Did you know that around 90% of people who menstruate struggle with PMS symptoms? From low mood and sore boobs to skin breakouts and painful cramps, the pre-period launch party is one we’d happily skip. But the end of your cycle doesn’t have to mean the end of good vibes. Here we’ll explain what’s behind some of the most common PMS symptoms and share some advice on how to manage them naturally.
- PMS is common - but it is not something we should just accept and put up with
- Premenstrual Syndrome is a collection of various symptoms and the combination can be different for each person
- Hormonal fluctuations of oestrogen and progesterone are behind the majority of PMS symptoms
- There are many ways you can manage your PMS symptoms naturally
- If your PMS symptoms are extreme, consult a doctor, you could be struggling with PMDD
Common PMS symptoms and why they happen
PMS is so often normalised or weaponised - belittling people with periods as being ‘too hormonal around their time of the month’. But guess what? We are hormonal. Our hormones dictate everything that happens in our body, so when they dramatically fluctuate around the time of our period, it’s unsurprising that we feel these symptoms!
Feeling irritable, sensitive and tearful around your period is one of the most stereotypical symptoms of PMS. But why does it happen?
After ovulation, your oestrogen levels start to decline and there is also another dip in your oestrogen just before your period starts. For many people, oestrogen is linked to happy hormones like serotonin and dopamine, so as our oestrogen levels dip it’s not unusual for these hormones to get lower too - and with it, our mood can go the same way. At the same time, our progesterone levels are rising and fluctuating and this has also been linked to declining dopamine levels.
Research has certainly connected these hormonal fluctuations to low mood, but remember, if you are feeling extreme emotions of depression or anxiety, go and speak to your doctor. It could be that you’re struggling with PMDD - which is a whole different ball game.
If you feel like your belly gets swollen as your bleed approaches, you are not alone. Around 75% of people report struggling with bloating before and during their period. In fact, a 2011 study found that women experienced the worst bloating and water retention on the first day of their period. You might assume that you’re bloated because your uterine lining is getting thicker and swelling up - and that could well be a contributing factor. However, it’s more likely that the bloating is once again linked to hormonal fluctuations.
Just before our period, we can see a rollercoaster-like dip of progesterone and oestrogen. This dip is what tells our body that there is no pregnancy and it’s time to get ready to shed that lining! Studies indicate that this change in progesterone and oestrogen levels causes the body to retain more water and salt - which can cause the feeling of bloating.
Sore boobs are another common symptom of PMS and the discomfort is generally caused by - you guessed it - hormonal fluctuations! Both oestrogen and progesterone have an impact on what’s going on in our breasts. Oestrogen causes the breast ducts to enlarge and progesterone production causes the milk glands to swell. Both of these events can cause your breasts to feel pretty painful. Progesterone is higher in the second half of your cycle and oestrogen peaks around ovulation. There is then another mini peak again just before your period - so it’s not uncommon to notice some breast tenderness from ovulation onwards!
Even if you have escaped the clutches of teen acne, you may still find that you experience a break-out of poor skin around the time of your period. This is because the rise in progesterone that happens in your luteal phase (the time between ovulation and your period) can stimulate the production of sebum.
Sebum is an oily substance that naturally lubricates the skin. We need it to look and feel hydrated and glowy, but too much can make our skin a breeding ground for bacteria. If this bacteria and sebum get trapped in our pores - this is where skin breakouts occur.
Of course we couldn’t talk about PMS without talking about cramping. Whilst for most people the majority of their period pain will occur once their bleed arrives, it’s not uncommon to feel some light cramping the day or two before.
As your oestrogen and progesterone levels drop towards the end of your menstrual cycle, your endometrium starts to produce prostaglandins. This tells the uterus to start contracting which will help shed the lining of your womb. The Myoovi kit is a great way to manage period cramping without medication - but there are also other other great ways to manage PMS naturally.
How to reduce PMS symptoms naturally
You know at Myoovi we are all about finding holistic ways to support our menstrual health. Here are just a few tips for managing your PMS symptoms naturally.
Think about nutrition
We know when you’re PMSing there’s a huge temptation to reach for the comfort food (aka chocolate and takeaways). There’s nothing wrong with having the occasional meal that’s more about satisfying a craving than nutritional value, but remember that what you eat can have a huge impact on your hormonal balance.
The best approach is to eat a healthy, balanced diet throughout your cycle, as this will set you up to have a smoother luteal phase, but there are a few key foods that you could add to your plate to help ease your PMS symptoms.
Sunflower seeds - Pumpkin seeds are rich in a number of nutrients that have been shown to reduce PMS symptoms, serving up to 75 percent of the daily recommended amount of magnesium!
Bananas - Bananas are rich in vitamin B6 and potassium, which can stop you from retaining water and feeling bloated.
Salmon - Research iniidcates that people who had good Vitamin D levels reported fewer PMS symptoms. One of the best food sources of vitamin D is wild salmon (also a good source of vitamin B6, which may help reduce irritability and breast tenderness).
Reducing alcohol intake
Alcohol is known to be a depressant, so if you mix a boozy night with plummeting oestrogen levels, you’re destined for an anxiety-ridden hangover. If you don’t want to give up drinking altogether, try to limit your alcohol intake in your luteal phase, when your hormone levels (and your mood) are at their most delicate.
As your happy hormones like dopamine and serotonin dip in the second half of your menstrual cycle, so can your mood. One of the best ways to get those good vibes back is to exercise. When we exercise our body produces endorphins - the ultimate mood booster! - and this can help to balance out the impact of progesterone and declining oestrogen levels.
Endorphins also have the added benefit of being a natural pain reliever, so it’s great if you are struggling with cramps or breast tenderness. At this point in your menstrual cycle your energy levels may be low, so take it easy with low impact exercises like walking, yoga, pilates or swimming.
There is increasing popularity in harnessing the power of plants and herbal medicine to help manage PMS symptoms. Whilst it’s always important to ensure you are primarily getting the nutrients you need from a healthy balanced diet, there are certain supplements it can be helpful to take to help keep things smooth at the end of your cycle. For example, magnesium is great for relaxing muscles and easing cramps, Vitamin B6 and Chasteberry help boost your mood and evening primrose oil is known to help with hormonal acne.