Supporting Pre-Menstrual Discomforts

Dec 26, 2022 10:00:00 AM

Written By:
Dr. Ramneek Bhogal


For many women, the days leading up to your period may feel anything but pleasant. The good news is that you don’t have to expect pre-period discomforts every month: there are plenty of foods, lifestyle tweaks, and supplements that can lessen common complaints.

Understanding what happens in the female body each month helps explain how hormonal imbalances can easily lead to common complaints, from mood swings to water retention.

With a better grasp on what happens in these monthly cycles, we can focus on how to naturally and effectively minimize associated discomforts.

What Happens Before Your Menstrual Cycle?

During a woman’s child-bearing years, her hormone levels fluctuate each month to support the body’s reproductive function. Every 28 days on average, the ovaries will produce hormones like estrogen and progesterone to signal the uterus to thicken its lining and prepare for a possible pregnancy.

Normal or abnormal shifts in hormone levels–especially estrogen and progesterone—can lead to mildly unpleasant or downright annoying disruptions to your day. During the follicular phase, or first 10-16 days of your menstrual cycle, estrogen is relatively high and progesterone is relatively low. This ratio is generally accompanied by healthy levels of serotonin and a feeling of wellbeing.

Once you ovulate, you move into the luteal phase for the next two weeks or so. At this point, estrogen levels have dropped and progesterone production increases, which can lead to irritability, digestive difficulty, and other discomforts. Assuming you did not conceive this month, the luteal phase will end with a menstrual period.

Learn more about supplements that play a key role in fertility

Why are Premenstrual Discomforts so Common?

Because hormones are chemical messengers in the body, these monthly shifts send signals to the brain and gut that impact a variety of physical, mental, and emotional states. Ideally, a healthy woman moves through the month with few discomforts, but many women experience pronounced changes in the week prior to the menstrual period.

Some of these unwelcome disturbances include:

  • Head tension
  • Low energy
  • Irritable or quickly changing moods
  • Anxious, jittery feelings
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Water retention
  • Low libido
  • High appetite
  • Digestive changes

While most of these discomforts are mild, more pronounced effects can be seen with the skin and gut microbiome. The skin and hair often become oilier—skin breaks out more during the luteal phase, and the abundance of progesterone can make digestion sluggish. Hormone imbalance is a major concern for those trying to achieve pregnancy, but all women can be impacted in these systemic ways.

Some women progress through the month by noticing hardly any discomforts, while others suffer from virtually all of them. What accounts for the different ways women experience monthly hormone shifts?

Stress is the main culprit. When a woman experiences stress, the body taps the supply of progesterone building blocks and diverts it to make cortisol—the stress response hormone—instead. This results in a lower-than-normal progesterone level, distorting the precarious estrogen-progesterone ratio and creating an imbalance.

As stressors increase the amount of cortisol, and cortisol and progesterone compete for the same receptors in the body, stressful conditions can also lead to estrogen dominance. While estrogen dominance can be idiopathic, or without a known cause, it can also be caused by various environmental influences. Remember, stress isn’t just mental, it can also be used to describe the effects of physical trauma or a recent infection.

Body products and household cleaners are found to be high in xenoestrogens, or substances picked up in our environment that mimic estrogen by binding to the estrogen receptors in our bodies.[1] This creates further hormone imbalance, resulting in more irksome discomforts throughout the cycle, especially in the days leading up to the menstrual period.


3 Ways to Support Menstrual Cycle Discomforts

Your period doesn’t have to be so bad. Addressing hormonal imbalance and its impacts on the body and mind can be complex, but many women are able to make lifestyle choices that reduce menstrual cycle discomforts. Here are our top three suggestions for making the week before your period as enjoyable as the rest of the month.

