It’s safe to say that if you’re cranky, achy, bloated, and breaking out, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) just might be the culprit. Studies on the topic vary, but it’s thought that 80% of women suffer from at least one PMS symptom every month. In fact, it’s so common that we’re often led to believe that PMS is normal—an inevitable part of our monthly cycles.
And, while we’re also told that we must turn to over-the-counter remedies to ease the pain, that’s not always the case. PMS is sometimes a result of diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors that trigger a hormonal imbalance. Here are 13 ways to get your hormones in check and cure PMS, once and for all.
13 Natural PMS Remedies
1. Clean up your diet
A lot of things can cause hormonal imbalances, but one of the main culprits is a poor diet—one that’s high in sugar, dairy products, alcohol, and caffeine. While it might seem like a lot of effort, avoiding inflammatory foods and potential allergens may be the missing link when it comes to balancing your hormones. But don’t stress about it (that’s another PMS trigger).
Even if you don’t have any problems digesting dairy, the hormones found in milk, cottage cheese, butter, yogurt, ice cream, sour cream, and cheese might be messing with your time of the month (think of how much of those you eat or drink on a daily basis.) If you have bad PMS symptoms, it may be worth giving up dairy for two weeks to a month to see if it makes a difference. (First, try reading our guide to giving up dairy without missing it as much as you thought you would.)
If that seems like too big a commitment, try just cutting down the daily amount you are taking in to only one serving. And make sure to stick to organic, low-fat, hormone-free dairy whenever possible—or avoid it while you’re PMSing/on your period. I know, what’s a period without ice cream? Good thing you can make a very smooth, tasty “nice cream” with bananas!
Coffee & sugar
You might rely on these more than usual when you’re stressed or having the symptoms of PMS, but while coffee drinks and sugar have short-term soothing benefits, the resulting crash will probably make you feel worse. Both can also disrupt your sleep and digestion, and keep your body from properly metabolizing the hormones it needs to at this time of the month.
Caffeine also constricts blood vessels, which can cause pain (source). If you absolutely need the caffeine, try to stick to minimal amounts of plain coffee or green tea. If sugar is your vice, opt for fruit whenever possible. Don’t forget to chase every cup of coffee or tea with water, too—the fastest way to a headache is dehydration (source).
2. Work out
A good sweat session can fix almost anything, including PMS. Regular aerobic exercise may help to ease emotional distress and painful symptoms by increasing endorphins, the natural painkilling and mood-altering chemicals in your body. In addition, exercise increases the cleansing action of your lymphatic system, helping to rid your body of excess metabolic waste. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day of light cardio or weightlifting to get your body parts moving and heart rate up.
A little dance, t’ai chi, swimming, yin yoga, and other PMS-friendly workouts (even walking the dog) can boost your mood and make everything seem just…not so bad (and the dog will feel better too). YouTube has a ton of menstruation-specific yoga sequences if you’re not up for a live class. Try to stick to poses that support the pelvic area and lower back. You will usually sleep much better after getting some movement in your day.
3. Drink Herbal Tea
Vitamin B has long been recommended to help ease PMS symptoms, and red raspberry leaf just happens to be a rich source of B-complex vitamins (source). We like The Republic of Tea’s Organic Raspberry Leaf Superherb Tea.
We all know a cup of herbal tea is one of the easiest ways to relax, which is key this time of the month. But many herbal teas, like raspberry leaf, feverfew, dong quai, chasteberry, and guelder rose (known as “cramp bark”), not only help you to relax, but they can also alleviate PMS symptoms. I have a few friends who swear by Yogi’s Woman’s Moon Cycle tea. A soothing DIY turmeric tea will help to calm the emotions, ease you out of a bad mood, and get to sleep. And good old chamomile tea is known for its high glycine levels, which have a beneficial effect on muscle cramps (source).
4. Deal with Stress
Stress is a major player when it comes to hormonal imbalances. When you feel stressed, your body increases production of the hormone, cortisol. But in order to make more cortisol, it first has to “steal” pregnenolone (a building block of estrogen and progesterone), leaving you depleted of female sex hormones. Try to make it so your body doesn’t have to do that by taking a hot bath, getting a massage, or incorporating yoga, deep breathing, or meditation into your daily life.
