Many women are confronted with several days leading up to the start of menses when they experience symptoms often grouped under the term: PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)
Common experiences include: lower abdominal bloating and cramping, low back pain, anxiety, irritability, depression, poor memory, mental fog, joint and/or muscle pain, difficulty sleeping, sweet or salty cravings, fatigue, and acne.
While these experiences often subside at the onset of menses, or another physiological change in a woman’s body, such as pregnancy or menopause, its monthly recurring nature can create much havoc if left unchecked long-term. A more serious form of PMS is known as PMDD (Premsenstrual Dysphoric Disorder), which is a mood disorder that typically occurs in women 20-40 years old, who have at least one child, a history of post-partum depression or other mood disorder, and/or a family history of depression. http://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/premenstrual-syndrome.cfm
So what can you do to kick this PMS monster out of your life for good? Adopting a lifestyle that gives you the optimal chance for overall health will reap rewards on your menstrual cycle and reproductive health as well.
Here is a list of top ten things you can do for yourself now to experience more healthy menstrual cycles. Please note that for the most noticeable effect, changes should be adopted at least a full 1-3 months ahead of your expected period. *As always, the recommendations given here is given as a general guideline only and not meant to replace the advice of your primary attending health care provider or physician.
Top Ten Ways to Relieve PMS Symptoms Naturally:
1. Exercise those muscles! Strength train, cross-train and just stay active! Join a sports team or gym, run, stroller jog, swim, bike, rock climb, walk, surf, paddle, dance, or jump. Do yoga, tai chi, or qi gong. Aim to get at least 30 minutes in a day. Ready, set, go!!
2. Eliminate the bad foods: got grease, salt, sugar, alcohol, or caffeine? An overconsumption of food in general and especially meats and dairy may contribute to poor health overall and disturb natural hormone function. In Chinese medicine we refer to these foods as ones which are heavy and damp in nature and therefore contribute to accumulation of ‘damp and phlegm’ in the body. This accumulation can lead to a whole range of problems such as PMS, poor reproductive health, depression, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, joint pain and more. These are therefore foods that are not wanted on the voyage!
3. Stick to the good foods: a more vegetable-rich diet with fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and pulses provides you with the necessary fuel you need to get through your day. Healthy fats such as organic avocadoes and fish oils are also good to incorporate into your diet. When choosing your food sources, make sure to select those from local, organic, wild sources and free of GMOs, pesticides, and additives when possible.
4. Drink more water: 6-8 glasses of water a day is essential for proper hydration. The next time you feel like reaching for a snack, consider drinking a glass of water first. Make sure to wait at least 15 minutes before consuming food so that your liquids and solids get digested more readily. Consider the type of water you drink on a regular basis as well. Is it filtered, fresh, and at room temperature?
5. Reduce Stress: regular physical activity, massage, acupuncture, a work load that is contained (doesn’t creep into what should be your off work hours) and manageable are key to reducing your stress levels. Try to get out for at least one night of fun. Do something that makes you happy everyday. If there are additional burdens placed on you through family and friends, consider delegating tasks and just saying “no” to things that are not high priority. Consider counselling or other professional medical and social support if necessary.
6. Get better quality sleep: 6-8 hours of sleep that is uninterrupted and makes you feel refreshed upon waking is best. For those whose sleep is compromised because of work or family, try to get in a power nap of 20-30 minutes in the late morning or early afternoon. Avoid exposure to overactivity or overstimulation before bed to help promote better quality sleep.
7. Socialize with your close friends and family members: those that know you best can also help you through the more trying periods. As well, surrounding yourself with those you love makes you feel supported and happy.
8. Avoid activities that elevate your anxiety or stress levels: is there someone or something that you’d rather not associate with on a regular basis? Cut them out!
9. Meditate: whether through long walks in nature, connecting to your spiritual side, doing regular yoga or qigong exercises, or focusing on your abdominal breathing, meditation can provide you with the necessary tools to see your surroundings from a fresh new perspective and ultimately one that attracts the type of life you want.
10. Live in the moment: each day presents its own unique set of experiences. Try to engage your mind only in what comes most naturally to you at each moment. You can remind your self to do this by focusing on your breath using abdominal breathing (the way you we are meant to breathe!) Breathe in through your abdomen (when lying down you will notice this by pushing your abdomen up towards the sky), open your nostrils and allow your chest walls to expand more fully when taking in the air you breathe. Then slowly release this breath out though your mouth while your abdomen retracts and sinks towards the ground. Focusing on past or future circumstances is nonproductive, creates unnecessary stress and anxiety and can block your natural reasoning abilities.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, all dis-ease can be attributed to the blockage of qi in the body. To return the body to its natural state requires that we support and nourish the body where necessary, but also unblock areas to provide for the free flow of qi. In general terms, this means that your body has the ability to function well if all physiological processes (passages of qi”) are not blocked. Proper diet, exercise and mental activity play a huge role in regulating these processes.