If there’s one thing guaranteed to bring people with periods together, it’s a discussion about PMS symptoms. PMS can affect you whether your symptoms are subtle or severe (see our article on period and mental health) and there’s very little the medical profession can do about it. Sometimes, a paracetamol just isn’t enough when it comes to managing PMS symptoms. And, while a glass of wine and a giant bar of Dairy Milk may seem like a good idea at the time, sugar and alcohol often exacerbate PMS symptoms. Probably not news you wanted to hear…sorry about that.
For millennia, we’ve been trying to manage the fallout of PMS on the quiet. Women can’t talk about it because we’re using it as an excuse. We can’t cry about it because we are hysterical. And we can’t turn down invitations or let it affect our schedule because ‘we just have to get on with it’. PMS has become a huge inconvenience for the patriarchy, so we have avoided it, been embarrassed by it and struggled on. Well not any more!
So what can we do about it?
Unfortunately, there’s no pill to fix PMS. Sure, a painkiller may help the stomach cramps and headaches but it does nothing for the exhaustion, for example. That being said, there are a number of natural, non-medicinal ways we can manage our PMS symptoms. The trick is figuring out the one that works for you. It can take a while. You have to try something over a period of months before you can be sure that it works or it doesn’t. Consistency is the key but it’s worth it if you find something that really helps you.
Before I launch into this though, we have had loads of feedback from our customers saying that using our reusable pads has eased their PMS symptoms. This is 100%. anecdotal and we have absolutely no scientific proof to back it up but when you think of all the chemicals in recyclable pads it doesn’t surprise us. If you haven’t tried reusable pads already, then it may be worth giving ours a try.
So, here’s a list of ten things you can do to help you manage your PMS symptoms naturally.
1. Be Prepared: tracking your cycle can help PMS symptoms
The key to success is always preparation, right? It’s no different when it comes to managing your PMS. When it sneaks up on us, we are more likely to be reactive, explosive and angry. We’re more likely to suffer anxiety as well because we don’t know what’s going on. It sounds silly because our periods and their associated symptoms are hardly a surprise after a while, but we can still get caught out.
There are some amazing tracking apps out there. There’s a great one on the iPhone that allows you to track to symptoms too (why does no-one ever tell you diarrhoea is a symptom of periods?) But apps like Natural Cycles, Clue and Flo can help you stay on top of your cycle (here’s a list of the top 11 period trackers this year according to Women’s Health Magazine). There are even some apps that alert your partner too allowing them to be aware you may need extra support (or take cover, whichever way you look at it).
When you know it’s coming you can look out for symptoms and manage them more easily.
2. Start Saying No: don’t stress yourself out in the run up to your period
If we know our period is coming and we know that PMS symptoms are going to start rearing their ugly heads then maybe it’s time to start being gentle on ourselves? Saying no to unnecessary invitations in the run up to your period helps can be really helpful. Sure, you may struggle with FOMO but it’s better than exacerbating your symptoms by overdoing it. Energy levels are low in the run up to your period so stripping your social commitments back is a great self-care method. Extra sleep, less alcohol, reduced sugar intake – these things all help minimise the impact of PMS.
3. Agnus Castus: known to help with hormonal issues and ease PMS symptoms
Agnus Castus is a long-time favourite amongst herbalists especially when it comes to female endocrine issues. It originates mainly from Greece, Italy and parts of the Middle East. It’s a small brown fruit that looks a little like a peppercorn and is thought to have hormone balancing powers. You can take it as a daily supplement as a pill, a tincture or a powder and you’ll find it available at most herbal remedy stores. There are many studies surrounding the use of Agnus Castus in relation to PMS symptoms and according to an article on Clue, “These studies suggest that agnus-castus may not be as strong as traditional pharmaceutical treatments, but still has a beneficial effect on negative premenstrual symptoms.”
