The 5 Most Common PMS Symptoms—And How to Fix Them
By Hannah Burnstein
Fact: if you asked 10 menstruators how they know their period is coming each month, you’d get 10 different answers. Acne, cramps, bloating, mood swings, breast tenderness, general muscle pain, sleep issues… All of these are symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, AKA PMS, AKA the physical and emotional changes you undergo before getting your period. Funnily enough, there’s one source for all PMS symptoms: hormones! These chemical messengers rise and fall at certain points in your cycle, and those fluctuations are the reason you start to feel weird ahead of the *big arrival*. Fortunately, thanks to ~science~, the menstrual cycle isn’t all bad. Spoiler: we’re talking about ourselves! We’ve got the science! Scroll to the end for our catchall relief for *every* PMS symptom—her name’s MOOD FOOD and she’s a proven cycle savior. In the meantime, let’s discuss five common PMS symptoms and their fixes.
Cramps are perhaps the most common (and the most physically challenging) of all PMS symptoms. For most people with periods, they present as throbbing pains in the lower abdomen. This pain is thanks to the release of hormonelike substances called prostaglandins, which cause the uterus to contract—et voila, cramps! Cramps can range from annoying to debilitating, and if you’re on the more intense end of that scale, we recommend speaking with your doctor before attempting any solutions on your own. But, for many people, aerobic exercise alleviates cramps because it releases beta-endorphins that help your body relieve pain. Think walking, biking, swimming, or rowing. And yes, we know what you’re thinking: everyone hates exercise! But it’ll make you feel better. We promise.
Periods are difficult enough without your skin betraying you! Unfortunately, the menstrual gods didn’t consider our feelings when they decided to give us hormonal acne. A lot of period-getters deal with zits and pimples just before that time of the month because of two hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Right before a period, these hormones drop to low levels, which triggers sebaceous glands to produce more sebum (oil). Too much oil equals clogged pores and breakouts, usually on the lower part of the face. Acne likes to invade your cheeks, jawline, chin, and neck—as if you didn’t have enough to worry about already. Sucks, right? To combat pre-period acne as it happens, try using an ingredient that’ll clear out dead skin cells, like salicylic acid. Both of our masks—PORE VAC and PRESS REFRESH—contain this gentle-yet-effective exfoliant to neutralize sebum and other gunk. We especially like using PORE VAC on individual zits during periods! But what about banishing pre-period acne before it can even crop up? Stay tuned ‘till the end.
Ah, there’s nothing I love more than feeling like Aunt Marge once a month… Said literally nobody ever! A lot of menstruators will get bloated before their periods due to—you guessed it—hormones. The ebbs and flows of estrogen and progesterone cause your body to retain more water and salt. This, in turn, makes cells swell with water and leaves us feeling like Tyra asked us to give balloon, but make it fashion (shouts to fashion’s most controversial task-master). To avoid bloating, you may sadly have to call it quits with super salty food in the days before your period arrives. Instead, try whole foods that contain potassium (bananas, avocado, green leafy veggies, potatoes) to counteract high levels of sodium.
Here’s a universal experience for all menstruators: feeling like an emotional POS, bursting into tears, laughing, crying again, waking up the next morning with puffy eyes and—ah, your period. Suddenly, everything makes sense. Research says that mood swings tend to occur when people are hypersensitive to the hormone fluctuations that happen during the menstrual cycle. Like cramps, mood swings can be mild or extreme, and if you experience intense mood swings, you should talk to your doctor—this could be an indication of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which differs from PMS due to the severity and duration of symptoms. For more mild mood swings, we’ll say it again! Aerobic exercise is a great management strategy because it produces endorphins that boost your mood. Yoga and meditation are also gentler alternatives that achieve the same benefits.
Just like other PMS symptoms, there’s real science behind why you feel like you absolutely *must* eat an entire candy store/fast food restaurant/burger joint before your period! If you’re craving carb-rich or sweet foods in particular, estrogen and progesterone (again!) are likely at play. So what? Why don’t you just give in to the craving? You totally can! But the caveat is that eating your craving, especially when it contains lots of sugar, salt, or carbs, makes you feel *worse* most of the time. Does it ever get easier for period getters?! Don’t answer that, actually. To curb cravings, do! Not! Avoid them altogether. Instead, figure out if there’s a sweet or salty alternative that can do the trick. For some savory action, try beans, lentils, cheese, or whole grain sourdough. For a sweet tooth, try smoothies, fruit, or some good-quality dark chocolate. But also, like… There’s no shame in giving in to cravings. That’s between you, yourself, and nobody else!
Whenever I think about chasing down even one of these symptoms, I immediately break into a stress-induced sweat. And I know I’m not alone! A lot of people don’t have the time and resources to pay meticulous attention to their diet or research the best skincare actives for pre-period acne. What’s a busy menstruator to do, you ask? Well, the answer used to be nothing, until we created MOOD FOOD! We’ve formulated our gummy supplement with five time-tested actives to alleviate *all* PMS symptoms, including the ones mentioned above. After two cycles, it does the most for your menstrual cycle without requiring an exercise routine, diet change, or topical treatment—but those do help! The future of PMS care is here, and it’s edible (and berry-flavored). 😉
Read more about pre-period acne here!