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In our society, we have made premenstrual syndrome (PMS) “normal,” when in all reality it isn’t normal and is actually a sign that there is a deeper-rooted problem. PMS is so common and almost every woman I know has experienced it, to some degree.

Most of the time, doctors will prescribe hormonal birth control or prescription meds for PMS symptoms such as cramps, acne, or mood swings. Unfortunately, pills and synthetic hormones just temporarily cover up the symptoms like a Band-Aid in the long run. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for pharmaceuticals and doctors, but when it comes to our cycles there is the option to tackle it using a more natural approach. It takes a little work, but by the end of this you won’t be dreading your period every month.

First thing’s first, we have to look at why these symptoms are here. Every symptom is our body telling us something is wrong. If you are dealing with constant fatigue, bloating, digestive trouble, acne, mood swings, and cravings (among many other symptoms) then you are most likely experiencing hormonal imbalances.

So what habits should we change? You can start with attempting to reduce stress. Stress is a huge culprit and adds to inflammation in the body. When we are constantly in “fight or flight” mode we are unable to do regular things such as digest our foods or get proper sleep. Meditation, yoga, walking, reading or taking time alone, are good ways to help relax.

You can also try cutting out dairy. Conventional dairy is full of antibiotics and hormones. All of those additives are inflammatory and could be the single culprit for your acne and worsened PMS symptoms. I recommend removing it from your diet for a month and then reintroducing it and see how you react.

Incorporating lots of healthy fats can also help with PMS. Fats are needed for the production and regulation of hormones and they also stabilize blood sugar. Some good sources are coconut oil, avocados, nuts, pumpkin seeds and egg yolks.

What to do the week before your period? Avoid sugary, salty and processed foods, coffee and alcohol. These dehydrate you, cause you to hold onto more water weight and deplete your body of vitamins and minerals. You want your plate to be full of colourful veggies, good quality protein and healthy fats.

For cramps and back pain, supplement with 200-400 mg of magnesium every night starting the week before your period. It is one of the most common deficiencies and the pill depletes magnesium along with other nutrients such as B vitamins and zinc. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant and as a bonus, it will put you into deeper sleep, which is also amazing for hormone health.

If you are interested in balancing your hormones I recommend talking with a nutritionist or naturopath so they can give you proper meal plans, lifestyle and supplement recommendations to aid your body in the healing process.

Gabby is currently studying applied holistic nutrition at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition.