Do you suffer from monthly meltdown or a seven-day sore tum? Find relief with our ultimate girly guide and combat periods problems now
Aches and pains
'You may not suffer pain every month, but now and again periods can become very painful – which is usually perfectly normal,' says GP Dr Rob Hicks. 'However, if the pain becomes worse on a frequent basis and the bleeding is a lot heavier, these could be signs of endometriosis.' Endometriosis is when cells from the lining of the uterus appear outside the uterine cavity. Its main symptom is pelvis pain.
Tender breasts are a common symptom of hormonal imbalances as oestrogen enlarges breast ducts, and progesterone boosts the growth of milk glands. 'Try evening primrose oil, rich in anti-inflammatory acids for at least two months, unless you have epilepsy,' says Boots pharmacist Angela Chalmers.
'Ditch dairy and red meat for a couple of months to see if it helps,' says Embarrassing Bodies’ Dr Pixie. 'It will reduce exposure to artificial hormones, and a number of studies have shown a link between PMS and a high animal-fat intake. Eating cereals, pulses, green vegetables and oily fish instead will give you all the protein, calcium, magnesium and vitamin D you need.'
Dr Pixie suggests taking ibuprofen or paracetamol, or rub an anti-inflammatory cream such as Voltarol Emulgel P and Ibuleve on painful areas, and wear a soft bra overnight to provide comfortable support.
Don’t be fooled
Often we self-diagnose ourselves with PMS and other period-related symptoms if we are nearing that time of the month. However, it’s important to make sure your diagnosis isn’t masking more damaging health issues. 'If you also suffer from symptoms such as abnormal discharge, fever, nausea or pain during sex, you may have an infection or pelvic inflammatory disease, so get it checked out by your GP or a genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinic,' says Dr Hicks.
Are you taking a concoction of pills to sedate your PMS problems? We all long for a way to beat PMS, but a self-made supplement concoction isn’t the answer. Many supplements share the same route of absorption, creating the potential for interactions. St John’s Wort, for example, can interact with flower oils and lead to bloating and indigestion. Research has linked vitamin B6 deficiency to PMS, so if you’re suffering, try 100mg a day. You’ll need zinc (15mg a day) and magnesium (200mg a day) for B6 to work effectively, and magnesium has the added bonus of being ‘nature’s tranquiliser'.
Some women suffer from prolonged PMS symptoms, which can last throughout the month. You may want to visit your GP as there may be an underlying issue that’s causing your upset. Dr Pixie says, 'It’s very unusual to have PMS symptoms for so long, so ask your GP for blood tests to check for hormonal or thyroid problems. If these are ruled out, you may be suffering from depression with the added annoyance of PMS. Although antidepressants may sound scary, they can bring about a marked improvement of your symptoms. Do speak to your GP about your options and any concerns you have.'
You can also your GP about Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), a psychological treatment that’s been proven to help PMS. It’s based on exercises that help you change the way you think and act when you’re feeling low. 'Coffee can cause irritability by increasing blood pressure, so if your main issue is mood swings, you need to permanently cut back on the espressos,' says Dr Pixie.
Take note if your periods are getting progressively heavier, as it could have an impact on your ability to conceive. 'Heavy bleeding, especially if it’s heavy for the whole duration of your period or you’re passing clots, is a symptom of endometriosis and fibroids, both of which are fertility saboteurs,' explains consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Peter Bowen-Simpkins. A check-up with your GP could rule out any conditions that might harm the health of your ovaries, womb or fallopian tubes.
Once you’ve had the all-clear, look at your lifestyle. Stress is a major contributor to heavy periods, and problems with conception. 'I recommend Qigong, a calming exercise that also generates good Qi – considered essential for fertility in Chinese medicine,' says fertility guru Emma Cannon, author of The Baby-Making Bible (PanMacmillan, £14.99).
Reduce it with a programme of regular exercise and yoga. 'If you’re flooding through to your bedding or passing clots, keep a menstrual diary for three months, marking your flow out of 10, and show it to your GP,' says Dr Pixie. 'You may be prescribed mefanemic acid, which can reduce blood flow and pain.’
Beat the bloat 'Hormonal changes trigger water retention,' says expert Dr Glenville. 'Cut down on salt and drink six to eight cups of water, juice or herbal tea a day – if you dehydrate, your body holds on to any water it does get, causing bloating.'
Try the diuretic Aquaban Herbal, £3.59, a traditional herbal remedy that contains three natural diuretics. 'Or massage your abdomen with two drops each of fennel, rosemary and juniper essential oils in 15ml of sweet almond oil,' says Dr Glenville.
Workout way out
Reassess your exercise regime – regular exercise not only helps to reduce stress, but the endorphin release will help lift your mood. 'Stress can affect your hormone balance to the extent that it affects regularity and you can miss periods altogether. In addition, it can make you produce excess testosterone, which can contribute to acne and even thinning hair,' says Dr Glenville.
When you’re feeling tired and bloated, the thought of the gym is pretty unappealing, but exercise is better than vegging out at banishing time-of-the-month woes. 'Just 30 minutes of exercise a day relieves stress, lifts your mood, and reduces excess testosterone,' says Dr Glenville.
Thanks to our experts there really is no need to curl up and hide any more. Why not create your own complete period survival kit?
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