August 29, 2017, 2017
By: Kendra Tolbert MS, RDN, CDN, CLC
Cramps. Bloating. Fatigue. Insomnia. Mood swings. Diarrhea. Breast pain. For millions of women, these unpleasant symptoms are a monthly occurrence.
For some, the physical and psychological symptoms during the premenstrual phase are minor annoyances. But for others, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) symptoms put a damper on their work and academic performance, relationships, and body image.
Fortunately, there’s a lot women can do to support healthy, happy periods with lifestyle medicine and self-care.
Nutrition for PMS
Because women with PMS have higher levels of inflammation than those who don’t, a great place to start for PMS relief is adopting an anti-inflammatory diet. 
By extinguishing inflammation, anti-inflammatory foods could reduce symptoms.
Some anti-inflammatory foods to weave into meals and snacks are:
- cold-water fish
- colorful fruits and vegetables
- green and herbal teas
- olive oil and olives
- nuts and seeds (especially flaxseed)
- herbs, spices, and citrus zest (especially ginger)
In addition to their anti-inflammatory properties, flaxseed and ginger boast impressive scientific and traditional wisdom to back their ability to improve PMS.     
Taking about 3 teaspoons of ground flaxseeds has been shown to reduce breast tenderness in pre-menstruating women. Doses of 1.5 - 4 teaspoons of powdered ginger can be taken before the start of a woman’s period and continued well into her period or started on day one of her cycle to relieve menstrual cramps, nausea, and emotional symptoms.
Supplemental calcium also has strong clinical research to support its use. In research, doses of 1000-1336 mg/day have been given for up to three menstrual cycles.
While the research has focused on the effect of calcium supplements on PMS, it’s always a good idea to aim to get enough calcium from foods like collard greens, beans, and canned fish with the bones.
Remember, nutrition isn’t the only tool we have at our disposal. Stress management techniques and aromatherapy can also make a woman’s premenstrual experience more pleasant.
Stress Management for PMS
Since psychological stress makes premenstrual symptoms worse, reducing stress and building resilience may improve PMS.
There are tons of tried and true ways to manage stress. The important thing is to find techniques that fit a woman’s interests and schedule.
Here are a few options to try:
- Shinrin Yoku/ Forest Bathing
- Spending time with family, friends, or pets
Aromatherapy for PMS
The pain reducing, stress buffering, and mood altering properties of essential oils can help manage symptoms like muscle and joint pain, insomnia, and mood disturbances.
Lavender oil seems to hold special promise  . It can be used in massage oils, diluted and applied directly to achy areas, or inhaled.
Though lifestyle and integrative medicine can improve premenstrual symptoms, physical and mental symptoms should always be discussed with and investigated by a primary care provider or gynecologist. They could be a sign of more serious concerns like endometriosis, fibroids, depression, or PCOS.
What lifestyle or self-care strategies do you most often recommend for improvement of PMS? Please share in the comments section below.
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