If you feel tense and tearful at that time of the month, here’s why – and what you can do about it
Do you feel as though your moods are on a rollercoaster in the days running up to your period? You’re not alone – it’s thought that around 30% of women experience moderate to severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS).1
What exactly is PMS?
The term PMS describes the cluster of symptoms lots of women experience before their period turns up. Along with physical changes such as bloating and breast tenderness, it’s common to experience emotional symptoms, too.2
These can include:
- low mood
- crying spells
- social withdrawal
- appetite changes
- food cravings
- trouble sleeping
PMS can affect any woman of childbearing age and seems to be worse at times of hormonal change, such as coming off the Pill or after pregnancy.3
The precise cause of PMS is still not known – fluctuating hormones are one obvious culprit – but you can make some lifestyle tweaks to help even out your mood.
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Up your heart rate; raise your mood
Working out has been shown to ease PMS symptoms. In one study from Khorasgan Azad University, Iran, young women with PMS who did aerobic exercise (raising heart and breathing rate) for one hour, three times a week experienced a reduction in symptoms, including low mood.4
Ease stress to soothe PMS
When you get stressed earlier in the month, you’re much more likely to struggle with PMS symptoms before your period, according to a study led by the US National Institutes of Health.5 Tackle stress with deep breathing exercises, yoga and massage, and talk to your boss if your workload is overwhelming.
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Prioritise sleep to tackle PMS
It’s important to get plenty of rest when you’re premenstrual. Doctors recommend aiming for seven to eight hours’ sleep to help ease PMS symptoms.6 Make sure you get to bed early, taking time to unwind beforehand to help you sleep better.
How food affects PMS
You may be more sensitive to blood sugar highs and lows before your period, which can affect mood and energy. To keep your blood glucose steady, eat regularly and choose low GI carbs such as brown pasta and granary bread. Evidence suggests a diet high in vitamins B1 and B2, including wholegrain cereals and beans, can reduce the incidence of PMS by up to 35%.7
Can herbs help PMS?
Researchers from the University of Leeds gave women either St John’s wort or a placebo over six months, and measured their levels of PMS symptoms including depression and irritability. They found the herbal remedy could help improve their symptoms.8 Agnus castus is another herb that has been found to help ease PMS by rebalancing your hormones.9 Talk to your GP or a medical herbalist if you’re interested.
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Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
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1. National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome. About PMS. Available from: http://www.pms.org.uk/about/aboutus2
2. Mayo Clinic: Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/premenstrual-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20376780
3. As Source 1
4. Samadi Z, Taghian F, Valiani M. The effects of 8 weeks of regular aerobic exercise on the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome in non-athlete girls. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3748549/
5. National Institutes of Health News Release: Prior stress could worsen premenstrual symptoms, NIH study finds. Available from: https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/prior-stress-could-worsen-premenstrual-symptoms-nih-study-finds
6. NHS Choices: PMS. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pre-menstrual-syndrome/#treatment
7. BDA Food Fact Sheet: PMS. Available from: https://www.bda.uk.com/foodfacts/pms.pdf
8. Canning S, et al. The efficacy of Hypericum perforatum (St John’s Wort) for the treatment of premenstrual syndrome: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20155996
9. University of Michigan Health Library: vitex/uses. Available from: https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hw139439#hw139442