6 natural cures for your PMS

I had a thoroughly depressing realization recently: If your PMS lasts about a week, your actual period another five days--and if you're also one of the lucky few who is struck with pre-PMS, go ahead and tack on another week of cravings and mood swings--that means hormones are riding roughshod over 50% of our lives. So unfair. Here, six natural ways to deal with that half of your life. (And remember to ask your doctor before taking any supplements!)

Studies have shown that magnesium can significantly reduce weight gain, swelling of the hands and legs, breast tenderness, and bloating. Beef up on magnesium-rich foods like legumes (soybeans, black beans and peanuts), dark leafy greens (swiss chard, spinach, kale) and seafood (salmon, halibut, oysters). And while it's hard to do when cravings are running rampant, limiting your sugar and salt intake can reduce bloating.

Whether you're PMS-ing or not, exercise is a tremendous natural mood stabilizer. If your body is more eager to swim laps than go to kickboxing, listen. Gentler forms of exercise like swimming, yoga, and walking might feel more appealing to you during these times of the month. Frequency, rather than intensity, has been shown to help ease moodiness. When anxiety takes hold, set aside quiet time to relax and breathe. A simple 5-minute meditation exercise can calm your mind. In fact, your usual tried-and-true methods for zen-ing out, like a hot bath, massage, or acupuncture can all help if they relax you at other times of the month.

Try swapping out your extra-strength and extra-artificial pain relievers like Midol for calcium. Studies suggest that calcium levels are lower in women with PMS. Taken with food, 1200 to 1500 mg of calcium per day has been shown to be an effective pain reliever. Another option: A study in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine found that women who took 60 mg of pine bark every day for three months reduced their cramps and breast tenderness by up to 100 percent. Wowza.

PMS affects serotonin and could cause those crazy cravings for chocolate/Cheetos/fried pickles. And unfortunately, the data out there for how to deal is limited. Exercise and the hormonal rush it gives you can help. Lay off the sauce since drinking, which can cause sugar spikes, can intensify your jonesing for Jujubes. Beyond that, you might be powerless to your body's desire for certain foods. To do what you can to minimize cravings, eat regular meals of good, wholesome food, and try keeping a journal to examine the emotions that might play a part in your cravings. But when the siren song of chocolate chips gets too sweet to ignore, just try practicing a bit of moderation. Easier said than done, of course, but one thing that's sure to make you feel worse all around is a PMS-induced binge.

Hormonal changes during PMS can, as well all know, make you breakout, but zinc may help improve PMS-related acne. Make sure you're chomping on good sources of the mineral, like oysters, red meat, shrimp, and fortified breakfast cereals. PMS-induced stress can also make skin worse, so get plenty of sleep and remember to trot out your favorite relaxation methods, like locking the bathroom door and letting a clay mask do its work.


Let's move into the bathroom for a moment, shall we? In general, ginger is a great way to calm your stomach. Make a cup of ginger "tea" by grating a quarter-ounce piece of fresh ginger and steeping it in just-boiled water. If you suffer from PMS-related constipation, try the Ayurvedic remedy of triphala, a formula of three herbal fruits which some studies have show has significant health benefits beyond encouraging a bowel movement.

Lay it out there, ladies: What are your worse PMS symptoms? Do you deal...or just give in?

Read more: