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The Dirty Little Secret of PMS: What Every Woman Should Know

Ladies, we all have this one friend that we both love and hate. She’s always cranky, slow and almost unbearable at times, but you continue to make the best of all the pain she may cause from month to month with chocolate and ice cream, heartfelt romance movies while snuggled in odd positions on the couch, and long hot bubble baths. You know exactly which frenemy I’m talking about – the saboteur of your baby box – your Aunt Flow, queen of the crimson wave.

Well, despite the awkwardness you might be feeling right now, there is something you might not know. Something very important, that could change your whole relationship with your period.

Despite that some regions in the United States have reports of nearly 75% of women who experience PMS symptoms each month, the truth is that these women are not experiencing a normal, healthy period. In fact, women today have been persuaded to believe that the common symptoms faced during PMS are either completely normal or taboo and with the idea that all can be managed with perseverance and caffeine fueled pain pills. That it is just a part of the natural process.

The TRUTH is ladies, that while every woman’s menstrual cycle is different to the next; our awful, interruptive and draining symptoms don’t need to be our commonality. That’s right…

Women that have normal,healthy periods should not have any symptoms.

How is this so? How can you be PMS symptom-free, or close to it? First Step Family Wellness of St. Louis, MO has the answers to living pain-free and energized during that time of the month.

First, it is important to understand the symptoms you may be facing. Symptoms may include:

Bloating – As part of major fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone, 8 out of 10 women gain and retain several pounds of water that causes swelling and uncomfortable bloating both before and during her period. While it is a condition that is more irritating than anything else, it often affects the digestive tract and can influence her body image.

Fatigue - During her menses, a woman loses almost half a cup of blood, including clots, which also amounts to an extraordinary amount of energy expended throughout the process. Therefore, it is even more important for women to continue to exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet.

Cramps – Women often experience cramping on either the right or left side and sometimes in the lower back, which is caused by your uterine muscles contracting and the release of prostaglandins. The latter are hormone-based and tend to trigger mild to severe pain, along with inflammation that is further worsened if you suffer from bloating.

Constipation – Like bloating, constipation is caused by fluctuations of estrogen and progesterone. These hormones slow down your digestive tract, particularly if you do not maintain a healthy diet of high-fiber foods, whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruits. Also if you don’t consume fewer amounts of foods that cause bloating and greater water retention.

Diarrhea – It’s an embarrassing truth, but with your digestive tract going haywire it is likely that you also experience more extreme and unsavory stool issues. While the exact cause of such is not entirely understood, it is believed that prostaglandins are the culprit for causing irritation to your uterus and intestines during your period.

Depression – While depression during your period is particularly caused by major hormonal fluctuations, the severity can also be dependent on your general stress levels throughout the entire month. Once again, to feel more physically and emotionally balanced, it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Anxiety – Stress, which releases the hormone cortisol, tends to be a major factor in the amount of anxiety your feel during your period. While many believe that anxiety is purely thought-driven, it is influenced by stress that is a combination of physical, chemical (hormonal), and emotional.

Anger – If you are feeling angry during the week of your period, it is likely linked to your other PMS symptoms; especially that of depression and anxiety. You may feel angry due to the various stressors you are feeling, or angry for feeling like you have so little control over your body and emotions.

Mood Swings - Once again, your fluctuating hormones are directly linked to having minor to excessive mood swings, which cause you to feel a series of erratic emotions all at once, or one after the other with no other apparent causation. Often, mood swings consist of feeling depressed, anxiety-ridden, moody or irritable during one point to happy and ready to take on the world during the next.

Understanding some of the symptoms you may be facing from month-to-month allows for you to recognize that your menstrual cycle is a very complex system that involves hormones, destruction, and rebuilding. The trick to having a normal, healthy period that does not consist of these major PMS symptoms is to take the right measures that positively influences your body and mind daily.

So, what does this entail? Quite simply, it means eating the right foods, keeping a consistent exercise regime, staying hydrated, and sleeping well. These are probably things you have heard many times before, but the fact is that each is essential to the building blocks of your health, digestion and hormone balance.

For proper digestion, eat healthy fats, lots of protein, and fresh fruits and vegetables during your period.

Healthy, unsaturated fats can include wild caught fish (especially salmon, tuna and sardines), nuts (such as walnuts, flax seeds, almonds, or chia seeds), avocados, and fish oil supplements. These will provide you with essential fatty acids that can ease many of your premenstrual symptoms, including digestive issues, anxiety and depression. Studies also believe that unsaturated fats can have an anti-inflammatory effect that reduces the symptoms directly caused by prostaglandins, such as cramping and uncomfortable bloating.

In addition, foods high in protein can help you sustain energy throughout the day and feel less fatigued overall. Try to have at least 40 grams of healthy proteins per day during your period to keep your hormones in check and ensure that your body has enough to repair itself. Reliable sources of protein are organic grass-fed beef or chicken, tofu, wild caught fish, organic eggs, nuts or peanut butter, plant-based protein shakes, etc.

Meanwhile, eating fresh fruits and vegetables – particularly spinach, blueberries, raspberries – can positively affect your iron and estrogen levels. While certain dairy products – such as yogurt, milk and cheese – can provide you with needed calcium and vitamin D that further reduce PMS symptoms.

Overall, eating a healthy diet is the number one thing you can do to live PMS symptom free, because it supports your entire system. That, paired with proper hydration (at least 2 liters per day), 7-9 hours of sleep each night, and at least 30-minutes of exercise each day will keep you feeling normal, rather than common, during that time of the month.

Want to learn more about how you can live PMS symptom-free, or need tips to help take control of your symptoms? Stop by 1st Step Family Wellness in Saint Louis, MO today to see how we can help, or give us a call at (314) 805-7837. You can also watch the video above done by my husband, Dr. Ryan Sandheinrich.

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