What kinds of things to do you to lessen menstruation symptoms/PMS?
March 16, 2019 11:19 AM   Subscribe

I'm curious if you have monthly go-tos that coincide with your cycle that seem to help lessen hormonal swings/PMS symptoms, etc.. I would love to have a list of things that I should *do* during parts of my cycle or at least try. So much...

Here's some things that I notice regularly and try to do to help but it's very ad-hoc and I don't always remember what "works".

I have Evening Primrose capsules that I take at the onset of PMS symptoms (when I remember) and I really do feel like they help a lot to kind of even out my feelings, lessen cramps and who knows what else? I feel like I should know more about this supplement and when and how to take it. Do you take this supplement? How often? When? What does it help?

GI issues. I try to have some Miralax on hand when things get weird and take that to keep from getting backed up. I have not been able to figure out exactly when this tends to happen in my cycle (I use the Clue app but maybe I need the paid version to help out with this) because it would be great to get ahead of it instead of on Day 3 being like, "Oh, right....miralax."

Exercise. First off, I'm in a major slump but when I have not been in the past, there's almost always a week in there where the motivation plummets. I think it coincides with insomnia and some water retention and irritability. THESE ARE THE TIMES I SHOULD EXERCISE! So, for those times, I try to recognize that this is the slump and purposefully power through it. I think I have achieved this exactly twice in my life and it worked but somehow I still can't figure out when the slump hits and how to keep myself out of it. (Previous question on this has some good answers that I'm writing down, but maybe you have more?)

Insomnia. Gods, I wish I had an app that would say, "Chance of insomnia this evening? 80% likely." And then I would just take a sleep pill for three nights and that would be so much better than having a horrible night of sleep (or two) and then figuring out I'm in the insomnia part of my cycle and trying to catch up.

Oh, and the two days of deep, dark depression? Again, if I could both pinpoint this and then have a way to lessen these symptoms, I would love that!

One thing I am now good at is recognizing that I have one or two super-motivated days in my cycle. I try to jump on that train hardcore and get all the stupid things on my to-do list done and that's been pretty good. I go, "Oh, this is my high point, MAKE IT WORK!" It's a monthly super-boost. The other 27-odd days are fair to middling.

What do you do to positively counteract cyclical symptoms? What do you wish you could pinpoint and find some help for? Is Clue a good app for trying to figure this out? Or is there something better. I do find the PMS warning in the app and the ovulation predictor ("Hey, honey! Let's pretend to make babies because ba-da-bing!") are pretty good parts of the app but for all the categories it has, I haven't figured out how to daylight any of that data in a meaningful way.

Also, I'm in my early 40s, have one kid and take no medication. I suspect some of this stuff is premenopausal (the wide-ranging anger, for instance) but I also have a feeling I have a few more years of this stuff and I'd like to lifehack it!
posted by amanda to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Honestly I got an IUD. My life is 1000 times better. Little spotting, tiny hormonal changes (I still get a little irritable and my skin is worse for about a week cyclicly. But I live my life and it is SO MUCH BETTER. I'm over a year period free my friend. If it's an option for you, DO IT.
posted by AlexiaSky at 11:31 AM on March 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

I like the Spot On app by Planned Parenthood. The calendar uses little emojis (which you can set/choose) to represent sleeping, pooping, exercise, etc. so it’s really easy for me to look and visually identify and plan for patterns like insomnia in my cycle at a glance.

And I don’t know about evening primrose but I drink Healthy Cycle tea about three days before and during my period and find it helps SO much, YMMV. Also CBD mints help me with irritability :)

And seconding the IUD if it works with your body; the hormonal swings feel almost non-existent now and overall I think it’s made my entire cycle smoother. If you do get one, the cramps you get after insertion are not what you’ll get on your period in the future, don’t worry!
posted by stellaluna at 11:41 AM on March 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Regular cardio exercise, cutting back on sugar and processed foods, cutting back on caffeine, cutting back on dairy, drinking at least 2 liters of water a day, eating around the same time daily...also CBD oil really does help because I’m that person now apparently. My symptoms have improved...except the insomnia. That I have to take melatonin to ease usually.

