It’s not just the mood swings and headaches. Not just the pain and bloating. What’s most annoying is the inevitability of it all—this month’s symptoms repeated the next, and the next after that. When you’re looking ahead to cyclical misery, anything that can break the pattern is worth trying. One approach is to start taking two 200-mg doses every eight hours of a pain-reliever such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), starting three to five days before your period begins. But there are many other ways to prepare for PMS and to get some relief when it hits.
Keep moving along
• Get at least 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily throughout the month. Walking and swimming are shoo-ins. But if those forms of exercise seem tame for you, there’s always in-line skating, karate, kickboxing, water aerobics, swing dancing, and much more. Try to exercise to the point of perspiration. Exercise is both a stress reliever and mood enhancer, because it boosts your body’s natural painkilling endorphins while also relaxing your muscles. Women who exercise regularly find that fluid retention is less of a problem.
Clean up your diet
• Eat less salt throughout the month, but especially in the week before your period. With more salt comes increased fluid retention, hence more bloating. Processed foods such as canned soups and packaged snacks are especially high in sodium, so avoid them whenever possible.
• Also cut back on alcohol and caffeine, both of which can contribute to PMS.
• Eat lots of fiber. High-fiber foods help to escort surplus estrogen out of your body. Load up on whole grains like barley, oats, and whole-grain breads; vegetables; and beans.
• Drink more water. When you do, more “extra” salt leaves in your urine, and that helps stop swelling and bloating.
• Cut out sugary snacks. Cravings for sweets trend upward when you have PMS, but candy and cookies send your blood sugar levels spiking. When you have a blood sugar crash later on, you’ll feel tired and irritable. If you limit your sugar supply, you’ll set the stage for a steadier mood.
Calcium and beyond
• Take 1,200 mg of calcium at bedtime, or take two Tums (which contains calcium) after every meal. The mineral reduces headaches, mood swings, and muscle cramps. It also helps make you sleepy, which is one reason to take the large dose just before you go to bed.
• Also take 800 mg of magnesium. Many women with bad PMS symptoms are low in the mineral. Magnesium works with calcium to help control muscular activity, and taking a combination of both can help contain symptoms.
• Take 50 to 100 mg each day of vitamin B6 when you have PMS to reduce irritability and depression. Among its other powers, B6 can help calm jittery nerves by increasing your supply of serotonin, the mood-regulating brain chemical.
• Take 500 to 1000 mg of evening primrose oil every day throughout the month. It contains essential fatty acids that reduce breast tenderness, bloating, and irritability. The supplement comes in gel-filled capsules, available at health-food stores.
Balance your hormones
• Chase down some chasteberry supplements. This herb is prized for its ability to improve PMS symptoms by bringing hormones back into balance. Take one or two 225-mg capsules each day throughout the month. It can take up to six months before you get the full effect. Once your symptoms have subsided, stop taking the herb.
• Use black cohosh the two weeks before your period. Take two 20-milligram capsules of extract daily, or two to four droppers of tincture in water three times a day. This herb works by bringing your estrogen to a proper level—if it’s high, the herb blocks its effects, and if it’s low, the herb helps do the work of the missing estrogen.
From 1,801 Home Remedies (Reader’s Digest)