PMS – 5 tips to reduce symptoms

5 tips for PMS symptoms

You can usually tell when it’s almost time for your next period. Why? PMS, or premenstrual syndrome. Turns out, about 70 percent of all menstruating women experience a wide variety of PMS symptoms, both psychologically and physically. Unfortunately, often times PMS symptoms are downplayed and the motto is: just get over it. But the fact is, PMS can be incredibly uncomfortable and limit many women in their daily lives. Things as simple as getting out of bed can be difficult.

The good thing is that there are ways to alleviate the discomfort of PMS, or even avoid it altogether. How? With a healthy lifestyle and small changes that everyone can incorporate into their daily routine [1]-[3].

What is PMS?

Premenstrual syndrome refers to the symptoms some women may experience on the days leading up to their period, usually about two weeks before menstruation. These symptoms can include nausea, headaches, and weight gain, among other things. During this time, one to several symptoms can affect your well-being [1], [3].

What causes PMS?

Research has not yet clarified exactly why women suffer from PMS during their period. But possible causes include [2], [4]:

  • Hormone imbalance
  • A reaction to the breakdown products of progesterone
  • Existing mental illnesses
  • Stress, nicotine, or alcohol
  • A lack of exercise or sleep

PMS – Symptoms

From mild nausea to severe headaches and depressed mood, PMS symptoms can affect the whole body. Did you know that there are now up to 150 different symptoms known to occur with premenstrual syndrome?

As sudden as these PMS symptoms appear, they can subside two to four days after menstruation.

What are the symptoms of PMS?

The most common PMS complaints that many women have are [1]:

  • Nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, or digestive issues
  • Cravings
  • Headaches, insomnia, circulation problems
  • Tightness in the breasts
  • Skin blemishes, acne
  • Weight gain, water retention (edema)

PMS can also be accompanied by psychological symptoms such as concentration problems, fatigue, irritability, mood swings, and depressive moods [1].

If symptoms worsen, PMDD may be the cause

For example, if headaches feel worse than usual during PMS or mood swings become uncontrollable, then it may be premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). In this case, affected women feel the PMS symptoms much more intensely, especially the psychological ones [1].

To diagnose PMS, you need to keep a diary

It is best to discuss with your gynecologist whether the symptoms before your period are indicative of PMS or not. As symptoms can greatly vary they may have other underlying causes. 

This is why it is helpful to keep a diary to document your symptoms during your cycle. This will help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis.

5 tips to combat your PMS symptoms

It can be frustrating when you know PMS symptoms are coming every month. Especially when they drag down your mood and ruin possible plans with your friends. If you’ve thought until now that you always have to deal with severe PMS symptoms, know that this is definitely not the case. A healthy lifestyle can be a great way to ease the discomfort.

The following health and nutrition aspects play a big role in making PMDD symptoms more manageable: 

  • A stable blood sugar
  • Anti-inflammatory foods
  • Cravings
  • Exercise and relaxation
  • Getting good sleep

Stable blood sugar is the be-all and end-all for PMS symptoms

Blood sugar is influenced by many things. One of them is the hormones of the female cycle. Strong fluctuations during your period can lead you into a vicious circle of PMS symptoms. Therefore, it is important to try to reduce constant and strong fluctuations in your glucose as much as possible.

When your blood sugar is low, your body is signaling that it needs energy. The quick solution is to eat something sweet. But the result is that you feel incredibly hungry afterward. Especially before your period, the desire for fatty foods or sweets can increase. If you’re reaching for sweet treats often, your blood sugar can quickly shoot up. Naturally, your body will try to bring it back down, which can cause your blood sugar levels to drop too low again. And the vicious circle starts again.

Try to reduce foods that greatly increase blood glucose

Constant blood sugar fluctuations increase PMS symptoms such as headaches, cravings, mood swings, or period pain. To avoid feeling this way, you should try to stay clear of the following food categories – especially if you are prone to severe PMS or PMDD symptoms:

  • White flour products 
  • Potatoes
  • Sweets and snacks
  • Fast food
  • Soft drinks
  • Fruits such as watermelon, pineapple, and dried fruit

But be aware that everybody is unique. So your blood sugar may be sensitive to foods that don’t cause blood sugar spikes in other women. If your PMS symptoms are limiting you in your daily life, consider checking your blood sugar regularly. It may help you to incorporate certain foods into your diet to balance your blood sugar.

Eat anti-inflammatory foods

We have already described that your blood sugar can fluctuate constantly during your cycle and that your diet contributes to this. If your blood sugar rises, inflammation can be the consequence, which is usually followed by pain and discomfort. The more inflammation there is, the more uncomfortable it becomes. This may sound worrisome at first, but it’s in your control. And you can make positive changes by eating foods that help with inflammation [5].

