For years – years! – my typical PMS experience included water weight gain of 3-4 pounds and big, swollen boobs that were a cup size larger than normal; I needed two wardrobes. It also came with pretty extreme irritation (just ask my husband). Worst of all, it lasted a full 10 days.
I’m by no means the only woman who has reckoned with raging PMS — a staggering 80% of American women in their reproductive also experience it. With these high numbers, you could assume that depression, binge eating, moodiness, anxiety, insomnia, weight gain, breast tenderness, and gastrointestinal distress –all symptoms of PMS according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists—are a normal occurrence for women; something to be expected and endured for the three decades plus that a woman menstruates. But PMS is not normal. It’s a disease, and a curable one at that.
The secret is to understand the natural, physiological changes your body is going through during the 5-7 days leading up to the start of your period. That way, you can make choices that remedy the symptoms brought on by those changes.
First, the changes
In the week before your period, your estrogen and progesterone levels are plunging, bottoming out about three days before your period arrives. This development can lead to water retention, lower energy levels and a legitimate aversion to social situations. So it’s not that you can expect to completely obliterate any signs that you’re in your pre-menstrual week. But you can certainly learn how to minimize them.
Without further ado, the remedies
Here then are the best ways to help you stay on a more even keel in those days leading up to your period:
- Go to bed earlier. This doesn’t have to be dramatic—although, if you’re craving getting in to bed at 8pm, by all means, now’s the time to indulge! Simply make it a point to be in bed 20-ish minutes earlier than you normally do. The extra sleep will go a long way toward lessening the feeling of having to drag yourself around the next day.
- Eat for hydration. The more water you take in, the easier time your body has regulating it’s water levels. Meaning, if you want to reduce bloating, take in more water. So while it’s common to crave salty snacks now, ease up on the dehydrating foods: eat raw almonds instead of roasted and salted nuts, soups instead of fries, oatmeal or rice (both of which absorb a lot water during cooking) instead of cereal or fries, celery and hummus instead of chips.
- Prioritize alone time. Estrogen and progesterone both fuel a happy, outgoing mood – after all, they want you to find someone who could potential fertilize the egg you release at ovulation. But now that they’re retreating, so is your social stamina. Go for a walk at lunch instead of eating with co-workers, stay in and read instead of going to happy hour, take a solo hike instead of a spin class. You are craving solitude now—the more you give it to yourself, the less likely you’ll be to snap at others. It’s my perspective that the typical PMS irritation is really an unexpressed desire to be alone—if you won’t create solitude for yourself, your crappy mood will create it for you by driving others away.
- Turn your attention inward. The days just before your period are some of your most intuitive. Make sure you’re open to receiving insights from your inner wisdom by doing things that get your mind and body focused on the same task – a hot yoga class (during an off-peak time, so you don’t feel too crowded!), knitting, weeding, baking, journaling, meditating. Whatever gets your mind into a quiet zone is perfect.