During the Olympics, Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui made headlines from Beijing to California when she mentioned that her period threw her off during a race. Her less-than-perfect swim time wasn’t what put her in the spotlight, however. Instead, it was her monthly cycle that drew attention from the media, and all because discussing such matters is generally taboo. But why is that the case? Why do we shy away from discussing something that impacts up to 75 percent of all American women who menstruate?
If you’re a woman, you’ve no doubt experienced issues caused by your menstrual cycle. Indeed, premenstrual syndrome, commonly referred to as PMS, is one of the most common forms of hormonal imbalance affecting women. While each body is different, cramping, bloating, strange food cravings, fatigue, nausea, sore breasts, and acne are all normal and common for women during that “time of the month” — not to mention the tension, anxiety, emotional outbursts, mood swings, and loss of confidence that can come with it. It might come as no surprise then, that a recent article from The Bristol Post cites that women in the UK miss more than six million days of work every year due to period-related symptoms. And I know women who have cancelled or avoided important activities — like first dates, beach outings, and athletic events — to avoid doing them with PMS issues.
What causes PMS pains? Ultimately, the main underlying cause is a hormonal balance, specifically in levels of estrogen and progesterone. Furthermore, off levels of serotonin in the brain can lead to premenstrual depression and sleep problems. And don’t think that it’s going to get better as your body adjusts to regular menstrual cycles over time. As women near menopause, hormones decline, causing worsening symptoms with the passage of time.
Thankfully, you don’t have to live with the common symptoms of PMS. In fact, there are
several things that you can do to combat them. For starters, it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle, both in general and in the days around your period. While you might feel like munching on greasy fast foods and sweets, caving into the cravings won’t do much for your wellness. To fight the temptation, keep your fridge stocked with fresh fruits and veggies and drink plenty of water to reduce bloating. Supplements like folic acid, vitamin B-6, calcium, and magnesium are also helpful for easing period woes.
Rest and relaxation can also fight off PMS symptoms. Try to get at least eight hours of sleep a night (reducing caffeine and completing 30 minutes of aerobic movement can help you get the most out of your sleep cycle!) and try stress-reduction techniques, like yoga, massage, and deep-breathing exercises.
Of course, all of this is easier said than done. If you’re regularly struggling with PMS, it might be best to come in and discuss customized lifestyle plans and bioidentical hormone options. Together, we can determine what’s missing or off and form a customized plan to treat the cause of your PMS symptoms.