Why is PMS still so badly understood? There’s a brilliant catch-all term to encompass female hormone-related physical maladies and emotional issues. It’s spouted by advertisers, joked about in pop culture, diagnosed by a weary doctor with a shrug. It’s convenient, PMS. Strange then, there are over 150 different symptoms of PMS, from depression to backache to migraines and still few answers about how and why these occur. Stranger still that the contraceptive pill or antidepressants are often the only solutions offered, with little explanation. How can there be this much vagueness and confusion over the female body in 2021?
Anyone with a uterus will probably be able to tell you—with some passion—that dealing with an ever-fluctuating dance of hormones can be quite a complex thing to do.
Sometimes we feel really good, energetic, social and up for anything. Other days are a different story; cue bloating, lethargy, acne and tears—we’ve all been there.
The good news is that your monthly visitor really can be a friend, not a foe, and there are things you can do to support your body to sail through your monthly cycle as pleasantly as possible.
Hit up this list to give your hormones and period some love.
1. Up Your Nutrients
The main event of the menstrual cycle is not actually your period; it’s ovulation. Healthy ovulation = a smooth, happy period. The ovaries are hungry little glands that chew through tons of nutrients to do their job well. Ensuring you’re getting enough zinc, B6, and magnesium will help your ovaries (and hormone health) thrive. Take a good multi or check out foods like eggs and chicken for B6, kale and spinach for magnesium and oysters for zinc.
Is staying hydrated actually the answer to all your problems? No. Is it essential for every bodily function, though, hormones and periods included? Hell yes. Drinking enough water is essential for our body’s natural detoxification processes, which, in turn, is essential for happy hormones. Drinking lots of water before your period can also help with period bloating and digestion.
3. Eat Your Greens
The queens of greens are cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, rocket and bok choy. Getting a few servings of cruciferous vegetables into your diet every day can support lighter periods, less period pain, bloating and water retention, and breast tenderness. This is due to these veggie’s ability to support estrogen levels and detoxification within the body.
4. Eat Enough
Note to self: coffee isn’t breakfast. Diet culture has led us to believe that we should be able to thrive on the same amount of food as a toddler; however, your hormones don’t agree. Not eating enough can inhibit ovulation and progesterone production, which is bad news for your PMS. So make sure you’re enjoying a nourishing breakfast, lunch and dinner complete with fats, carbs and proteins. Then, when your next period arrives, you’ll thank us!
5. Be Good To Your Gut
Hippocrates’ well-trodden telling “all disease begins in the gut” is also relevant for PMS. Our gut microbiome plays a critical role in ridding the body of old, used up hormones, and when this isn’t happening effectively, it can lead to those period problems we know you don’t want. Try a quality probiotic, or try to incorporate fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir or kombucha into your daily diet. Tip: stay away from kombuchas that contain sweeteners like stevia or erythritol, and opt for a live, quality option such as Good Buzz or New Leaf (our fave).
6. Don’t Over-Exercise
Regular exercise is hands down one of the best things you can do for your health and hormones. We often think that exercising harder, longer and more intensely is a good thing, but in reality, this isn’t the case. More is not always more when it comes to movement, and issues with our hormones and periods can arise when we overdo it and can even cause your period to go missing altogether. So, find a sweet spot: get regular exercise, give yourself lots of recovery time in between, and mix up high-intensity movement with gentler practices like pilates, yoga, and walking. It’s all about balance, baby.
7. Take Period Pal
If you are too often finding yourself rummaging through the bathroom cabinet trying to find answers to your period woes, it might be time to bring in some extra support. Period Pal is a combination of powerful herbs and nutrients designed to support drama-free cycles, with less pain, bloating, mood swings, fatigue, sore boobs, acne, etc. High strength Vitex (the ultimate women's health herb), ashwagandha, zinc, kelp (for iodine) and ginkgo biloba make this supplement a real winner. Just read the reviews for yourself.
8. Love Your Liver
Your liv-er is a pretty big deal when it comes to, you know, liv-ing, and it does more than just deal with last night’s pinot. It cleanses and rids your body of any substances that it no longer needs, including hormones. A build-up of these can increase the likelihood of oestrogen-dominance and PMS type symptoms. Love your liver by upping cruciferous vegetables (see point 3) and making sure to reduce liver loaders such as alcohol, caffeine and refined foods.
9. Find A Form Of Meditation You Love
Stress is the number one driver of unhappy hormones and period problems. Therefore, to minimise and manage your stress is to minimise and manage your PMS. When living busy lives with full to-do lists, ‘minimising stress’ is easier said than done, and finding a form of meditation that works for you is one of the best ways to bring some calm to your life (and hormones). This could look like a daily walk in nature (sans phone), using a meditation app like Calm or Insight Timer daily, journaling, yin yoga, drawing, or anything that allows you to clear your mind and drop into the present moment.
10. Get Your Sweat On
Supporting your body’s natural detoxification abilities is a top tip for happy hormones and periods. While your liver and kidneys are the MVP’s of detoxification, your skin lends a helping hand, too. Getting a good sweat on a few times a week not only supports your detox pathways but also leaves you feeling cleansed and refreshed, too. Some of our favourite ways to get a sweat on are infrared saunas, and hot yoga or pilates. Sweating through exercise has the added benefit of getting your blood flowing and lymphatic system moving, too—winning!
About Beatrice Thorne
Beatrice leads Eve, the New Zealand health brand on a mission to end the stigma and misinformation surrounding cycles, hormones, and periods (all the good stuff) and offer actionable ways we can take our health into our own hands.
Deal with your period sustainably with the best menstrual cups to try when Aunt Flo's in town.
Image credit: Brandy Kennedy