Sore breasts. Moodiness. Anxiety. Headaches. Tearfulness. Sound familiar? These are a few common symptoms of PMS, something that about 90 percent of people with wombs deal with on a monthly basis prior to menopause. PMS occurs in between ovulation and menstruation due to the drop in estrogen and progesterone in your body during this time, both of which then rise again—and bring you back to your normal self—within a few days after bleeding begins.
If you’ve resigned yourself to being an an anxious, moody, and/or a bloated mess for a week out of each month because it seems there is nothing to be done except cry and eat cupcakes, you’ll be heartened to know some simple nutrients can make a world of difference in the reduction of your PMS malaise. A combination of two supplements, both of which have many health benefits in addition to helping your hormone levels out, turned my life around at a time when my PMS had escalated. Not only did they help then, they have kept me feeling fabulous since.
My PMS Issues
As a person who is not generally accustomed to dealing with anxiety, let alone on a monthly basis, it was a sudden occurrence of that additional symptom that had me up in arms and searching for relief. For several months during PMS, my brain would focus on one facet of my life, like my relationship, clients, or finances, and decide (wholly outside of my sane self’s thinking!) that everything was completely wrong about that piece of my world.
It didn’t matter how much I tried to rationalize with myself, I couldn’t stop the cavalcade of terrible thoughts or assuage the feeling all was about to come crashing down. For example, I asked my partner an hour into my birthday weekend, which he had very enthusiastically joined me on several delightful months into our relationship, if he thought he’d ever want to see me again after the weekend was over. My anxiety had convinced me the relationship was finished and he would be breaking up with me on Sunday. Of course this wasn’t the case, but it inspired me to dig for a solution quickly, which only took the simple task of asking my very vitamin-knowledgeable mother.
The First Supplement that Helped
The supplement she suggested, and that quickly alleviated my anxiety completely, is an underused one: B complex. We hear regularly about B12 and the need for vegetarians to take it, but there are eight different types of B vitamins and they all serve important purposes in our bodies. While you can get enough of all in your diet if you eat a wide enough variety of foods regularly, and in large enough quantities, it’s not uncommon to be lacking in one or more and needing a boost. Because multiple forms of vitamin B have roles in your brain chemistry and your nervous system, taking a B complex ensures you are covering all the bases of what vitamin B accomplishes.
Anxiety that felt crippling and lasted for nearly a week out of each month left me as suddenly as it arrived once I began taking B complex daily, and hasn’t returned in the two years since. I continue to take it daily for its bevy of other important functions, such as regulating immunity and metabolism, and breaking down the carbohydrates from food. It’s also important to note that if you are a womb-owning person who has intent or hope of conceiving, the B vitamin folate is critical for the healthy development of your potential baby. By taking a B complex vitamin regularly, the gap of time between getting pregnant and discovering won’t suffer from lack of folate (which is in prenatal supplements as folic acid).
Having successfully tackled the disaster of monthly anxiety, I felt pretty okay about the rest of my PMS symptoms because I didn’t think they were likely to be easily abated, and hey, at least they weren’t irrationally convincing me the world was going to end. Thankfully, I was completely wrong that they were here to stay! When I met with my naturopath and told her of my success battling PMS anxiety by way of B complex, Dr. Nancy Evans, ND thought that my breast tenderness, migraine-for-a-day level headaches, and moodiness could be resolved too. She suggested the addition of omega-3 into my supplement routine.
The Second Supplement That Helped
Omega-3 has been proven to reduce PMS-related depression, nervousness, anxiety, and lack of concentration on the psychiatric front, and bloating, headaches, and breast tenderness on the physical side. It’s noteworthy that with long term usage of omega-3, effectiveness increased. Omega 3 can be found in seafoods such as oily fish, and in smaller doses in seeds like flax and chia. Why is omega-3 so effective at combatting PMS? This is Dr. Evans’ take: “PMS symptoms are often a sign of general inflammation and congestion in the body. One of the best ways to reduce that inflammation is by eating a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet—lots of vegetables and adequate protein, while eliminating all sugars and processed foods. The best supplement to reduce inflammation are Omega-3 fish oils. If the PMS symptoms include menstrual cramps, then adding in Magnesium glycinate and a B-Complex will usually eliminate the cramps by relaxing smooth muscle. Most women can virtually eliminate problem periods with diet, a few of these supplements and moderate exercise.”
Inflammation is no stranger to causing health problems; it is, in fact, the root cause of many illnesses and diseases, from autoimmune conditions to cancer. It makes perfect sense, then, that many PMS symptoms are also related to inflammation. Because I’m a go big or go home kind of gal, I chose a highly concentrated krill oil with advanced absorption capabilities. The bonus of this product, beyond being as mighty as an omega-3 pill can be, is that in the concentration process they remove the unpleasant odor. It has a light vanilla scent, compared to most other omega-3 supplements that smell fishy and can cause indigestion.
Krill oil is considered superior to fish oil because it is more easily absorbed. Krill are itsy bitsy shrimp-like crustaceans, while fish oil is sourced from larger fish like tuna, salmon, or cod. If you’re looking for a vegan version of an omega-3 supplement, an algae based supplement is considered the most promising, but is still being studied and has not yet been proven equally effective on a similarly large scale as krill.
Knowing all that, it shouldn’t be surprising that krill oil resolved my remaining PMS symptoms. My breasts still grow a fraction of a size and feel heavier, but I’m able to exercise without pain through that week. And while I occasionally get a headache on the day I start bleeding, it is never so bad anymore that it takes over my day.
The Bottom Line
PMS is something we’ve been told to live with for so long that we often don’t even look for solutions. However, relief is out there, and we can feel better by capitalizing on it! Here’s to being fully functional, all month long.