WOMEN’S HEALTH, NOVEMBER 2009: “End PMS Misery”
Hey, guys. Check out the piece I did for Women’s Health November 2009 issue, on newsstands now.
END PMS MISERY
Feel beastly when you’re pre-period? Pinpoint your symptoms, then follow our advice for fast relief.
BY Jenna Bergen
Go with the flow? For many of us, that’s a lot easier said than done. Roughly 80 percent of women report dealing with at least mild premenstrual symptoms. But killer cramps, belly bloat, and mood swings straight out of a Lifetime movie don’t have to rule your cycle. Whether PMS is a mild nuisance or a monthly torment, here’s how to get your life back.
If you’re….SLIGHTLY OUT OF SORTS
Pass on salt-laden foods
Your body stores sodium so that if the released egg gets fertilized, the baby will have all the fluids and electrolytes it needs. To avoid puffing up, nix sodium-packed processed foods a few days before you normally start to hold water.
Hit the mat
A steady yoga practice can cause a significant drop in both psychological and physical symptoms of PMS, a study in the Journal of the Indian Academy of Applied Psychology found. Exercise, relaxation, and stress management all appear to help PMS symptoms, and yoga offers a little of each.
The same hormones that cause premenstrual cramping can also cause your intestinal walls to contract, resulting in diarrhea. Reach for foods rich in soluble fiber, such as cooked vegetables, bananas, and oatmeal, to add bulk to your stool. Fiber also helps keep you full, which can help blunt pre-period food cravings
If you’re…MODERATELY MISERABLE
Combine dairy and vitamin D
A Columbia University study found that getting 600 milligrams of calcium (that’s equivalent to a glass of milk plus a cup of yogurt) twice a day cut participants’ premenstrual fatigue, cravings, and bummed-out moods by almost half. Experts say it’s best to get calcium from dairy, but if you’re not a lactose lover you can pop two 500–milligram supplements along with a supplement containing 800 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D.
If avoiding sodium-drenched foods isn’t enough to wring you dry during the week before your period, try a 20-minute swim to ease the bloating instead. The pressure of the water causes extra fluid to move back into the bloodstream, which helps cut down on swelling. No pool? Soaking in the tub for the same amount of time can have a similar effect.
Add a little spice
A pinch of saffron may help tame the monthly beast by increasing serotonin levels. In a recent study published in BJOG, a journal from the British Royal College of Ob-Gyns, women who took 15 milligrams of saffron extract in the morning and evening saw a significant dip in irritability, fatigue, and depression. Saffron appears to work by boosting levels of the feel-good chemical serotonin, which can plummet before menstruation
If you’re…SERIOUSLY PSYCHO
Ask about meds
Taking certain brands of antidepressants on the days leading up to your period might help bring a low mood back to normal. You can start taking them after day 14 of your cycle, when ovulation typically occurs, until your period starts. You’ll also see fewer side effects than you would if you took the pills all month.
Double up against cramps and migraines
Menstrual migraines tend to be more severe than the head bangers that occur at other times during your cycle. The prescription painkiller Treximet may ease pain faster and keep it away longer than taking a migraine drug alone, according to two new studies in Obstetrics & Gynecology. As a bonus, Treximet also eases cramps.
Switch your birth control
Trading in your regular birth control pill for Yaz, which is FDA-approved to treat severe mood swings, might give you (and the innocent bystanders around you) a break. Fewer placebo pills per month mean a more steady drip of hormones, so the body’s hormonal rollercoaster has less of a chance to kick in.