  1. Partner with a functional medicine provider. An experienced integrative doctor will run blood work and tackle any reproductive, thyroid, or other hormonal imbalances indicated. They can help identify underlying sources of inflammation and internal stressors.
  2. Clean up toxins. Swap out your commercial cleaners and popular body products for all-natural, artificial ingredient-free options. Choosing organic food helps reduce your pesticide exposure, which is a huge source of endocrine disruptors in modern society.
  3. Reduce stress. It’s easier said than done, but any positive progress in lowering stress levels has a huge payoff—physically, mentally, and emotionally. Start the day with 10 minutes of centering meditation, work in short walks on the lunch break, and wind down with a relaxing bedtime routine each night.

Top 5 Supplements for Premenstrual Discomforts*

Lifestyle changes can sound intimidating, but it’s really about taking steps in the right direction, no matter how big or fast. Eating clean, getting relaxing sleep, and working closely with a skilled integrative provider can help you enjoy every week of the month. Here are our top five supplement suggestions for balancing hormones and supporting the body throughout the menstrual cycle.*

  • DIM. This and other cruciferous vegetable derivatives like sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol are shown to support healthy hormone balance.*
  • Calcium & Magnesium. Often paired to increase bioavailability, this micronutrient supplement is used to relax the smooth muscles of the uterus and reduce the associated cramping discomforts.* Additionally, calcium d-glucarate boosts the liver’s cleansing function, to process out excess estrogen more efficiently.* Clinical trials found that calcium supplementation effectively alleviates the majority of mood and somatic symptoms women experience at this time of the month.[2]*
  • B Complex. Higher intake levels of B vitamins such as thiamine and riboflavin are strongly associated with lower instances of premenstrual discomfort.[3]* They primarily help by regulating neurotransmitters to keep moods and energy stable.*
  • Myo-inositol. This intracellular messenger is shown to regulate hormones including TSH, FSH, and insulin.* In one study, supplementing with Myo-inositol led to significant improvement in three scales—the Daily Symptoms Records scale, the Hamilton Depression Rating, and the Clinical Global Impression-Severity of Illness.[4]Metabolic Ovary Support combines myo-inositol with curcumin and chromium to support ovarian health, insulin sensitivity, and lipid metabolism.*
  • Evening Primrose Oil. One study found that a three-month supplementation course with evening primrose oil significantly changed the PMS severity scores self-reported by women.[5]*


Hormone health is a complicated matter, and comfortable periods are every woman’s goal. Because our hormones are so easily impacted by environmental toxins, internal and external stressors, the foods we eat, and our lifestyle, targeted supplements can make a noticeable difference in premenstrual discomforts.*

Adopting the healthy habits of eating clean, organic foods, reducing alcohol, and avoiding cigarette smoke are great ways to help your hormones get back on track. Exercising moderately and reducing stress are excellent next steps. To really address the most bothersome premenstrual discomforts, consider high-quality supplements recommended by your integrative medicine doctor.*

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[1] Paterni I, Granchi C, Minutolo F. Risks and benefits related to alimentary exposure to xenoestrogens. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2017 Nov 2;57(16):3384-3404. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2015.1126547. PMID: 26744831; PMCID: PMC6104637.

[2] Thys-Jacobs S. Micronutrients and the premenstrual…the case for calcium. J Am Coll Nutr. 2000 Apr;19(2):220-7. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2000.10718920. PMID: 10763903.

[3] Chocano-Bedoya PO, Manson JE, Hankinson SE, Willett WC, Johnson SR, Chasan-Taber L, Ronnenberg AG, Bigelow C, Bertone-Johnson ER. Dietary B vitamin intake and incident premenstrual…Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 May;93(5):1080-6. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.009530. Epub 2011 Feb 23. PMID: 21346091; PMCID: PMC3076657.

[4] Gianfranco C, Vittorio U, Silvia B, Francesco D. Myo-inositol in the...Hum Psychopharmacol. 2011 Oct;26(7):526-30. doi: 10.1002/hup.1241. PMID: 22031267.

[5] Mahboubi M. Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) Oil in Management of Female Ailments. J Menopausal Med. 2019 Aug;25(2):74-82. doi: 10.6118/jmm.18190. Epub 2019 Aug 5. PMID: 31497576; PMCID: PMC6718646.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.