4. Clary Sage: a relaxant that’s great for PMS cramps
Clary Sage is another veteran of the herbal world. It is native to the Mediterranean basin. Also known as “clear eye” and “eye bright” because of it’s traditional use as a treatment fore eye health, it’s now being studied as a treatment for many other things. It is thought to have strong relaxation and anti-stress properties as well as strong antibacterial properties too. It can be used in a diffuser or a burner. Or add about 6 drops of clary sage to a carrier oil such as coconut oil and apply directly to the abdomen.
5. Calcium: people suffering with PMS symptoms often lack calcium
Tests have shown that some women suffering from severe PMS are lacking in calcium. Calcium levels can often change throughout your cycle, so it’s important to remember to make sure you are getting enough in the run up to your period. A 2017 study showed that calcium helped with bloating and fatigue. It also found that a calcium supplement helped with reducing psychological symptoms, including sadness, mood swings, and anxiety. It’s also a very easy problem to solve. Obviously milk, yoghurt and cheese are all calcium rich so you can increase these in the middle of your cycle. If you don’t eat dairy, kale, broccoli, sardines and watercress are also great foods to boost calcium.
6. Crystals: don’t knock it till you’ve tried it
Stop me if I’m getting a bit woo-woo but I have to admit to loving a crystal or two. Eleanor Hadley, a certified yoga teacher, personal trainer, Reiki practitioner, and crystal healer, says, ”
And as a certified crystal healer, I have crystals everywhere and use them for everything including managing period pain. That’s right, crystals can help to alleviate your cramps while also creating a sense of calm and peace at an otherwise highly emotional time.
Crystals work on the subtle, energetic body and by tapping into their frequency through the power of entrainment, we can access their healing power. So, how do crystals actually work and what does entrainment mean?
The long and short of it is that crystals are geometrically perfect (and humans are not) and as such, they can easily maintain their high vibration. Crystals are resistant to entropy, which refers to a tendency to go towards disorder. As humans, we tend towards entropy.”
Essentially, what that means is that crystals elevate our energy away from disorder towards order and that especially relevant and helpful during our period.
Choose crystals such as moonstone, chrysocolla, jet, magnesite and rose quartz.
7. Exercise: sorry but it’s true. Exercise is great for PMS symptoms.
I know this isn’t probably what you want to hear but exercise is great for alleviating symptoms of PMS. Ideally, sweaty aerobic exercise is the best but even a gentle walk or a yoga session will help significantly. Anything that gets your endorphins going will have a hugely positive effect on hormonal symptoms of PMS. I really wish I could tell you that a hot water bottle, a glass of wine and a marathon session of the Real Housewives would do as much good…but it won’t. Sorry.
8. Mindfulness/Meditation: help you and those around you
The thing about PMS is that it doesn’t just affect us. It’s not our fault, but PMS can make us very difficult to live with. No one wins in that situation so meditation and mindfulness can help mitigate the effects for everyone. If we commit to taking time to recognise our feelings and our emotions and identify the hormone induced emotions then it can help us control our PMS symptoms. It’s not easy and it sucks that we have to do it but it’s also great for lifting our own moods too.
9. Reflexology: an ancient practice great for helping with hormone imbalance
Reflexology is an ancient, holistic practice. It involves a gentle-pressure massage on parts of the hands and feet to help stimulate the body’s natural healing powers. Reflexology is wonderful for hormone balancing and pain management. Focussing on the pituitary glands and specifically the hypothalamus can really relieve PMS symptoms.
10. Probiotics: it all starts with the gut!
It’s simple: everything starts with the gut. What we put in to our bodies influences almost everything that goes on within our bodies. For this reason, it’s worth making sure that your gut is well armed with healthy bacteria to enable it to do the best job. What we eat contributes to our hormone imbalances. So taking daily probiotics has many benefits and it’s believed to also help alleviate symptoms of PMS. You can take probiotics in tablet or powder form but drinking things like kombucha and eating kimchi will also boost your probiotic levels.