How I Cured My PMS (and You Can Too)

Warning: Gentlemen, you are probably not going to be that engaged by this column. You could just forward it to the women in your life who might be interested.

Ladies, how much of your life do you write off because you know you’re going to be in the throes of PMS, lying on the couch, curled up into a ball, eating chocolate and clutching your swollen abdomen? I was right there with you. I used to have the worst PMS. Painful, swollen breasts. Cramps. Cravings. Energy levels in the toilet.

But I have made some dietary and lifestyle changes lately that have completely transformed my experience. Now, I have no premenstrual symptoms. None. If I didn’t keep track of when it was due, my period would be a complete surprise every month. (I also had a baby, which changes pretty much everything about your body, so that is likely a factor, too. But the transformation is so complete, I know that no one thing can be wholly responsible.) If you’re losing days every month, I hope some of these tactics will help you find a kind of period peace. 

Buh-bye soy

I had a real love affair going on with soy milk for a while. I had it in my cereal, in my tea, for an afternoon snack. My husband and I went through about a gallon a week. Then I read Nina Planck’s Real Food, where I learned that soy is estrogenic, and it can disrupt the delicate hormonal balance in the body. All my PMS symptoms are generally associated with excess estrogen, so even a mild estrogenic effect from soy could have been tipping my balance toward too much.

So long, sugar

This was harder to do, I will admit. I have always loved my chocolate — a couple squares of dark chocolate after dinner made the meal complete. When I was pregnant, it was more like half a bar of chocolate.

But then two things happened. One, my daughter started eating solids, and I didn’t want to automatically get her accustomed to the taste of sugar. So I only served her plain yogurt, and I didn’t sweeten her oatmeal or her applesauce. And because it seemed unfair for me to eat the sugared-up versions, I also started cutting out added sugar wherever I could.

I still loved and craved my chocolate, however. Until I made myself sick — twice — by eating too many Trader Joe’s dark chocolate covered almonds. Now I only have dessert once a week. I had always read that indulging in your craving for sweet and/or salty foods during PMS only made it worse, but I refused to believe the connection. Now I do.

Hello omega-3

I’ve gotten very diligent about taking 1,000 mg of omega-3 (from fish oil). Omega-3 helps regulate your hormonal balance, which in turn can ease PMS symptoms such as breast tenderness.

Welcome to the red tent

Finally, I have been making it a point to do as little as possible on the first day of my period. In their fabulous book, Yoga for a Healthy Menstrual Cycle, Linda Sparrowe and Patricia Walden suggest that the more rest you get during your period, the better you’ll feel all month long.

In ancient times, all women used to menstruate at the new moon, and they’d gather inside a red tent and take a break from their daily chores to relax in each other’s company. I know we’ve come a long way, baby, and our tampon commercials show women riding bikes, flying kites and climbing mountains. But perhaps there’s some wisdom we’ve lost over the millennia about how to care for ourselves during our periods.

I’m not suggesting you stay home from work, necessarily. (Although if you want to and can, why not?) But perhaps you can find ways to accommodate your monthly cycle by forgoing anything that’s not absolutely mandatory and/or nurturing for the first day or two of your period. Just try it, and notice how you feel on your subsequent cycles.

Republished with permission; read more by Kate Hanley in her Gaiam blog and at

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Barbara428's picture
User offline. Last seen 6 years 44 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 09/16/2009

What a great article! As I sit here experiencing PMS symptoms and realize that even though I don't feel great, I'm not slowing down. What a great idea to take a "red tent day" at least one day each month. And I've also begun to cut back on my soy milk consumption, choosing (and enjoying!) the new coconut milk beverages by So Delicious, instead.

Viv's picture
User offline. Last seen 6 years 44 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 09/17/2007

This is a great article. I have been challenging some of my own long-held assumptions too (like soy milk, also after reading Real Food). I cut out soy milk for me (and my daughter), take cod liver oil daily, and am doing far more exercise. The big one I have a hard time sticking to is ensuring I get enough sleep, and that is the one I know will have the biggest impact.

CSConn's picture
User offline. Last seen 6 years 24 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 09/22/2009

Great article =) Sleep & water help too!

Also all women should read "the red tent", I read it last year and it was great! Very empowering, sad, and yet wonderful story.

miakana's picture
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Joined: 06/02/2015

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