Thinking about that IUD though.
posted by Young Kullervo at 12:06 PM on March 16, 2019 [5 favorites]

Similar to the poster above - I did the whole 30 thing and my pms pretty much disappeared. Even now just doing a more relaxed version (Lots of cooking, cutting way back on bread and sugar) it's better.
posted by jrobin276 at 12:11 PM on March 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

All of the exercise and food tips here worked for me too.

Also, I take Evening Primrose, but everyday, not just during my period/PMS. I'm not sure if that's correct or not. But maybe it would help more if taken more consistently?
posted by bearette at 12:24 PM on March 16, 2019

Things are a lot better for me when I drink more water than I ever want to drink. Especially any digestive issues but also it helps my skin react better to hormonal shifts and probably I sleep better because I'm not thirsty at night. I don't dislike water but I rarely remember to drink more than a small glass of liquid with my meals - hauling around liter bottles just never enters my mind and when I do I forget to drink from them and when I remember to I get annoyed about it. So when I have the spoons to hydrate for the specific purpose of menstrual aid, I try to and definitely notice a difference.
posted by Mizu at 12:29 PM on March 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

For predicting things, I don't know what symptoms Clue lets you track, but I use the (default pink and exclusionary-named) WomanLog that has over 100 symptoms you can track. When my hormones were going particularly haywire, it was very helpful to finish the day by reviewing that list in bed, ticking off everything that applied and making additional notes about anything that worried me. The symptoms you tick appear as little icons on the calendar view, which let me very quickly determine the patterns around ovulation in particular, and the daily check-in helped me feel more in control.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 12:52 PM on March 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

Honestly? Cannabis.
posted by noxperpetua at 1:07 PM on March 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Oh yeah cutting down on bread too. Sorry, turns out everything we have available to eat in most western countries is terrible for our hormones.
posted by Young Kullervo at 1:09 PM on March 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

I went on an SSRI because I couldn't handle the mood issues and it made my life exponentially better. I tried an IUD and while I stopped bleeding I still had the rest of the symptoms monthly, so I got it removed after about 18 months and went on continuous-use BC pill and skip the placebo week so I hardly ever get my period anymore. It's wonderful.
posted by brainmouse at 1:20 PM on March 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

I take a low dose SSRI everyday. It’s not specifically for PMS but I know some women take it for that and only take it for a week or two per month; to me it’s easier to just keep taking it. It helps a lot with the really spiky emotions, especially anger.

I still struggle to track this stuff too! I use the Spot On app; it doesn’t do auto reminders, but you can track your moods and behavior and stuff pretty easily. But I’m working on it because like you, I have one really excellent week, two OK weeks, and one useless week every month and it gets old to just stumble through it every month. On my personal calendar I’ve labeled the weeks with different colors to indicate how I’ll probably feel but of course there’s a bit of shift as my cycle changes it up from time to time.
posted by stoneandstar at 2:10 PM on March 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Definitely think about the IUD. I've had the Mirena IUD for so long that I have literally forgotten about the hell that is periods, PMS, etc. I'm on my third IUD now and i'm literally over a decade free of this crap at this point. It's simply not something that's a part of my life anymore, and I couldn't be happier about it.
posted by cgg at 2:27 PM on March 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

For cramps, taking naproxen 2-3 days before the onset of my period significantly reduces the severity of my cramps once my period does show up. This is as opposed to not doing so, waiting for my period to start, then possibly having way more severe cramps that the naproxen doesn't put as much of a dent in.
posted by yasaman at 2:51 PM on March 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

I use the Flo app for tracking my cycle. I take powdered magnesium in water once or twice a day and it helps my menstrual migraines. I agree reducing sugar, caffeine, junk food helps my energy levels a lot if I replace those options with veggies. I'm experimenting with seed cycling - it's cheap and easy to do and the fibre is good if nothing else. I used to take supplements that are designed to reduce PMS, I did find some benefits particularly in my skin, but the better I eat in general the less I feel I need them.

