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Natural relief for PMS symptoms

Natural relief for PMS symptoms

The Medicine Cabinet: Ask the Harvard Experts

By Howard LeWine, M.D.

Q: I feel awful for the week before my menstrual period. The main symptoms are bloating, fatigue and moodiness. I don’t want to take medication. What can I do that is more natural?

A: Although there are no scientifically proven natural ways to relieve premenstrual symptoms, many women find some of the following to be very helpful.

Of the non-medicinal approaches, daily exercise and stress reduction have the most evidence of benefit. Exercise should not be limited to the week or two before your period. Set a goal to do at least 30 minutes of exercise every day of week, realizing that some days it just won’t be possible.

To help reduce stress, try the relaxation response technique. Sit quietly with your eyes closed for 15 to 20 minutes and breathe deeply through your nose. With each exhale, silently say the word “one” to yourself. Then, starting with the top of your head and working your way down to your toes, imagine your muscles relaxing, one by one.

Avoid skipping meals. Do you get more irritable or tired as you get hungry? Eating meals and healthy snacks regularly throughout the day helps maintain a steady blood sugar level. Keep simple sugars to a minimum.

For the bloating, cut way back on salt and salty foods even if you crave them. Try herbs, spices or black pepper instead of salt. Snack on fruits and vegetables, which are naturally low in salt.

Be sure to get enough calcium in your diet. Women that don’t eat enough calcium rich foods tend to have more PMS symptoms than those who do.

Go for foods loaded with B vitamins. They include thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, B-6 and folate and are found in a wide variety of foods. Studies looking at supplemental B vitamins have shown inconsistent results. But some women find that vitamin B-6 reduces their symptoms. But don’t take more than 100 milligrams per day.

If the urge for sweets strikes, give in to an occasional small portion of dark chocolate. Savor the experience, from unwrapping it to feeling it melt in your mouth.

If none of these provide you relief or your PMS symptoms are interfering with work, school or relationships, stay open to a trial of medication.

(Howard LeWine, M.D., is an internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. For additional consumer health information, please visit www.health.harvard.edu.)

(c) 2017 PRESIDENT AND FELLOWS OF HARVARD COLLEGE. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT AGENCY, LLC.

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