5. Try Supplements
Rhodiola rosea is an herb that’s been used for centuries for hormone-related issues. It’s said that it reduces the fatigue, irritability, and depression that often accompany PMS. And since Rhodiola is also an adaptogen, it can encourage your body to deal better with stress (source).
Chasteberry, evening primrose oil, black cohosh, and dong quai supplements have all been linked to reduced PMS symptoms like anxiety, breast tenderness, irritability, and bloating. I’ve had great luck with a supplement a naturopath prescribed for me that includes maca root (source).
There are many PMS-specific supplement blends out there, as well. You’ll need to take a supplement all month, and for more than one cycle, to notice a difference. (Make sure to check with a healthcare practitioner before adding any supplements into your routine.)
6. Take Fermented Cod Liver Oil
Fermented cod liver oil provides many of the necessary building blocks for hormone production, including Vitamins A, D, and K. It is also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids that help counterbalance the excessive amount of omega-6s found in our western diet. If you’d prefer, you can get your omega-3s from a high-quality fish oil or flax and chia seeds for a vegetarian alternative.
7. Incorporate Essential Oils
Clary sage oil helps to naturally balance hormones (source) and ease cramps (source), while cypress oil is thought to improve circulation. To use, rub 2–3 drops of oil on the lower abdomen, then apply a warm compress for 2–5 minutes.
8. Use Flax Seeds
Estrogen dominance is the most common hormone imbalance in women. Flax seeds contain lignans which help to break down estrogens and remove them from the body (source). Eat one tablespoon of flax seeds daily during the first two weeks of your cycle to decrease excess estrogen and improve your estrogen-to-progesterone ratio.
9. Turn Up the Heat
The hot water bottle or heating pad remedy has been around for ages, and that’s because it works! A little bit of heat applied to your abdominal area increases blood flow to the uterus—a lack of which is what contributes to that awful “I-just-need-to-sit-here-doubled-over” feeling.
You can also apply a heating pad to your back if you tend to get lower back pain during PMS. While you shouldn’t do a castor oil pack while you’re menstruating (or when you’re pregnant for that matter), doing them when you’re not on your cycle can minimize cramps and other symptoms when your period does arrive (source). I found a few months of castor oil packs made my periods more regular, too!
10. Pass the Probiotics
Getting the gut in balance is key to balancing pretty much everything in our bodies, and your monthly cycle is no exception. The digestive system plays a role in how estrogen is metabolized, which greatly affects our periods (and how they manifest).
Keep everything in tip-top shape—and avoid the digestive upset you might experience during your period anyway—with a non-dairy probiotic like coconut water kefir, kombucha, kimchi, or fermented lemonade.
11. Switch to Natural Feminine Care Products
Some women say they’ve seen a reduction in PMS symptoms, like cramps, within a few months of switching to more natural feminine hygiene products, like sea sponges, reusable pads, or bleach-free tampons (get our guide here). While the evidence is anecdotal, it’s worth a shot. And it’s worth it to minimize exposure to the harmful chemicals that are in some traditional tampons.
12. Beat Bloating with Healthy Food
The water retention that comes with PMS is sometimes the worst since it can make you feel just “off” in general. (Seriously, what motivation is there to do yoga or eat healthier when you feel like a blob!) The foods you eat right before and during your cycle—and the rest of the month, too—can minimize that. Reduce your salt intake and drink more water to combat the bloating that comes with water retention.
Make sure to avoid salty, spicy, or highly-processed foods as well as excess fat and sugar, carbonation, fruit juices, and beans, and stick to bloat-busting options like quinoa, parsley, grapes, pineapple, brown rice, and sweet potatoes. Click here to get our 1-Day Bloat-Busting Menu, complete with recipes.
13. Make it a Home Spa Day
Relaxation is key during this time, and your skin might be freaking out a bit. The best way to address both? Put a Do Not Disturb sign on the bathroom door and carve out some alone time to do an at-home beauty treatment you love, such as a facial mask or body scrub. If your skin breaks out right before your period, try a Glowing Skin Turmeric Mask, or if you get dry skin, a Hydrating Honey Mask. Aromatherapy roll-ons and shower tablets can also help to relieve cramps, stress, headaches, and insomnia.38