on the pose title for specific instructions from yoga journal.

    • Corpse and Child’s Pose: Restorative postures help reduce anxiety and irritability by surrounding the body with calming energy.
    • Bow Pose and Bridge: By sending energy toward the pelvis and abdominals, these two postures help regulate sugar metabolism, reducing food cravings.
    • Bow Pose & Upward Dog: Back bends elevate mood, reducing symptoms of depression.
    • Half Plow – Gentle inversions help relieve breast tenderness and water retention.  Full inversions such as head or hand stand are not recommended until the 3rd day of your period.

    Remember I’m not a doctor.  I encourage you to see a doctor if your PMS symptoms are unbearable or before taking any suggested herbs or vitamins.  Do your research and tune into your own personal needs.


    • Premenstrual Syndrome Self-Help Book.  Lark, Susan. Forman Publishing, 1984.
    • A Woman’s Best Medicine.  Lonsdorf, M.D., V. Butler, M.D. and Melanie Brown, Ph.D.  Jeremy Tarcher/Putnam, 1993.


    { 1 comment… read it below or add one }

    Carrie August 30, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Great tips!! I just read a great book called The PMS (Please Make Sense) Guide for Men by Stefan Jaskiel. Although the title seems to imply the book is for men, I found it very interesting and helpful. It made me understand my PMS.


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