Plagued with cramps, bloating and bad moods during your time of the month? We explore how to alleviate severe PMS without the contraceptive pill.
If you suffer badly with PMS symptoms every month then you’re certainly not alone. “I’d get severe cramping for 11 days straight every month,” Ciara, 27, tells us. “My stomach would bloat so much that it looked like I was three months pregnant and the constant pain made me feel sluggish.” It wasn’t just cramping that bothered Ciara, either. “I’d have the most terrible mood swings, and while I never really took my temper out on anyone else, I’d feel increasingly irritable for about seven days before I’d get my period. On top of that, I’d also have two or three days where I’d feel depressed and not want to get out of bed. I missed a few days of work because of it too, and on the days I did make it in, I was feeling so low and wrecked that I couldn’t focus on what I was doing anyway.”
Fed up with the monthly hit of cramps, bloating and bad moods Ciara sought the help of her GP, who promptly suggested putting her on the contraceptive pill. “I didn’t want to go on the pill,” says Ciara. “I knew I’d never remember to take it and I’m kinda odd about taking modern medicine when I don’t need to. I wasn’t having sex at the time, so what was the point of pumping all these extra hormones into my body if they weren’t needed? In the end, I relented and started taking the pill anyway. It has lessened my symptoms but I still feel uneasy about taking it, and I worry about the repercussions of taking it long-term.”
Ciara’s story is by no means an uncommon one. Lots of girls suffer badly with PMS or PMDD symptoms every month, and though the contraceptive pill is an effective way to manage those symptoms, what about those of us, who for whatever reason, be it cultural, medical or otherwise, don’t want to go on the pill?
We explored some other options.
Essentially, PMS occurs because your hormones are out of whack, and certain foods are known to either aggravate or alleviate the effect of those hormonal imbalances. That means, that what you put in to your body on the regular, really can have a big effect on how badly you suffer each month. In particular, limiting your intake of caffeine, alcohol, refined, processed foods, dairy and gluten, while at the same time, upping your consumption of lean proteins and fibre can help to bring your hormones back in balance.
In addition to following a healthy diet, taking a few smart supplements can help too. Vitamin E and fish oil capsules have the biggest impact on combating those nasty monthly symptoms. In fact, a study by Reproductive Health, found that women who consumed two vitamin E supplements a day noticed significant improvements in their PMS symptoms, while in another study fatty acid-rich fish oil capsules, were proven to combat fluctuations in mood, in particular. For the best effect, pop one of each every day, increasing to twice-daily, a week before your period is due.
Similar to the effect of the contraceptive pill, a progesterone cream aims to restore the balance of your estrogen and progesterone levels; it’s their imbalance that is responsible for bloating, cramps and fluctuations in your mood. Available both over the counter and on prescription from your GP, the cream needs to be applied daily to your abdomen or inner thighs on the days leading up to your period.
For those who find no relief from supplements or a change in diet, alternative remedies can be seriously beneficial. If you’re bugged by bad moods and anxiety, acupuncture sessions make a great option; they promote the production of endorphins, which are known for their mood-boosting effect. A more extreme fix is magnetic therapy, which is great for nixing cramps and bloating, in particular. It works by combating hormonal imbalance and promoting metabolic function. For the best benefits, hit up your local holistic therapist for weekly sessions, which may reduce your symptoms over time.