Premenstrual tension syndrome, or PMS, is something most women have suffered with at least once in their lives (if they’re lucky). Periods in general are often downplayed and waved off as ‘that time of the month’. PMS is joked about and rarely is it treated as a health issue that can impact your everyday life, albeit for a few days a month. But new research is giving us cause pause for thought when it comes to our approach. A recent study has revealed that painful periods can result in nine days of low productivity a year.
That’s not to say we’re taking nine days off work every year due to stomach cramps and lethargy, but rather that the symptoms of PMS result in lower productivity that amounts to nearly two working weeks per year.
The Dutch study looked at over 32,000 women, aged between 15 and 45 years, and found that women were more likely to power through, but presenteeism (working while sick) results in lower output during menstruation. In general, women felt unwell for around 23 days each year due to PMS and 3.5 percent of those asked had to take time off from work or school regularly.
So, how can you reduce the symptoms of PMS?
“There are a number of natural remedies that may be effective at alleviating the symptoms of PMS,” says Shabir Daya, registered pharmacist and co-founder of VH. “In all probability, there is not just one single remedy that will address all the varying symptoms that women experience.”
That said, there are a handful of natural remedies that can help minimise the symptoms. “Magnesium B6 & Saffron supplement by Viridian Nutrition contains 200mg magnesium, vitamin B6 and Saffron extract to help counter some of the most common symptoms,” says Daya.
Some women also find that taking Evening Primrose Oil in the week leading up to their periods can help ease cramps, mood swings, tender breasts and low energy. Look to Evening Primrose Oil 1300mg by Solgar or Lamberts Evening Primrose Oil with Starflower Oil.
Can diet and exercise impact PMS?
Aside from introducing supplements into your routine, gentle exercise such as yoga, barre and swimming also helps as you get a release of endorphins that boost your mood. Diet can also play a role and the Association of UK Dietitians (BDA) recommends regularly balanced meals with a low salt, caffeine, alcohol and trans-fat intake.
Some people can experience a dip in blood sugar levels before their period, the BDA also recommends: “Basing meals and snacks around low GI carbohydrates (such as pasta and granary bread) may help with PMS symptoms by maintaining an even blood sugar level.” A study in 2014 linked dairy consumption, in particular milk, with PMS.
While there is no miracle cure or quick fix to reducing stomach cramps and mood swings, the increase in research is making periods less of a taboo topic and giving us a greater understanding around the symptoms and impact they can have on our overall health and lifestyle.
To leave more about the natural remedies for PMS, read Shabir’s piece: Symptoms Of Premenstrual Syndrome.