Surviving PMS: Managing Monthly Mood Swings and Period Pain

Surviving PMS: Managing Monthly Mood Swings and Period Pain

Do you deal with period precursors such as menstrual cramps, bloating, mood swings, breast tenderness, headaches and fatigue for a few days to a week every month? Do these symptoms make you feel miserable and keep you from the activities you enjoy?

Integrative medicine may help you manage these cyclical premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms with a combination of conventional Western medicine, complementary treatments (sometimes called alternative or naturopathic treatments) and lifestyle adjustments.

If your symptoms are severe and very disruptive, it’s a good idea to enlist the help of your physician, because you may be dealing with one of the following:

  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) – Like the more common PMS, PMDD is cyclical; however, it can cause more debilitating psychological symptoms like depression, extreme anxiety and tension, intense anger, and marked changes in sleeping and eating habits.
  • Endometriosis – This condition, in which the lining of the uterus – the endometrium – grows outside the uterus on other structures throughout the pelvis, including the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, bladder and pelvic floor, can cause severe menstrual pain as well as backaches and excessive bleeding.
  • Uterine fibroids – These noncancerous growths of the uterus that often appear during reproductive years can sometimes cause painful period pains.
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) – This inflammation of the reproductive tract is caused by an untreated (often sexually transmitted) infection. Inflammation and scarring from this condition can lead to very painful premenstrual symptoms.

But if you’re dealing with the more typical symptoms mentioned above – which affect up to 75 percent of women, try one or more of these 10 tips, inspired by integrative medicine:

  1. Examine your eating habits. High levels of salt in your diet can worsen bloating, caffeine can increase irritability, and too much sugar can cause fatigue and mood swings. Focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats (nuts, avocado) and lean protein instead.
  1. Stay hydrated. Though it may seem counterintuitive, drinking plenty of water can ease water retention, a common PMS plight.
  1. Get moving. Even if you’re feeling extra-tired, getting enough exercise all month long – including the week leading up to your period – can reduce the physical and emotional symptoms of PMS by boosting endorphins, improving circulation and relieving stress.
  1. Try some supplements. If you’re taking any prescription medications or have a known health condition, check with your physician before adding extra vitamins to your daily routine. For many women, adding safe doses of calcium, magnesium, and/or vitamins B6 and E can help ease symptoms.
  1. Keep stress in check. Try to get enough sleep at night. Take some time to do things you enjoy – whether that’s reading a good book, watching a favorite TV show, visiting with friends or playing a game with your family. And try some simple stress-busters like a warm bath, yoga, deep breathing, meditation or a massage. 
  1. Enlist the help of herbs. Some complementary, or naturopathic, providers swear by black cohosh, chasteberry, evening primrose oil, ginger, raspberry leaf and dandelion as PMS remedies.
  1. Opt for over-the-counter relief. Ibuprofen, naproxen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory pain relievers (NSAIDs) can help treat cramps, headaches and other period pains, but be sure to take only the recommended dosage or you could experience stomach problems.
  1. Consider contraceptive pills. Some women find that low-dose birth control pills help steady their hormone levels, reduce cramps and regulate their periods.
  1. Manage your mental health. If your mood swings seem severe before your period, consider talking to a therapist. You may be dealing with depression, anxiety or another emotional or psychological condition which can worsen with hormonal fluctuations.
  1. Stop smoking. If you have this habit, quitting may help stem your symptoms. Studies have shown women who smoke may have more intense PMS.

How can integrative medicine help women with hormonal issues and other health concerns?

Integrative medicine is all about restoring balance to the body and mind. Holy Redeemer recently welcomed gynecologist Dr. Dinah Gonzalez– a women’s health practitioner who believes in the holistic and personalized care that is the hallmark of integrative medicine – to our healthcare family. Dr. Gonzalez wants to educate and change the way women feel about their health and well-being. She wants to empower patients to become active participants in their own health. To make an appointment with Dr. Gonzalez, call 215-544-5695.


Holy Redeemer

Holy Redeemer

For nearly 80 years, the Sisters of the Holy Redeemer have served the community through their mission to care, comfort, and heal. The visionary Sisters created a health system committed to helping people achieve optimal health no matter where they are in life. This includes delivering exceptional medical care not only within the hospital, but also through our outpatient, home care, and long-term care facilities and services. As a result, our health system is well-positioned to serve the community now and in the future.
Holy Redeemer

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