Between the bloated belly, crippling cramps, and tears surfacing as if you were a rejected Bachelor contestant, PMS often feels like Mother Nature is hitting you with everything in her arsenal. But almost all your worst PMS woes can be attributed to one thing, according to new research from the University of California, Davis: inflammation.
Researchers looked at data from a national survey of over 3,000 women and found those who had higher levels of an inflammatory marker known as C-reactive protein (CRP) were 26 to 41 percent more likely to suffer from the most common premenstrual symptoms, including mood changes, abdominal cramps, back pain, food cravings, weight gain, bloating, and breast pain. In fact, the only PMS symptom not associated with inflammation was headaches.
This study can't prove which comes first, the inflammation or the symptoms. But these findings are still a good thing because they mean that tackling a single offender can potentially help alleviate most of your period pains. (Psst...Here are 10 Foods That Cause Inflammation.)
Check out these four ways to reduce inflammation—and hopefully PMS—from Keri Peterson, M.D., a New York-based internist and consultant for digital health platform Zocdoc.
Load up on omega-3s
The nutrient boosts the number of proteins that alleviate inflammation and simultaneously reduce the proteins that promote inflammation. Fill your plate with salmon, tuna, walnuts, flaxseed, and olive oil or pop a fish-oil supplement.
Avoid processed foods
Trans fats, sugar, refined carbs, and gluten-containing foods have been strongly linked to total-body inflammation. And since these and other additives can be difficult to distinguish, your best bet is to opt for as much fresh, unprocessed food as possible. Focus on lean proteins, such as fish, as well as fruits and vegetables, which contain protective, inflammation-stopping phytonutrients.
Exercise is a great way to counteract stress, thereby decreasing levels of inflammation. But workouts that focus on deep breathing in particular, such as yoga and Pilates, take the stress-relieving benefits to the next level.
Go to bed early
Getting a solid night's rest—about seven to nine hours—gives your body time to restore from the day's activities and demands. Don't undervalue the down time—when your body misses out on the daily sleep it needs, you're more susceptible to inflammation.