PMS - premenstrual syndrome, a collective name for the symptoms many suffer in the weeks leading up to and during their period - is so common it's considered the norm. PMS is often far worse for those suffering from conditions like Endometriosis, PCOS, thyroid conditions, perimenopause, anxiety, and adrenal fatigue. For many, it has become second nature to accept crippling cramps, heavy bleeds on a monthly basis. Luckily, certain supplements can ease the symptoms and make life easier.
While there's certainly no magic cure-all - if there was we'd all know about it - there are steps you can take to ease the symptoms of PMS to some degree. They won't work for everyone, and if you're experiencing symptoms that are debilitating in any way, we'd always recommend consulting your doctor first. That said, if your M.O. is to cushion the blow of mild PMS symptoms, consider these tactics.
Understanding Your Periods
Let's start with our menstrual cycle, which runs across 28 days. Think of it like seasons - your period or menstrual phase (approx. days 1-5) is the first stage of your hormonal cycle; this is your winter where you need time to curl up and retreat and allow your body to rest and detox. It's pretty incredible that our bodies naturally detoxify themselves once a month, and it is definitely not something to feel shameful or embarrassed about.
Your second phase, the follicular phase (days 6-14) is your spring - expect newfound energy; your ovulation phase (approx day 14) is when you are the most fertile and many note that their sex drive is at its highest.
The last two weeks of your cycle are dubbed your luteal phase (days 15-28), your autumn. Post-ovulation, if the egg isn't fertilised, you will start to wind down as your progesterone levels start to rise. The hormonal changes during the luteal phase are associated with common premenstrual symptoms that many people experience, such as mood swings, headaches, acne, bloating, and breast tenderness.
To discuss all things hormonal health Grazia talked to Dr. Simoné Laubscher PhD of Science & Nutrition who has treated patients for over 25 years. Since 2014, she has formulated much ofWelleCo’s range of ingestible beauty and wellness supplements together with the founder, Elle Macpherson, and the WelleCo team.
What is the role of hormones in women's health?
"Hormones are chemicals that are produced within your body, which help to regulate and control your development," Dr. Simoné tells us. "They affect everything – from blood sugar and blood pressure, growth and fertility, metabolism, sex drive and even sleep."
"Women experience a significant number of life events that are driven by hormonal changes in their body, such as periods, pregnancy and menopause. While teenage boys and men have the same hormones, women typically have to manage more difficult symptoms, resulting from more intense fluctuations and higher levels of hormones."
What are the common signs of a hormonal imbalance?
Perhaps you may be thinking to yourself, well how do I even know whether I have a healthy hormonal cycle? The best part is you don't need to have a medical degree to understand and listen to your body.
Dr Simoné says that our bodies make over 50 different hormones, all of which play a unique role and contribute to different functions, so the symptoms caused by a hormonal imbalance differ depending on which hormones are affected.
So what are the effects of a hormonal imbalance? She tells us that hormones can have an effect on your metabolism, with symptoms including fatigue, constipation, unexplained weight gain or loss, more frequent bowel movements, and increased sugar cravings. As you can imagine they can also impact your mental state too, causing irritability and mood disorders, such as feeling sad for no apparent reason. Do a little self-diagnosis, do any of these symptoms resonate with you?
"Other hormonal imbalances can affect the regularity and severity of your periods, cause sore breasts before and during menstruation, create fertility issues, reduce your sex drive and can be a key cause of hormonal acne. They’re also often behind the appearance of unwanted facial hair and excessive body odour while, in men, hormone imbalances can lead to performance issues as a result of erectile dysfunction and the appearance of ‘moobs’ – or ‘man boobs’."
Want to find out if you have an imbalance? This quiz from Nourished Natural Health will help you determine whether you have a hormonal imbalance and what the imbalance may be.
What causes a hormonal imbalance?
"Your hormones fluctuate naturally, with certain life events – such as puberty, pregnancy and menopause – causing them to change more dramatically. However, there are other factors that can create hormonal imbalances, such as stress, sleep, the food and drink that we consume, eating disorders and medication. Even using plastic can disrupt our hormones!"
What type of supplements are best to balance hormones naturally, and what are the benefits of taking supplements?
"Supplements can be really effective in helping to balance your hormones," Dr Simoné tells us. "I love Chinese and Ayurvedic herbs, and I have been using them for much of my career with great success. Traditionally taken as a tea, these herbs can be pretty arduous for the taste buds and tough to endure, not to mention the main taking hours to boil them up!"