Omega-3 fatty acids have an anti-inflammatory effect

Certain nutrients help fight inflammation, like omega-3 fatty acids. You’ll find these healthy fats in cold-pressed virgin flax or canola oil, as well as in walnuts and cold-water fish (herring, mackerel, and salmon). Omega-6 fatty acids, on the other hand, promote inflammation. They are found in red meat, sunflower oil, and coconut oil. Therefore, you should only eat these foods in small amounts, if at all, to prevent inflammation and further discomfort during your period [5].

Other than that, it’s helpful to eat plenty of vegetables – about three servings a day. You’ll find lots of phytochemicals and antioxidants in vegetables, which can also fight inflammation.

Important info:
Salt can increase your symptoms

High salt consumption may be linked to PMS symptoms. Eat no more than five grams of salt per day. Fast food, in particular, contains high amounts of salt. If you use salt mainly as a flavor enhancer, you can switch to other spices and herbs to make your food just as tasty [5].

Prevent cravings

Cravings can lead to blood sugar spikes. Foods that contain fiber keep you full for a long time and raise blood glucose slowly – which is ideal during your period. Incorporate fiber bombs into your diet like whole grain cereals, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. 

Another common cause for us to reach for the cookie jar can be that sometimes our body confuses thirst for hunger. In this case, it may be helpful to drink a glass of water first and see if the craving goes away. And another effective tip is to take your time when eating. Always chew your food slowly and thoroughly. If you don’t wolf down your food, it will keep you fuller longer.

Get enough exercise and make sure you relax

Doctors recommend doing sports and exercise to relieve PMS symptoms. But of course, only if you feel up for it. After all, you don’t want to end up feeling worse. 

Stress can also contribute to worsening your PMS symptoms. You can fight back by doing an easy yoga class or meditation. Other effective relaxation techniques are tai chi or qigong. 

Most importantly, do what feels good for you! If you need time for yourself, take it. Time is the best investment for you and your body and thus for your health.

Get enough sleep

It’s no secret that getting enough sleep is healthy. Unfortunately, we don’t always manage to do it. By improving your sleep schedule, you can significantly reduce your PMS symptoms. 

If sleepless nights haunt you, try following these tips for a good night’s rest [5]:

  • Try to go to bed at around the same time every day
  • Avoid staring at bright screens in the evening, or at least set a blue light filter
  • Caffeine, alcohol, and heavy foods in the evening are a big no-no, as they make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • Drink a nice cup of herbal tea or try meditating
  • An evening exercise session can rob you of sleep rather than make you tired, so easy does it.

Important information:

Drinks containing caffeine can increase discomfort during PMS, for example, the feeling of tightness in the chest. Try to avoid coffee, green and black tea, as well as energy drinks during this time. If you can’t live without a good cup of joe, feel free to give decaf a try [5].

In summary

Well-known remedies such as monk’s pepper or lady’s mantle tea are also optimal for PMS symptoms. But what we can’t emphasize enough is how important a healthy lifestyle is to help fight PMS symptoms. Research shows more and more that a healthy diet and an active lifestyle can alleviate PMS symptoms. This means keeping your blood sugar in check and not having to spend your days feeling uncomfortable. Start by making small changes and seeing how you can incorporate the tips above into your routine.

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[1] „Prämenstruelles Syndrom (PMS) – Nervige Tage vor den Tagen“, Die Techniker, 23. April 2020. (zugegriffen 18. April 2023).

[2] „Pschyrembel Online | PMS“. (zugegriffen 18. April 2023).

[3] P. R. Gudipally und G. K. Sharma, „Premenstrual Syndrome“, in StatPearls, Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing, 2023. Zugegriffen: 18. April 2023. [Online]. Verfügbar unter:

[4] V. D. T. Ngo u. a., „Associated factors with Premenstrual syndrome and Premenstrual dysphoric disorder among female medical students: A cross-sectional study“, PLOS ONE, Bd. 18, Nr. 1, S. e0278702, Jan. 2023, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0278702.

[5] „Neue Strategien gegen PMS Pressemitteilung der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Gynäkologie (BVF) und Geburtshilfe und des Berufsverbandes der Frauenärzte (BVF) | 2012 | Pressemitteilungen / Nachrichten | Presse | Deutsche Gesellschaft für Gynäkologie und…“ (zugegriffen 18. April 2023).

Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

more posts from author

Hello Inside Team

We have a passion for health, wellbeing and lifestyle topics. We love to discover new things and get to know ourselves better. Transforming scientific knowledge and insights into actionable advice is our goal.

more posts from author

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