Ease PMS symptoms, shame with quick remedies

By Kate Evans


Whether you’re a guy and the acronym terrifies you or you’re a girl suffering from it, seldom is the term “PMS” socially acceptable.

PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome, and it’s really not as scary as it sounds. It occurs prior to and sometimes during menstruation – which women experience once a month as their bodies prepare for sexual reproduction.  PMS symptoms range from woman to woman, but can include both physical and emotional ailments.

Physical symptoms can include bloating, fatigue, acne, headaches, lower back and general body pain, food cravings, breast swelling and more, according to WebMD. In addition to that plethora of system-assaults, emotional and behavioral symptoms can also include mood swings, depression, anxiety, inability to concentrate, anger, irritability and more, according to WebMD.

“An estimated 3 of every 4 menstruating women experience some form of premenstrual syndrome,” according to mayoclinic.com.  That’s 75 percent of women. Let’s take that statistic into account at the University of Massachusetts. With 27,000 students – assuming about 13,500 of those are female – that means 10,125 UMass students are experiencing some form of PMS symptoms regularly.

With that many women suffering, one would think a topic so normal as female bodily function wouldn’t be mocked in mainstream media. Martin Scorsese’s 2006 hit flick “The Departed,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson, even featured a jab at PMS. When DiCaprio’s character, Billy, asks the bartender for a cranberry juice, a man behind the bar chimes in saying, “It’s a natural diuretic. My girlfriend drinks it when she’s got her period. What, do you got your period?”

That’s not the end of it, either. After several unrelated dialogue exchanges, Mr. French (Ray Winstone) asks Billy what he’s drinking. Upon hearing “a cranberry juice,” Mr. French responds, “What is it, your period?”

While millionaire actors are making audiences all around the world laugh at PMS and menstruation, women are the ones suffering. Maybe if PMS and periods were discussed more regularly and openly, women and their bodies wouldn’t be made into Hollywood hits.

So instead of quietly caressing pained abdomens and shamefully stuffing tampons in your pockets when walking to the restroom, learn to embrace your period and all of its accompaniments. There are many ways to lessen the symptoms of PMS and feel better mentally and physically – but whether you shout from the rooftops that the painters are in is up to you.

Participating in regular physical activity helps to improve symptoms of PMS because it minimizes depression, pain and tension, according to WebMD.  Yoga is a great exercise because it enhances mood while relieving stress. Bikram Yoga Amherst is currently offering a spring special where, if you bring in a bouquet of store-bought or handpicked flowers, you get one free yoga class. The offer is only valid for several more days – until April 30 – so wake up and smell the flowers.

Staying hydrated and limiting salt intake prior to and during menstruation can also help ease symptoms, according to mayoclinic.com. By limiting salt, you can aid in the reduction of bloating and water weight gain during those few days. Staying hydrated is always important, but with healthy drinks such as water and electrolyte-containing, low-sugar drinks, it can help your body flush. Step away from the salt shakers at the dining commons’ and opt for the pepper and a tall glass of water instead.

Surprise! Chocolate helps PMS, too. According to the Huffington Post, chocolate is choice for PMS because it contains endorphins that boost your mood, similar to the effect of exercise. Dark chocolate is best because it possesses more health benefits than milk or white chocolates. Among those benefits are omega-6 fatty acids, magnesium and omega-3, which boosts your mood, according to the Huffington Post.

“Look for chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cacao to experience its maximum benefits,” said Beth Ricanati, M.D., in the article “Natural Ways to Ease PMS Symptoms.”

If natural methods simply don’t cut it for your flow this month, over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can be taken to help relieve symptoms associated with physical pain such as cramping and headaches. More specifically designed OTC medications such as Midol contain several ingredients packed into one dose to more quickly and efficiently combat womanly woes. Midol Complete contains a high strength pain reliever, caffeine and a diuretic to help bloating, according to the company’s website. Other variations of the medication, such as Midol Extended Relief, are said to provide relief for up to 12 hours, according to the website.

With the help of exercise, limited salt intake, proper hydration, a little indulgence and pain relievers, the symptoms of PMS can generally be aided. These temporary ailments are not to be feared or made fun of – but used as an excuse to eat lots of chocolate and try yoga. We’ll save the cranberry juice for Mr. French.

Kate Evans can be reached at [email protected]