"For this reason, I recently helped formulate two wonderful new Elixirs for WelleCo that support women through some of their key life stages. The PMS Elixir is great for women who are still menstruating, helping to alleviate all symptoms of PMS, from water retention, sore breasts, sugar cravings, mood swings and period pain. The Goddess Elixir helps you elegantly navigate all stages of menopause, reducing symptoms such as low libido, hot flushes and mood swings, and realigning you so that you catapult into this amazing new season of feminine flow."
She also gave us a great tip on how to balance those hormones. Did you know that adding seaweed to your diet is also a tremendous hormonal balancer, particularly for the thyroid? It is high in iodine.
"You can easily buy dulse and seaweed flakes to add to salads and stir-fries," Dr Simoné says. "You can also make yummy homemade sushi rolls with fish and avocado; swap the rice for quinoa, or opt for black or brown rice to keep your GI index down." You had us at sushi.
Here are the best supplements targeted towards alleviating PMS and menopause symptoms: from magnesium supplements - which help to reduce stress, tension in your muscles and cramps - to Ayurvedic adaptogens, which help your body to adapt to stress.
SHOP: The Best Supplements For Hormonal Health
Together Natural Marine Magnesium 30 Capsules
Magnesium is magic for your hormones and is absolutely essential when it comes to treating all hormonal imbalance issues – including PMS, PCOS, thyroid conditions, perimenopause, anxiety, and adrenal fatigue. Without it, you will not produce hormones at the levels you require, and ovulation can become irregular. This supplement from Together contains five natural forms of magnesium. Just take one to two capsules daily as a food supplement, with or without food, and you're good to go.
The Organic Pharmacy Magnesium Stress Complex
Formulated with anti-stress minerals, this supplement from the Organic Pharmacy contains magnesium, zinc and calcium, which help promote a regulated nervous system, muscles and immune system, as well as fortify your bones. A fantastic all-rounder for your hormonal health and general well-being.
BetterYou Magnesium Flakes 1000g
Who doesn't love adding Epsom salts to their bath after a long day or a hard workout? Epsom salts are of course super beneficial to relax your muscles but they differ from magnesium flakes. The main difference is that magnesium flakes are a form of magnesium called magnesium chloride, whereas Epsom salts are made from magnesium sulphate. BetterYou Magnesium Flakes only uses natural magnesium chloride that is mined from Northern Holland. Research suggests that Magnesium Chloride is the better choice since it has a larger range of benefits and has a lower potential for toxicity.
BetterYou Magnesium Oil Body Spray - 100ml
Magnesium oils are quite a trendy option right now and this oil from Better You soaks into your skin when massaged well to stimulate absorption. This is ideally applied after showering or before sleep and works much in the same as a supplement making this a great choice if you don't like to take capsules, as this can be easily implemented into your shower routine.
Symprove Daily Food Supplement
Gut health and hormones go hand in hand and probiotics help to increase levels of the hormone serotonin, as well as decrease levels of cortisol (the stress hormone). It also helps regulate blood sugar levels and keep inflammation under control. Goodbye, stubborn belly bloat. Essentially a diverse and balanced microbiome will help regulate estrogen levels. This is especially important if you’re nearing menopause (or perimenopause), or have symptoms of estrogen dominance like tender breasts, struggle with losing or maintaining weight or have PMS. Symprove contains four live strains of bacteria and is one of the best-rated probiotics on the market. Just take 70ml of the water-based probiotic 10 minutes before eating anything and your gut microbiome and hormones will thank you.
WelleCo The Skin Elixir Capsules
Hormonal acne can sometimes come with the natural shifts in the menstrual cycle often from your ovulation phase into your pre-menstruation phase. If you struggle with hormonal acne, this best-selling formula will help calm redness and work from the inside. The Skin Elixir is a powerful vegan blend of natural greens and zinc. A zinc deficiency is a common issue for many women, being deficient means our pores become easily irritated by bacteria, show redness and are more predisposed to acne. Research has shown that zinc supplementation can be very effective in getting rid of acne.
DR.VEGAN PMS Hero®
This supplement from DR.VEGAN has been developed with naturally sourced botanicals, vitamins and minerals to help soothe and relieve PMS symptoms. Including a range of ingredients such as Shatavari, Magnesium, Iron Folate, to B Vitamins to help support you on your bleed and help you to manage cramps, bloating, mood swings and breast tenderness. Plus, it is excellent value at £14.99 and uses plastic-free and compostable packaging.
