Cramps, mood changes and fatigue – How to support PMS

Premenstrual syndrome commonly referred to as PMS is the term used to describe a group of symptoms that occur in women, typically in the lead up to and during their period. Younger females ages 20-40 are more likely to experience PMS symptoms.

The most notable symptoms of PMS include cramps/pain, mood changes and fatigue [1] and insights into a recent study conducted suggest over 92% of females of reproductive age suffer from PMS [2].

The Australian study indicated 47% of women find their period pain affects their ability to work making it harder to concentrate.

What are the symptoms of PMS?

Symptoms of PMS can vary from female to female. If you are suffering from PMS, common symptoms you may experience are:

  • Pain & cramping in the uterus
  • Bloating & fluid retention
  • Digestive changes such as constipation & diarrhoea
  • Headache
  • Backache
  • Tender breasts and pain
  • Mood swings
  • Food cravings
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Social withdrawal
  • Insomnia
  • Poor concentration
  • Skin changes includes acne & oily skin

If you experience severe symptoms on a regular basis, seek advice from your healthcare professional for support. Severe PMS symptoms may be an indication of a more severe underlying condition, and this should be investigated by a health professional.

What causes PMS?

Whilst it remains unknown why some women experience PMS and how the symptoms are caused, it is believed PMS occurs due to a change in hormone levels in females. In your luteal phase, from ovulation (usually day 14 of your cycle if you run by a 28-day cycle) up to the first day of your period bleed, your oestrogen and progesterone levels shift.

Various dietary factors are thought to impact PMS symptoms including:

  • High salt foods – consuming high amounts of salty foods can cause water retention resulting in bloating
  • Sugar – processed foods high in sugar cause a rapid rise and crash in blood sugar levels resulting in intense mood swings and cravings
  • Coffee – can constrict or narrow the blood vessels which may cause an increase in period cramps and headaches
  • Vitamin and mineral deficiencies of magnesium, calcium, zinc and B vitamins

Other factors including stress, underlying health conditions (mental health conditions or thyroid disorders) alongside increased exposure to xeno-estrogens (those found in perfumes, pesticides etc) can contribute to PMS symptoms.

Dietary and lifestyle tips to support PMS


  • Limit your caffeine and alcohol consumption
  • Increase Omega-3 rich foods including salmon, cod-liver oil, oysters, flaxseeds, walnuts and chia seeds.
  • Enjoy calcium rich foods such as milk, yoghurt & cheese
  • Include breakfast in your day – research suggests skipping breakfast and other meals may contribute to hormonal imbalances worsening PMS symptoms
  • Reduce sugar consumption
  • Increase water intake
  • Increase magnesium rich foods such as dark leafy greens and pumpkin seeds to support your nervous system
  • Ensure you are receiving adequate protein from animal based or plant-based proteins

Lifestyle tips:

  • Participate in regular exercise to support physical and emotional PMS symptoms
  • Reduce your alcohol intake
  • Participate in stress reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation and breathing to reduce the impact stress can have on your PMS symptoms

Thompson’s Herbal Favourites to support PMS

Vitex or Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus) is used in females to relieve symptoms of premenstrual tension. The fruit of the herb works to relieve breast pain and tenderness and decrease feelings of aggression and irritability. Vitex is a great herb for PMS support as it also reduces digestive complaints such as abdominal bloating and distention that may occur with PMS.

In traditional Western herbal medicine, Vitex is used to reduce menstrual cycle irregularity in women of reproductive age.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a herb not to be missed with its use in supporting the bodies response to stress, based on traditional Western herbal medicine. Supporting the nervous system is a key aspect to PMS support and the reduction of symptoms experienced monthly.


  1. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) - Better Health Channel
  2. YouGov | 75% of Aussie women who have suffered from period pain say it has affected their ability to work