I also try to make the most of the high point of my cycle, I feel a distinct shift after about day 18 and try to ease up on errands and socializing, if I can put off draining work tasks until after my period I do. If I have to go to costco or do several errands in a row, I try not to go on day 27 because I'm so annoyed and frustrated and uncomfortable I can barely make it through what I'd planned. I get very tired but agitated right before my period and try to get myself to bed earlier, I use weed to help with that and it reduces the tendency to wake up halfway through the night. I find not eating sugar right before bed helps a lot too with staying asleep.

Maybe you could try an infrared sauna instead of a hard workout when you're feeling the worst? It gets your heart rate up, you sweat, you feel amazing after. I'm the opposite and totally fine skipping exercise beyond walks or yoga when I'm really low energy, I try to do the harder workouts in the first half of my cycle.
posted by lafemma at 2:53 PM on March 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

These symptoms were alleviated by my IUD when I had it in.

I now take an SSRI during the last 10 days of my period and skip the depression. Whee!
posted by samthemander at 4:10 PM on March 16, 2019

Acupuncture wiped out all my PMS symptoms along with cramps. I genuinely didn’t know that a pain free cycle was an option until then.

When I stopped doing regular acupuncture, I found cutting back on sugar and caffeine a few days before helped to stabilize my mood and lesson cramps.
posted by jenquat at 4:47 PM on March 16, 2019

Here’s what’s worked for me:
Vitamin b6, magnesium
posted by elke_wood at 5:32 PM on March 16, 2019

I use the Hormonology app, which gives a "hormone horoscope" for the purpose of predicting what kind of mood/body issues to expect on a particular day of my cycle and offering some advice for mitigating them.

It tracks your cycle with a calendar and also gives a little narrative about how you're likely to be feeling and what kind of stuff might be going on with your body based on whether you're in day 3 of week 2 or whatever. As a warning, I find the narratives themselves to be kind of condescending/grating but the information in them is still useful.
posted by space snail at 5:39 PM on March 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

I get bloating & irritable right before/at the beginning of my period and what helps, oddly enough, is one to two, but no more, 12-ounce bottles of cheap, light, low ABV beer (like Michelob Ultra). I think it's the wee bit of alcohol, the fizz, and it makes me pee lots which gives me relief.
posted by pointystick at 6:46 PM on March 16, 2019

My spouse took the SSRI Lexapro (Escitalopram) during her cycle (5-10 days a month, I can't remember exactly how long) to cut out some of the worst of the mood symptoms.
posted by AlexiaSky at 6:12 AM on March 17, 2019

Agnus Castus capsules taken daily really, REALLY helped my PMS. To the extent that my partner noticed and commented on it without knowing that I was taking anything.
posted by rrose selavy at 6:57 AM on March 17, 2019

All of my PMS symptoms go away when i'm on a keto diet. As in, to the extent that I have no clue i'll be starting my period until i see blood. If I have a cheat meal with carbs though, it's back with a vengeance. Headaches, moodiness, acne outbreaks, super tender breasts, GI issues. On keto these are all gone. I get other benefits from keto too, but i would stay on the diet just for this miraculous side-effect.
posted by PardonMyFrench at 8:11 AM on March 17, 2019

Similar to those recommending the IUD, I take a low-dose oral contraceptive every day continuously (skipping the placebo week). I do this because I have endometriosis and my cycles also aggravated my bipolar disorder, but even if I didn't, I would still recommend it. I'm no longer at the mercy of my hormones making me sad and crazy, my skin is glorious, and no periods! I wish a gyn had suggested this to me much earlier in life.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:35 AM on March 18, 2019

Not full on keto or anything like that, but the GI symptoms are reduced a ton when I get lots of whole grains and fiber (like, oatmeal with dried fruit in it for breakfast). I like that over a med because I don't feel bad about doing it on days I don't "need" it.
posted by Lady Li at 6:47 PM on March 18, 2019

Revisiting to note PMS insomnia kicked in yesterday and CBD oil definitely helped.
posted by Young Kullervo at 7:13 AM on March 20, 2019

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