What really works for PMS and period pain

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  • Around 90% of women suffer from pre-menstrual tension (also known as pre-menstrual syndrome/PMS) and many women suffer from cramps and pains before and during their period too. But you don’t have to go through it because we’ve found out what really works for PMT and period pain.

    According to a recent study more than half of us feel totally useless and unwell in the run up to our periods and 42% said that they deliberately started a fight or argument during PMT because they felt out of control.

    Aside from these extreme symptoms most of us experience bloating, cramps, backache and breast tenderness, as well as psychological symptoms such as depression, mood swings, anger and tearfulness.

    Studies are regularly carried out into PMT and period pain – and can have confusing results. Over the last few months we’ve heard that exercise doesn’t help when it comes to beating period pain – even though it’s been recommended by experts for years. And a new study has said that there is ‘promising evidence’ that acupuncture could relieve period pains.

    So, how do we know what really works? We spoke to the National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome for advice and one of the UK’s leading experts on PMT, Jonathon Wellbeck-Pure, a naturopath, homeopath and nutritionist.

    Bloating and water retention

    Some women can put on up to 5lbs just before their period and this is usually just water but the best remedy for this is actually drinking more water because this helps your body to flush out the excess water and toxins.

    Here’s your action plan:

    • Drink more water – 8 glasses a day is ideal Eat more high-fibre foods, such as wholegrain bread and pasta and brown rice
    • Try a herbal tea such as nettle or fennel as these are known to help with water retention

    Spots and dry skin

    Isn’t it annoying that even as an adult you can get acne? But adult acne is now quite common, especially just before or during your period. This is because changes in your hormones affect your skin and hair. Some women get spots, especially around the mouth and chin, some get dry patches of dry skin.

    Here’s your action plan:

    • The solution for both is the same, Jonathon recommends evening primrose oil capsules or blackcurrant seed oil capsules, but you need to take the recommended dose for 2 – 3 months before you see any difference. The reason these supplements can help is because they are Gamma Linolenic Acids (GLA), which are essential fatty acids that can help to balance hormones.

    Mood swings and emotional problems

    Do you ever feel yourself totally losing it for no reason? Or do you get really low and teary? Unfortunately, one of the most common symptoms of PMT is a change in emotional behaviour, such as tantrums, mood swings, aggression and
    depression. This happens because the hormones associated with periods
    change the levels of two mood hormones, cortisol, which is our stress
    hormone, and serotonin, which is our happy hormone. When these levels
    change we experience all sorts of emotional problems.

    Here’s your action plan:

    • Speak to someone. Some women with very severe emotional symptoms find it’s a great help talking to a counsellor
    • If the emotional problems of PMT are ruining your life talk to your doctor, he or she may recommend anti-depressants
    • You might also find the herbal remedy St John’s Wort helpful too, although tell your doctor first as it can interfere with other medication
    • Vitamin D helps to lift your mood too, which you get from some fats and oils and sunshine – so there’s no excuse not to get out and get some fresh air.


    There are several theories why women get backache during PMT. It could
    be because water retention puts pressure on your back or that the back
    is the most vulnerable area to suffer from the aches and pains
    associated with PMT.

    Here’s your action plan:

    • Take up an exercise class that’s good for your back, such as Yoga or Pilates
    • These are also very relaxing forms of exercise so can help you get rid of anxiety during your period too
    • Run a warm bath, soaking in warm water can ease tense muscles and help you to relax

    Tummy cramps

    Researchers have recently found that
    exercise doesn’t help to reduce period pain – despite it being
    recommended to women for years. Although experts said exercise was still
    very important for other reasons – but GPs said drugs are available for
    women with period pain.

    There’s a hormone that’s called F2-alpha
    which experts believe causes stomach cramps. Plus a period is when your
    body sheds the lining of the womb, which also creates cramp pains.

    Here’s your action plan:

    • If your periods are heavy then your cramps are likely to be severe. Speak to your doctor about the contraceptive pill and take a B6 supplement, which in tests has shown to reduce the length and flow of a period
    • Rest a hot water bottle on your stomach. Direct heat eases muscles and encourages blood flow to the area

    goodtoknow’s top tip: If you’re out and about and suffer from tummy cramps and really bad pain, a great relief is the Voltarol Heat Patch.
    It’s a thin, discrete pain relief patch that is applied directly to the
    skin under your clothes. It stops the muscles from aching and improves
    circulation to get rid of pain. It lasts for up to 10hours and a pack of
    4 cost around £6.25. You can buy them from all major supermarkets and

     Voltarol heat patch

    A recent study has also shown that acupuncture could work well to relieve period pain – although it is unclear why this works. Experts recommend that you still talk to your doctor if you’re suffering from severe period pain – but said there was ‘promising evidence’ that it could help alongside traditional medicine.

    What else can I do?

    There have been lots of studies that show a low GI diet, regular exercise and an increase in magnesium and calcium in the diet can help with the symptoms of PMT.

    More help and advice
    Contact the National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome
    Missed a period? Could you be pregnant?