Life at 40 is full of lovely surprises and gifts of nature. Despite the fact we should probably be grateful for the bloody monstrosity that periods are (figuratively and literally!), I can’t help being excited at the fact that in as little as ten years time, I might be free of Aunty Flo barging in and turning everything upside once a month. Well, I say once a month, but really – it feels like the best part of the month doesn’t it? So are PMS symptoms worse in your 40s….well let’s open that can of worms shall we?
A life dictated by PMS symptoms
This is how things go down in my world. From the minute I finish my period, I have ooooh a few blissfully days before – boom! it’s ovulation time again. Then if I’m lucky, I’ll have a week of no hormone dramas before the PMS dramas start to roll around again. All of this feels like it’s happening within a blink of an eye.
Recent research Yoppie, revealed that 79% of UK women lose between 1-7+ days a month due to not feeling themselves during their menstrual cycle. I wish I could say it was only that for me because damn does it feel a whole lot more!
Enter the PMS swamp monster
Now I don’t know but ever since I started edging towards my 40s my PMS symptoms definitely started feeling worse. I was never one to want to crawl into bed like an old granny a week before I came on the rag. Now I regularly turn into Stig of The Dump’s sister. For those of you who don’t remember who Stig of The Dump was, he was a caveman out of a classic children’s novel (showing my age baby!). I become more and more like a cavewoman as my PMS becomes worse and worse.
Stay away from the boobs!
Please god, do NOT touch my breasts the week before. I last knew pain like this in my breasts when they were heaving with new milk as a new mother. Then there is the crippling fatigue that makes you feel like you’ve been run over by a combine harvester thousand times over. And not to mention the dark mood and frenzied anxiety which makes you feel as mad as a March hare. Hateful doesn’t even cut it. I become a seething bag of self-loathing and misanthropy, hunting down any chance to throw hypothetical daggers at anyone who so much as looks at me the wrong way. Cross at your own peril!
PMS brain drain
My PMS screws everything up – my ability to think, talk, hold things without dropping them. My ability to avoid injury and a subsequent visit to A&E because I am always walking into/falling over or smashing my head on things. I literally feel like I’ve had a frontal labotomy.
At least one of the benefits of this whole royal Covid mess we are still stuck in is that we get to stay at home and lick our wounds as much as we like.
What gives then?
Lucky us! Reason being for this increased PMS calamity is because PMS symptoms get worse when you reach perimenopause, the five- to 10-year stretch before menopause actually hits. (The average age when women enter menopause is 51.) Generally speaking, whatever symptoms you’ve already been having will likely be ramped up. Ahhh…the gift that keeps giving!
So now that we all know we are going to feel even more hellish with PMS symptoms in our 40s, what can we do about it? Here are some things I’ve started to do which have been helping me to keep a lid on the maniac within in the run-up to the Lady Business.
My – and your – PMS toolkit
Take Vitex agnus-castus, a herb that is used for conditions related to the menstrual cycle such as breast pain (mastalgia), premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and more severe PMS symptoms (premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD. It’s an acquired taste but worth getting your tastebuds used to it if you don’t want to unleash your wrath on the universe every month. I absolutely swear by this!
Evening Primrose Oil or Starflower Oil Capsules
Although Evening Primrose have always been the PMS favourite in terms of reducing PMS symptoms – especially breast tenderness – some camps believe that Starflower Oil capsules are more effective. I just say take whatever you can get your hands on!
I have only just discovered this wonderful premenstrual support tea from Hottea Mama and praise the lord I did! I swear as soon as I drank a cup of this all my boob ache vanished into the ether. It’s a really comforting brew of select herbs have been used traditionally for millennia to help women soothe cramps, reduce bloating, regulate hormones, improve sleep and regulate periods and now a firm favourite of mine. Buy it here.
Step away from Uber Eats right now! As much as you’d like to dive right into a bucket of KFC and drown your sorrows in copious tubs of Ben & Jerry’s and vino, your PMS will not thank you for it! Yeah yeah preach baby I know. Instead, our friends at Natural Nutritional Health recommend the following:
- Blood sugar is very important in supporting hormone balance. Keep insulin levels stable by eating 3 meals per day and include protein with every meal to ensure slow release of glucose from food. Reduce sugary foods and replace white carbs with wholegrains to help prevent mood swings.
- Studies have shown that women with plant-based diets high in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and herbs have fewer symptoms of PMS. These foods provide a multitude of nutrients (Vitamin E, zinc as well as those below) and antioxidants, aim for 5-7 portions of veg and fruit per day.
- The above foods also provide fibre which supports gut health and bind to excess oestrogen, carrying it out of the body which helps balance hormones and lessen PMS.
- Limit salt and replace with spices. Sodium can worsen PMS symptoms due to its role in fluid retention, which leads to bloating and swelling.
- Drink more water (and less alcohol and caffeine!) – oestrogen and progesterone influence your body’s hydration levels so during PMS when hormones are erratic, increase water intake to help to ensure you are hydrated, this also reduces bloating.
- Include calcium foods in your diet, such as dairy, salmon, broccoli, sardines, kale, sunflower, sesame seeds and tofu. Studies show eating calcium containing foods, alongside vitamin D (which plays a crucial role in the absorption of calcium), lowered the risk for developing PMS by as much as 40 percent. From Oct- March, it is recommended to supplement with vitamin D.
- Magnesium keeps electrolytes in balance, without enough, you retain water. Magnesium also supports anxiety and insomnia. You can find it in leafy greens, nuts, legumes, bananas, as well as dark chocolate!
- B vitamins especially B6 regulate hormonal activity and reduces PMS, think turkey, pistachios, beef, tuna, avocado, chicken, sunflower and sesame seeds. The combination of B6 and magnesium is a real winner for PMS support e.g., avocados!
- Omega 3 fatty acids may help with the mental health effects of PMS and are found in salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, sardines, nuts and seeds (such as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts) they also have an anti-inflammatory effect, reducing pain and cramping.
- Go organic where possible not only with your food but also cosmetics and make-up to reduce your exposure to harmful, oestrogen-like chemicals which disrupt hormones.
N.B. Sometimes therapeutic amounts of the above nutrients may need to be achieved with additional supplementation which can be discussed with a registered nutritionist.
I know, I know, big fat eye roll here. You would rather drink a cup of sick than do some exercise when you’re feeling all gross and blobby but you need to fight this one out lady! So go on, peel yourself off the sofa as slowly as necessary and try to do some light cardio if you can – walking, running (ok it might just be a very slow jog!), biking, and swimming are all good. Pilates and yoga also help. Low-volume strength training is also a good choice (especially if you’re feeling extra angry) – but just don’t go all Hulk Hogan on me (as if!) because lifting too heavy a weight puts pressure on your core and could worsen cramps.
Have your PMS symptoms got worse since you hit 40? Let it all out in a comment below my sister!