Expert Advice

How can I ease my PMS?

PMS is no picnic, but you can feel like your lovable self again with a mix of natural treatments and meds.

How can I ease my PMS?
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A HOLISTIC HEALTH PRACTITIONER SAYS: Hormonal imbalances can trigger PMS, but an unhealthy diet, exhaustion and dehydration tend to make it worse.
TREATMENT • Drink a lot of water: aim for 32 ounces for every 50 pounds that you weigh. When you’re dehydrated, symptoms like fatigue and lack of focus worsen. Stay away from sugar; it’s the biggest food culprit of PMS, because it can throw off your blood sugar levels, which will leave you feeling even more sluggish. Sleep is also key. Seven to nine hours is optimal, but more may be necessary in the nights before your period starts, so get a feel for what you need. Meditate before bed to wind down and prepare your body to rebalance hormones as you rest. To stave off outbursts, practice mindfulness. Before you blow up, acknowledge the emotion, send it love and gratitude, then envision it floating away.—Darren Weissman, D.C., holistic health practitioner at the Infinite Love & Gratitude Wellness Center in Northbrook, Ill., and author of The Heart of the Matter: A Simple Guide to Discovering Gifts in Strange Wrapping Paper 

AN INTEGRATIVE PHYSICIAN SAYS: PMS is the result of changes in hormone levels in your system. The week before your period, your body doesn’t properly use progesterone, a chemical that helps with mood regulation. Since you can’t soothe yourself, you feel irritable, anxious, depressed or angry. Plus, you may experience Perpetual Munching Sprees—especially with refined carbohydrates.
TREATMENT • Give caffeine a rest— several studies have linked it to PMS symptoms. You can also try supplements throughout the month, like 500 to 1,000 milligrams per day of chasteberry, an herb that’s been shown to reduce PMS in multiple randomized trials, along with 600 milligrams of calcium twice a day, which may reduce symptoms by up to 50 percent. (Expect to see results after about four to six weeks.) If supplements just aren’t your thing, acupuncture can also help, as it resets the overactive stress response that comes with PMS. Try a regimen of weekly treatments for at least three months. Chronic anxiety and the resulting high cortisol can block your progesterone receptors and exacerbate PMS, so take steps to stay calm.—Sara Gottfried, M.D., practicing integrative physician in San Francisco and author of The Hormone Cure 

A GYNECOLOGIST SAYS: Serotonin levels drop in the days before your period, causing moodiness, anxiety and carb cravings. Progesterone shifts can make your breasts swollen and tender. Plus, the start of menstrual bleeding can cause painful abdominal cramping.
TREATMENT • Exercise is a terrific way to raise your serotonin levels, as is maintaining a healthy diet with plenty of complex carbohydrates. You can also ease PMS by taking bioidentical progesterone or birth control—Prometrium or a low-dose pill like Lo Loestrin are especially helpful in reducing symptoms. If your PMS is extreme, your doctor may prescribe you a low dose of Serophene, a mood stabilizer similar to Prozac, for the few days before your period. Bad cramping usually occurs after PMS and once menstruation has begun, but if you do experience it, feel free to pop an ibuprofen to help dull the pain. —Nancy Beth Lebowitz, M.D., clinical instructor at Cornell Medical School and assistant attending gynecologist at New York Presbyterian Weill Cornell Hospital 

A WELLNESS COACH SAYS: PMS is really just a series of symptoms. As you cleanse and align your body with a healthy lifestyle, those symptoms will lessen naturally.
TREATMENT • Exercise gets you sweating and activates your lymphatic system, which helps fight infections and absorb excess fluid. Yoga Is especially good for PMS; asanas where your belly Is down, like Child’s Pose, Help you feel comforted and relaxed, plus they stimulate your reproductive organs. Upward Facing Dog is also a great pose—you’re lengthening your torso, which helps stimulate your digestive organs. That keeps your body eliminating properly so you don’t feel so bloated. Steer clear of coffee, alcohol and salty foods, since those all exacerbate bloating. You should also snack on fruits and vegetables so you’re not sabotaging your weight once cravings hit. Besides helping to maintain your waistline, they contain important vitamins like magnesium, calcium and vitamin B6, which help combat moodiness and fluid retention.—Koya Webb, certified personal trainer and health/wellness coach in Los Angeles