What can I do about my PMS?

Most women can successfully manage premenstrual syndrome (PMS) with a combination of education and lifestyle changes. Try these tips for several months to see if they help you:
  • Bloating and fluid retention: Limit salt intake and salty foods for 1 to 2 weeks before your period begins. Drink plenty of water and low-sodium juice.
  • Cramping in the lower abdomen, back, or thighs: Regular workouts such as aerobic exercise three times per week (e.g., walking, jogging, biking, or swimming) can help decrease the severity of cramps and increase endorphin levels. (Endorphins help the body deal with depression and physical pain.)
  • Cramps, bloating, or headache: Try a nonprescription PMS medication.
  • Cramps, tense muscles, or backache: Take a warm bath, use a heating pad or a hot water bottle, and drink herbal tea to help relax tense muscles and alleviate anxious moods. A good massage is also useful.
  • Depression or mood swings: Avoid alcohol before the start of your period. Join a PMS self-help group. You can get referrals from your doctor, local health agencies, and hospitals.
  • Emotional stress, tension, or anxiety: Record your symptoms in a journal for a few months. You may be able to tolerate PMS when you can see that your symptoms are short-lived.
  • Food craving: Eat smaller, more frequent meals. Don't skip meals. Eat at the same time each day, if possible.
  • General: Be good to yourself. Reduce your stress level as much as possible. Try yoga or deep-breathing relaxation techniques. Talk with others. PMS also affects the people you live and work with.
  • Make sure that you're getting enough calcium in your diet. A large study in New York found that PMS patients who took 1,200 mg per day of calcium carbonate had only one-half as many symptoms after three monthly cycles. You can take a calcium supplement or load up on calcium-rich foods like milk, cheese, yogurt, salmon, and broccoli.
  • Take your vitamins. Studies show that deficiencies in magnesium, B6, and B12 are associated with high levels of estrogen in the blood, and high estrogen levels contribute to PMS.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Excessive body weight increases the chance of excessive levels of estrogen in your blood. Studies show that women suffering from PMS have higher levels of estrogen in their blood.
  • Irritability, tension, or breast soreness: Avoid or limit caffeine. If you normally consume a lot of caffeine, taper your reduction to avoid caffeine-withdrawal headaches.

Dr. Robin Miller, MD
Internal Medicine

There are several things that you can do about your PMS. 

You can start by exercising regularly with a combination of moderate and vigorous exercise and strength training at least 2 days a week. Eating a healthy whole foods diet rich in fruits, vegetables and lean proteins will help. Avoiding sugar, caffeine, salty foods and alcohol is also important.

If you smoke you need to quit. Get a good night’s sleep and find ways to relax. For cramps, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications such as Advil, Aleve and Aspirin can provide relief. If the symptoms are severe, birth control pills or supplemental progesterone may be prescribed.

Folic acid, (400 mcgs), vitamin B6 (50-100 mgs), calcium (800 mgs), magnesium (400 mgs) and vitamin E (300 IU’s) also may provide relief.


Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
PMS is a problem for many women. Dr. Oz reveals the vitamin that he recommends to alleviate severe PMS in this video.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.