Artah Essential GLA Omega-6 Supplement
This hormone support supplement has been developed with a blend of borage oil and vitamin E to reduce and relieve both PMS and menopause symptoms. From hormonal breakouts to breast tenderness - these capsules contain a rich source of Gamma-linolenic acid, which helps support and maintain healthy oestrogen levels and reduces skin inflammation. Artah also has an excellent Enhanced Probiotic that also polyphenolic prebiotics derived from cranberry and pomegranate to support your sexual and hormonal health.
Bio-Kult Pro-Cyan Advanced Multi-Action Bacterial Formulation Targeting Urinary Tract
Urinary tract infections are among the most common conditions, affecting over half of all women at some point in life. If you are one of those affected, you will know how painful and uncomfortable it can be. Menopausal women have an increased risk of recurrent urinary tract infections due to low estrogen levels. Estrogen is known to have an important role in the function of the lower urinary tract, and estrogen and progesterone receptors have been shown in the vagina, urethra, bladder and pelvic floor. If you are susceptible to UTIs in general, you will know that cranberry is your best friend. This supplement targets the normal function of the immune system and helps maintain mucous membranes, which can be found in the gut lining, mouth and urinary tract. Just take one capsule every day - plus, it does not require refrigeration. This product is not suitable for vegans.
Bio-Kult Migréa Advanced Multi-Strain Bacterial Formulation with Magnesium Citrate and Vitamin B6
Experience headaches and migraines around the time of your period? Many women experience headaches caused by changes in their hormones. According to the National Migraine Centre, more than half of women who get migraines notice a link with their periods. During the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause, estrogen levels oscillate and these changes can trigger different types of headaches. This formula not only is great for gut health with live bacteria strains but also contains Vitamin B6 which plays a role in mood and energy and magnesium which helps to balance your hormones. This product is not suitable for vegans.
Natures Aid Raspberry Leaf Tablets
Raspberry leaf is an excellent natural remedy for PMS symptoms as it contains tannins and fragarine, which help with cramping, vomiting, diarrhoea, and nausea. Raspberry leaf can also help balance our hormones and works much like chamomile, which is a muscle relaxer and can reduce uterine contractions and cramps. Raspberry leaf tea is another remedy if you are not a fan of taking tablets.
Together Health WholeVits B Complex 30 Capsules
Taking a B-complex supplement could help to regulate stress hormones. B vitamins are used as cofactors in detoxification, which plays an essential role in hormonal health. Studies show that a high intake of two B vitamins from foods - thiamin (B1) and riboflavin (B2) - was associated with a significantly lower risk of developing PMS symptoms. B vitamins may help prevent PMS by helping harmonise brain neurotransmitters. Riboflavin activates vitamin B6, which in turn is used to create serotonin - your happiness hormone. Low serotonin levels can lead to depression, anxiety, headaches and overeating - common PMS symptoms.
Holland & Barrett Vitamin C 1000mg 120 Tablets
Your liver is your main organ for detoxification, and it plays a vital role in supporting hormonal balance and keeping symptoms away. The liver especially needs micronutrients and antioxidants like vitamin C, alpha-lipoic acid, turmeric and selenium. When your liver is properly taken care of, it can effectively break down excess estrogen, which helps If your body can’t process toxins like excess hormones, then you will be more likely to develop menstrual, fertility, and libido problems. Vitamin C is also excellent for wound healing if you have hormone-related acne and helps with regular ovulation. This vegan supplement is to be taken daily.
Dirtea Reishi Mushroom
Let's talk about adaptogens. This group of ayurvedic herbs and mushrooms can help the body adapt to stress and regulate hormones. They are known to help stabilise blood sugar and insulin, improve mood and support adrenal gland and thyroid function. DIRTEA have a range of mushroom powder that you can add to hot drinks or smoothies that can help in a number of ways. Reishi mushroom powder will help with anxiety, Cordycepscan help with energy and libido.
DIRTEA Mushroom Cacao Super Blend
DIRTEA Cacao is a blend of deliciously smooth and organic raw Cacao that is packed full of nutrients and 725mg of pure and potent Organic Reishi and Ashwagandha per serving. Ashwagandha is best known for its stress-lowering effects and has been used to improve energy, stamina, resistance to stress, libido, immunity and more. Or if coffee is more of your thing then there is also a DIRTEA Mushroom Coffee Blend made of 100 per cent Arabica coffee and 1000mg of Maca and Ashwagandha mushrooms per serving.
Ashwagandha – Together Health
Ashwagandha can help with menopause and PMS by acting on the endocrine system, improving the production of progesterone. There are even studies that have found that hot flashes, inflammation, mood swings, low libido and anxiety can be alleviated with Ashwagandha. It can also reduce heavy bleeding during your period and eliminate uterine fibroids with long-term use.
