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How can I Relieve PMS Symptoms?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms can vary from a bit of minor bloating and a day of tearfulness, to severe cramping, headaches, water retention, and moodiness for many days. It’s important to distinguish PMS from pre-menstrual dysmorphic disorder (PMDD), which causes these symptoms to a much greater degree and usually interferes with a person’s ability to function. Treatment to relieve PMS symptoms is quite different than treatment for PMDD, and this article will focus primarily on the treatment of PMS, and not PMDD.

Some women are easily able to relieve PMS symptoms through simple changes in diet and exercise. For instance, caffeine tends to translate to breast tenderness right prior to your period, and should therefore be avoided if this is a common symptom. Getting out for daily exercise, even just a 30-minute walk can significantly help with mood changes, since exercise raises dopamine levels in the body. Dopamine helps to stabilize mood.

Exercise can additionally help to reduce symptoms like cramping. Many women find that their periods seem much worse if they haven’t been able to exercise. It can also shorten periods, since being upright, and exerting yourself can assist the uterus in the contractions needed to expel the uterine lining that builds up each month.

A diet to help relieve PMS should be one rich in complex carbohydrates. If you’re low carb dieting, you may find that you have more exaggerated symptoms. Studies in 2006 also suggest that milk products may be excellent choices to relieve PMS symptoms of mood changes, since calcium tends to help stabilize mood. Reducing intake of saturated fats, often contained in foods women might crave during PMS, can relieve some PMS symptoms. You should also avoid alcohol, salt, and high sugar foods. Additionally, eating several small meals a day instead of three large ones may help reduce cravings.

The other approach to relieve PMS is through changes in both diet and exercise, and a variety of medications. Some of these are designed to be symptom specific. For instance if you are addressing headaches, breast tenderness or cramping, the best, first choice medication is ibuprofen. If possible you should take ibuprofen before cramping starts, since it is easier to control pain before it occurs than after. For women who cannot take ibuprofen, aspirin is the second best choice since it has anti-inflammatory qualities. Acetaminophen comes in third place but may be adequate to relieve minor symptoms.

Another way of attempting to relieve PMS is through taking hormone-based medications, usually called birth control pills. These frequently stop the symptoms of heavy bleeding and bad cramping. They can sometimes help to end moodiness and headaches too. For some women, taking the pill makes them feel like their PMS is spread out over the month instead of simply occurring for a few days. Though cramping may be gone, water retention, moodiness, and headaches may be constant.

This really depends upon how your body reacts to different hormones, and the different strengths in which hormones are available. Women who choose this route should give it a few months before making a decision, since side effects can calm down. Changing to lower dose pills, or mini-pills may also make a difference and help relieve PMS symptoms. Taking the pill should still be combined with daily exercise and healthy diet.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon247686 — On Feb 14, 2012

The plan in the book "PMS: Reversing the Curse" has completely cured my PMS symptoms. I felt like two people - the mad woman with PMT and the me I knew before I got this lousy PMT stuff. I take agnus castus and use milk thistle - both very natural herbal liquids, and I eat naturally, too. I can't tell you the difference it has made. I would never have believed it. Have a look. I can't recommend it enough.

By surreallife — On Aug 28, 2008

Oatmeal supposedly eases PMS symptoms. It has nourishing and calming qualities.

By anon13072 — On May 19, 2008

Have to add an additional comment to this article. I started taking a vitamin B complex (just a simple one from Costco). The difference in my symptoms, which were pretty bad before, is amazing. This last month I didn't even realize I was due because I wasn't horribly grouchy. It certainly seemed to help with mood, if not with other symptoms like cramping or bloating.

By anon13014 — On May 17, 2008

When my PMS symptoms became so severe that I was considering medications, I first went on a raw foods diet (about 80% raw). I do cook my meat, but limit it to 4 oz. a day. I will allow up to two servings of cooked grains, usually brown rice or organic corn products. The rest of my diet consists of raw fruits, veggies, and nuts. This diet took care of my severe mood swings and irritation. I was already exercising an hour a day. I feel like a new woman.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a The Health Board contributor, Tricia...
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