We’re in a new era of period realness, with tampon taxes being voted out, companies showing actual red blood in their ads, and even athletes talking about it at the Olympics. And there’s more information than ever on how to deal with the symptoms that can make you want to curl up in a ball under the covers. For instance: Cramps are totally optional, it turns out.
So you don’t have to preemptively clear your calendar for five to seven days (or more) each month, just to deal. There’s tons of genius expert advice on PMS and period woes out there, most of which you’ve probably never heard before. (Weed-infused tampons, anyone?)
So go ahead, ditch the Midol and try out six of the most effective (and natural!) ways to get rid of PMS symptoms and painful periods—for good.
1. Balanced hormones
Ignore the hype: Rampant cravings, painful cramps, and uncontrollable mood swings are not inherently part of PMS. What’s behind them? Your hormones may be out of whack. “Usually this imbalance is caused by too much estrogen, coupled with low progesterone and key micronutrient deficiencies, and it causes your body and brain to go on a completely un-fun rollercoaster ride every month,” explains nutritionist and women’s hormone expert Alisa Vitti. Making easy lifestyle changes—diet is key—can rebalance your hormones and put the kibosh on unwanted PMS symptoms.
A full night of zzz’s both combats stress and serves as the reset your body needs in order to keep hormones at healthy levels. But how do you achieve a truly quality shut-eye session? This doc suggests going to bed an hour later for deeper sleep (so that you’re really tired and conk out faster), while Arianna Huffington has found success by “rekindling the romance with sleep.” (Ooh, la, la!) Or you could go the opposite direction and, like one pro, “literally bore yourself “ into slumber.
The plant may have major pain relief powers for your cramps. Cannabis vaginal suppositories are said to help fight inflammation, which is a root cause of cramping. And no, you probably won’t experience any sort of high, but a pain- and cramp-free uterus sounds pretty good too.
You probably already know that chamomile is soothing (with skin-clearing superpowers), but a crampy time of the month calls for a few extra cups of the natural pain reliever. “Chamomile loosens muscles that are tense during PMS and cause menstrual cramps,” explains Annie Lawless, the Blawnde holistic health coach and yogi who co-founded Suja Juice. Chef Candice Kumai also uses it to help herself fall asleep (see #2). We’ll wait while you put the kettle on….
Upping your intake of the hormone-regulating mineral can keep unwanted symptoms like bloating and cravings at bay. “Magnesium is especially important during your period because as estrogen and progesterone are elevated, magnesium is depleted,” explains Kelly LeVeque, a Los Angeles-based certified holistic nutritionist. Luckily, the mineral can be found in many foods—from avocados to chocolate—so with a little bit of mindfulness (or meal prep!), it shouldn’t be too hard to consume some extra doses. But just in case, pack a snack baggie of Brazil nuts or toss some mung beans into a soothing soup.
6. Ditch the pill
Okay, so the pill can help to regulate your period, but it may have some negative effects too—namely, it’s probably taking a toll on your gut health. And that could be causing the uncomfortable gas or bloating that are so common when PMS hits. Looking for a form of birth control that’s a little more gut-friendly? IUDs and the Fertility Awareness Method don’t slash-and-burn the good bacteria in your gut.
Bugged by bloating all month long? Identifying the cause, finding out your gut type, or supplementing with this vitamin can help get your digestive system in check—whether you have your period or not.