Doctor Seaweed Pure Organic Seaweed
Just as Dr Simoné states, adding seaweed to your diet is also an excellent hormonal balancer, particularly for the thyroid as it is high in iodine. Not only is seaweed good for thyroid health, but it also helps with cognitive function and maintenance of skin and helps promote the healthy function of the nervous system. They are vegan-friendly, and gluten-free, and each box comes with 30 supplements.
What are some tips for balancing your hormones and taking the next steps?
Want to integrate some daily practices and rituals to help naturally balance your hormones? Dr. Simoné gives us the scoop on how to take the next steps.
Deal with inflammation – a diet high in animal fats, processed meats and grains, dairy and sugar will increase inflammation and cause hormonal imbalance. Eat more plants, and less animal protein, cut dairy and go more pesca-vegan for three months to combat inflammation and hormonal imbalance. For women, heavy drinking increases the risk of ovulation disorders; for men, it lowers testosterone levels, causes erectile dysfunction and decreases sperm production. High consumption of caffeine can also interfere with fertility, so lowering your caffeine to one cup per day, or giving it up entirely, is a good idea when trying to conceive.
Balance your blood sugar levels – blood sugar spikes will directly impact your hormones and cause them to peak, creating hormonal imbalances, particularly oestrogen, which can leave you feeling mentally and physically out of sorts. The sugar rush will also kick-start your fight or flight/stress response, surging adrenaline and cortisol, and creating a vicious circle leading to fatigue and mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. Good quality protein at each meal, which can be found in fish, nuts, seeds, organic eggs, or a vegan protein powder such as WelleCo’s Nourishing Protein, will provide easily absorbed essential amino acids to balance your blood sugar levels and hormones. Adding Omega 3’s from oily fish, avocados, nuts, seeds and coconut oil will also help regulate your blood sugar levels. Research shows that this will also help regulate ovulation, improve egg quality and even delay the ageing of ovaries. Do your best to opt for organic foods with lots of green vegetables, as pesticides can also affect oestrogen and other hormones, and worsen imbalances.
Related: A Comprehensive Guide To Supplements
Move your body – exercise is crucial for balancing your hormones, as it supports both your mental and physical health. Choose an activity you love and which brings you joy; spend time in nature, get barefoot on the earth, breathe and choose to respond, rather than react to your environmental triggers. The sea is also wonderful to balance your nervous and hormonal systems but if that’s hard for you, opt for Epsom salt baths or foot baths.
Reduce stress – research has shown that stress directly impacts both male and female hormone levels; with such a difficult few years for many and stress levels at an all-time high, we are seeing a massive rise in hormonal imbalance issues in our clinics. As stress increases, fertility tends to decrease. Stress also increases heart rate and vasoconstriction, triggering hot flushes and increasing period pain. Blood circulation is also reduced, causing fatigue, body pain and mood disorders, low libido, and PMS and menopause symptoms.
Improve your sleep – low quality or limited amounts of regular sleep are linked to inflammation, and hormonal imbalances can reduce the body’s ability to heal during the night, leading to excessive stress – a natural enemy of hormonal balance.
Use less plastic – plastics are hormonal disruptors, so increase your green vegetables and reduce exposure to plastics from water bottles and storage containers. Try never to use plastic when warming food, and try to use glass, ceramic or stainless steel wherever possible; sometimes, especially with kids, plastic water bottles are necessary, so choose the PBA and toxin-free varieties, but still keep them out of the direct sun and heat.
Increase foods high in vitamin C – plant-based vitamin C helps with wound healing if you have hormone-related acne and is also excellent for fertility. It triggers regular ovulation in women and can increase sperm quality in men. Plant-based vitamin C with Citrus Bioflavonoids has been shown to reduce menopause symptoms, including hot flushes, leg cramps, sexual and mood disorders, and hair and memory loss. Vitamin C foods also help your body to absorb iron, an essential nutrient for women - grapefruits and other citrus fruits, kiwi, guava, cherries, berries and kale are excellent sources. Pumpkin seeds are also high in vitamin C and, as a bonus, they are anti-parasitic and even increase zinc, an essential nutrient for reproduction in both men and women. If seeking to supplement vitamin C, take care not to buy a synthetic vitamin C, which flushes out of the body – opt instead for a wholefood Vitamin C, which can be found in all WelleCo products, including The PMS and Goddess Elixirs.