By Tiyani Rikhotso
For many young women, PMS can leave one bedridden from pain and exhaustion or with a mood and symptoms that make it hard to concentrate and be your best self. Menstruation is an important and normal part of a woman’s life but so often becomes a dreaded time of the month that brings pain and discomfort. Here are a few natural ways to relieve the common physical and emotional symptoms that may visit you 1-2 weeks before your period – known as Premenstrual Syndrome.
Beating the bloat
Make sure to stay hydrated throughout the month but especially on the days leading up to and during your period. This will ensure that your digestive system has all the moisture it needs to do its job, specifically flushing out your colon to avoid constipation and gas. You should also stay away from foods that irritate your stomach. For some this might mean saying no to your favourite sweet treats, breads and pasta as these are usually foods that trigger bowel irritability and leave us looking five months pregnant after meals. Your body is extra sensitive while on your period and bloating is common with PMS so it’s important to be kind to your digestive system and make its job easier around your period.
During our period, many of us find ourselves doubled over in pain trying to find relief in the foetal position, waiting for the painkillers we’ve taken to kick in. Before you reach for the pills you could try going for chamomile or raspberry leaf tea instead. Chamomile is a powerful anti-inflammatory and calming tea. Often, period cramps are caused by a high inflammatory environment in the body. The Nurofen or Mybulen that so many of us turn to when our uterus starts to fuss… those are Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs. Choosing chamomile tea instead and avoiding inflammatory foods such as sugar, processed and fried foods is a much healthier option than these drugs that come with side effects. Raspberry leaf tea works wonders too as it tones and relaxes the uterus, balances hormones and strengthens the immune system making it a great companion for that time of the month. Taking a warm bath, using a heating pad or hot water bottle and doing some light stretches are great ways to ease period cramps that are milder.
Looking after your body and mind
For women specifically there are many vitamins and minerals that are essential in supporting our mood, hormone, bone and reproductive health. The most important one, specifically for symptoms related to PMS is magnesium. Due to stress, our diets and other environmental factors we don’t get nearly enough magnesium, and this has great effects on our health. Magnesium supplementation or upping your intake of magnesium rich foods such as dark leafy greens, fish, nuts, avocados, bananas and dark chocolate can greatly improve the way your mind and body feels leading up to and throughout your period. From relaxing your uterus, fighting fatigue, calming anxiety and tension and reducing the extreme sugar cravings that visit some (the chocolate cravings or amplified sweet tooth that many get nearing their period can be an indication of a magnesium deficiency). You also want to ensure that you are eating enough omega-3 fatty acids, B-vitamins, calcium and iron. The best sources, fish, eggs, nuts, beans and leafy greens are conveniently those that are also high in magnesium (nature just knew exactly what our bodies needed).
From fatigue and hormone levels, to discomfort; there are many things that can put a damper on your mood during the weeks leading up to your period. It is important to acknowledge the moments where you might be feeling a bit fragile, agitated or down and that it is perfectly okay to feel this way especially because you are approaching your period. Move through waves of sadness, anxiety or frustration with love. You might step away from people and instead bond with your favourite show or journal, meditate or go for a walk to clear your head and manage your thoughts and emotions.
A lot is going on physically, emotionally and hormonally as your body prepares for menstruation. One way to be kind to yourself and your body is by opting for natural and simple remedies such as managing your diet, herbal teas, supplements, rest and reflection when PMS visits you.
NOTE: Please ask for the advice of your doctor before taking any medications or supplements.