There's a lot of conflicting scientific data out there regarding premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The most important thing to know about PMS is that most people experience some premenstrual symptoms, but that doesn’t mean all people who menstruate have clinical PMS (1).
Some experts even argue that the entire phenomenon of PMS is overhyped and exaggerated for commercial reasons.
The best way to work around PMS is to figure out your unique patterns and what solutions work best for relieving your symptoms.
There are many ways to manage PMS symptoms, and not all are medical, scientific, or evidence-based. From a hot bath to your favorite comfort food, you don’t always need evidence to know what makes you feel better. But if you’re wondering about evidence-based solutions to PMS symptoms, here are some tips:
1. Eat a well-balanced diet to curb PMS symptoms
Make sure you're nourishing your body and eating a diet that provides it with the nutrients you need to thrive. Some research suggests that diets with adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D may reduce the risk of PMS (2). Diets high in thiamine (vitamin B1) and riboflavin (vitamin B2) might also reduce the risk of experiencing PMS (3). Not sure if you’re getting the nutrients you need? Track your food for a few days to get an overall picture.
2. Work out regularly to prevent PMS symptoms
Exercise is a crucial part of a balanced life, so get the juices flowing for your overall health. It's important not to just exercise when you have symptoms, but keep an ongoing exercise routine. Regular exercise may help with premenstrual headache, breast swelling, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and vomiting (4).
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3. Reduce stress to fight PMS symptoms
The combination of stress and premenstrual syndrome might create a cycle of exacerbation. If mild to moderate anxiety or irritation is part of your PMS pattern, try calming your nerves with yoga (5), breathing exercises (6), or mindfulness-based stress reduction (7). Some types of therapy like cognitive behavioral therapy may help with premenstrual symptoms, but more research is needed (8).
4. Magnesium supplements for PMS symptoms
Magnesium deficiency can cause a slew of symptoms, like anxiety, depression, irritability, and muscle weakness (9). Taking a magnesium supplement has been suggested to help relieve PMS-related symptoms, like headaches, bloating, and irritability (10). Pairing a magnesium supplement with B6 may be even more beneficial than taking magnesium alone (10).
5. Don't blame every bad mood on PMS
We are not robots. A natural part of being human is to go through varying emotions. Before associating mood swings with PMS, consider other important predictors of daily mood like overall health and well-being (11). Considering PMS is used to discredit women in business and government, it's important to examine what it really is and how we talk about it. We're only perpetuating harmful stereotypes by labeling PMS as a "witch syndrome."
6. Could PMS really be a magnification of an existing health or mental health condition?
Brands that capitalize off of premenstrual syndrome spend a lot of money on sophisticated advertising that might lead people to believe certain symptoms can be attributed to PMS. It’s important to know that some existing conditions can be amplified in the premenstrual phase (12). Blaming any uncomfortable symptoms that occur during the premenstrual phase on PMS could mask an underlying health issue. Anxiety and depression often get misdiagnosed as PMS (12). Other health conditions could also be misdiagnosed as PMS.
Tracking your PMS symptoms
Keeping tabs on your symptoms can help you determine your typical premenstrual experience. Use Clue to record your data for at least three cycles and you may start to see patterns in your PMS symptoms, triggers, and relief measures. The PMS symptom relief strategies we mentioned are best for mild to moderate symptoms. If your symptoms are moderate to severe, it may be time to talk to your healthcare provider about exploring some potential causes for your symptoms and some more options for symptom relief.
This article was updated on June 3, 2020.