Editor’s Note: This article explores ways to find relief for common PMS symptoms through a personal lens and informed opinions, based on research linked throughout. It is not meant to diagnose or cure individualized health concerns. Please connect with a trusted healthcare professional for more in-depth, personalized care in this area.
Easy periods, I always said. I had easy periods. Bleeding-wise, sure, they weren’t anything to complain about. But as the years, then decades, went on, I fell into a routine of feeling near-awful nearly all the time and living with it. My moods were, um, let’s call them inconsistent, I was constantly exhausted, headache-y at times, and what were those tiny bumps on my forehead all about?
In addition to all the symptoms, then I had an IUD put in, Valentine’s Day 2016, and bled continuously—every single day—for almost two years. And then again for an additional six months a couple of years later. To be clear: I do not regret getting an IUD. I do regret not understanding WTF each of my symptoms was trying to tell me, and tell me in loud, bleeding-for-years-at-a-time ways. Kind, competent OBGYNs gave me shrugs and prescriptions for hormonal birth control pills on top of the hormonal piece of plastic shoved into my uterus, but no mentions of vitamins or nourishing foods. No one whispered the words “magnesium” or “calcium.” If only I’d known then what I know now.
As the years, then decades, went on, I fell into a routine of feeling near-awful nearly all the time and living with it. My moods were, um, let’s call them inconsistent, I was constantly exhausted, headache-y at times, and what were those tiny bumps on my forehead all about?
Monica Grohne, founder of wellness company Marea, has her own period story to tell. She got her first period at the age of nine, and by eleven she was put on hormonal birth control to supposedly help with her acne and heavy periods. “From there my mood went all over the place,” she says. “By the time I was twenty-five I was realizing how hard it was for me to maintain my relationships and stay level-headed. I felt out of control.”
“I was experiencing, what I thought to be, out of the blue mood changes—anger, exhaustion, a total lack of interest in my normal life—and on top of that headaches and bloating that were making me feel uncomfortable in my own body.” Monica didn’t make a connection between her symptoms and her menstrual cycle, but Monica’s therapist did. “Low and behold, it was pretty spot on—no pun intended—every twenty-eight days, right before my menstrual bleed, I was experiencing symptoms,” she says. “Unfortunately at the time, #PeriodTikTok didn’t exist and hormone health coaches weren’t blowing up Instagram, so I had to do a lot of research myself.”
With the help of her OBGYN, she began a supplement program. “I could get behind replenishing micronutrients knowing our food system and soils just weren’t as nourishing as they once were and I had learned from my research that seventeen years of birth control had depleted me of many key nutrients,” Monica says. “Within two months my symptoms were drastically diminishing, but the twelve pill supplement regimen every day was obnoxious to say the least. After about a year of habitually taking my supplements, I’d get lazy, stop taking them, and my symptoms would rear their head.”
The more Monica learned, the more passionate she got, the more she talked to friends, and the more she realized there were lots of women suffering in silence, just putting up with the misery.
A myriad of reasons—from the modern diet to environmental toxins to prescription drugs (including birth control)—oftentimes leave women depleted in key nutrients needed to support our hormonal balance. “Science has shown that supplementing these nutrients and supporting ourselves with quality sleep and nourishing food can reduce hormone imbalance-related symptoms, like PMS!”
With the help of a Registered Dietitian and an OBGYN, Monica dug into the science behind each nutrient and how they support hormonal balance, then finalized a formula for the Marea Elixir. Below Monica shares her scientific and anecdotal evidence with us, and walks us through how we can start to understand our cycle and symptoms better, as well as how different nutrients can support our hormonal needs.
(Editor’s Note: Head here for more information on the research behind Monica’s findings.)
What should women pay attention to throughout their cycle?
“I always say that the first step to healing from any kind of imbalance is by creating awareness. For many, this is tracking your cycle. From energy levels, to symptoms, to what kind of tasks your brain wanted to focus on that day—all of these clues can tell you about what phase of your cycle you’re in. Luckily there are so many tools to track with today. Many people like using an app like Clue or Aavia. I’m more of a handwritten-on-paper type and like to use a printable or keep track of how I’m feeling in a journal.”
What lifestyle changes should women consider to alleviate PMS symptoms?
“I believe the most important lifestyle changes are getting seven+ hours of sleep every night, eating an anti-inflammatory diet including making sure you’re eating enough carbs and healthy fats, staying properly hydrated, and replenishing micronutrients regularly. Many of these, like sleep and hydration, are things menstruators can implement today that can help to alleviate symptoms.”
How do I remedy my PMS symptoms?
Symptom: Mood swings
Remedy: “The following nutrients have been shown to help reduce mood-related symptoms: B vitamins like B6, B9, and B12, magnesium, calcium, vitamin D, and omega-3s. It has also been shown that increasing complex carbs like beans and sweet potatoes can help regulate mood.”
Remedy: “Caffeine and alcohol play a role in bloating and it’s suggested to reduce these throughout your cycle and especially in your Luteal phase to reduce this symptom. In addition, adding magnesium, calcium, and omega-3s can help support and reduce bloat.”
Remedy: “Dairy and caffeine have been shown to increase hormonal acne. While upping your intake of vitamin A (leafy greens and root vegetables), zinc and essential fatty acids may also help reduce breakouts.”
Symptom: Appetite changes
Remedy: “Cravings are common and can be curbed by regulating blood sugar, eating often, and increasing complex carbohydrates.
Symptom: Sleep disturbances and fatigue
Remedy: “Avoid screen time thirty minutes before bed and try taking magnesium before bedtime in addition to cutting out alcohol and caffeine. Vitamin B, vitamin D, and calcium have also been shown to reduce overall fatigue and boost energy.”
Remedy: “You guessed it—reducing caffeine and alcohol will help here, as well as increasing calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, vitamin B1, and omega-3s. Topical magnesium oil has also been known to help with cramping or a hot Epsom salt bath.”
Symptom: Breast tenderness
Remedy: “Breast tenderness may be reduced by wearing a supportive bra and increasing vitamin E, antioxidants, calcium, and omega-3s while reducing alcohol consumption.”
While Monica is, of course, a proponent of supplements, she notes that any single supplement of any kind isn’t a quick fix. “Healing hormone imbalance takes time and dedication to creating small changes in your life.”
Megan is a writer, editor, etc.-er who muses about life, design and travel for Domino, Lonny, Hunker and more. Her life rules include, but are not limited to: zipper when merging, tip in cash and contribute to your IRA. Be a pal and subscribe to her newsletter Night Vision.