5 Telltale Signs Your Period is Approaching and Why You Experience Them

Picture this, It’s a busy Monday morning, and you’re rushing to get ready for work when suddenly, out of nowhere, an unexplained wave of irritability washes over you, and you find yourself snapping at your friend for no apparent reason. Sound familiar? If you’re a menstruating individual, you’ve likely experienced these inexplicable mood swings and other telltale signs that your period is approaching. But what’s really going on inside your body during this time, and why do these symptoms occur? By the end of this journey, you’ll not only understand these signs better but also learn how to navigate them with grace and self-care. So, let’s dive in and uncover the mysteries of PMS together.

PMS and Its Common Symptoms:

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a collection of physical, emotional, and psychological symptoms that typically occur in the days or weeks leading up to menstruation. These symptoms can vary widely from person to person but often include mood swings, irritability, anxiety, depression, fatigue, bloating, breast tenderness, food cravings, and changes in sleep patterns. PMS can disrupt daily life and negatively impact one’s well-being, making it crucial to understand and manage these symptoms effectively.

Understanding PMS and its impact is essential for several reasons. Firstly, it validates the experiences of those going through it, as they often face skepticism or dismissal of their symptoms. Secondly, awareness allows individuals to distinguish between PMS and more severe conditions like premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) or other underlying health issues, ensuring proper diagnosis and treatment. Thirdly, by acknowledging and managing PMS, individuals can improve their overall quality of life, maintain healthier relationships, and enhance their mental and emotional well-being. Therefore, promoting awareness and providing strategies for managing PMS is crucial in empowering individuals to navigate this common yet often misunderstood aspect of their reproductive health. 

Telltale Sign 1 – Mood Swings and Irritability

The emotional changes that often occur before menstruation are a significant aspect of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Many individuals experience a range of emotional symptoms in the days or weeks leading up to their period. These can include:

  1. Mood Swings: Sudden and intense shifts in mood, such as feeling irritable one moment and tearful the next.
  2. Irritability and Anger: Increased sensitivity to stressors and a shorter fuse, leading to heightened irritability and occasional outbursts of anger.
  3. Anxiety: An increase in feelings of worry, unease, or nervousness.
  4. Depression: Some may experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or a general sense of low mood.
  5. Crying Spells: An increased tendency to cry or become emotional over seemingly small issues.

These emotional changes are primarily driven by hormonal fluctuations in the menstrual cycle, particularly changes in estrogen and progesterone levels. In the days leading up to menstruation, estrogen levels drop, while progesterone remains relatively stable. This hormonal shift can affect neurotransmitters like serotonin, which play a crucial role in regulating mood. The resulting imbalance in neurotransmitters can contribute to mood swings, irritability, and other emotional symptoms.

Tips on Managing Mood Swings During This Time:

  1. Healthy Lifestyle: Maintain a balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep. These factors can help stabilize mood and reduce the severity of emotional symptoms.
  2. Stress Management: Engage in stress-reduction techniques like meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga. These practices can help mitigate the impact of stress on mood.
  3. Dietary Changes: Reduce caffeine, alcohol, and sugar intake, as these substances can exacerbate mood swings. Instead, opt for whole foods rich in complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and fruits and vegetables.
  4. Supplements: Some individuals find relief from PMS symptoms by taking supplements like vitamin B6, calcium, and magnesium. Consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplements.
  5. Medication: In severe cases of PMS, healthcare professionals may recommend medication or hormonal therapies. These options should be discussed with a healthcare provider.
  6. Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Techniques such as mindfulness meditation and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help individuals gain better control over their emotions and manage mood swings effectively.
  7. Track Your Symptoms: Keep a menstrual cycle diary to identify patterns in your emotional symptoms. This can help you prepare and implement strategies to cope with mood swings proactively.

Telltale Sign 2 – Bloating and Water Retention

Bloating and water retention before menstruation are common symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). These symptoms occur primarily due to hormonal fluctuations, particularly involving the hormones estrogen and progesterone. Here’s how it happens:

  1. Estrogen Levels: During the first half of the menstrual cycle (the follicular phase), estrogen levels rise. Estrogen can stimulate the kidneys to retain sodium and water, leading to fluid retention in the body tissues.
  2. Progesterone Levels: After ovulation, during the second half of the menstrual cycle (the luteal phase), both estrogen and progesterone levels increase. Progesterone promotes relaxation of smooth muscle, including those in the digestive tract. This relaxation can slow down digestion and lead to gas accumulation, contributing to bloating.
  3. Aldosterone: Hormones like aldosterone, which regulate fluid balance and sodium retention, may also play a role in fluid retention during the menstrual cycle.

Practical Advice on Reducing Bloating and Discomfort:

While bloating and water retention are common before menstruation, there are several practical strategies to help reduce these symptoms and alleviate discomfort:

  1. Stay Hydrated: Counterintuitive as it may seem, drinking plenty of water can help flush excess sodium from your system and reduce bloating. Aim for at least 8-10 glasses of water daily.
  2. Reduce Sodium Intake: Limit your consumption of high-sodium foods, such as processed and packaged foods, canned soups, and salty snacks. Opt for fresh, whole foods instead.
  3. Increase Potassium-Rich Foods: Potassium helps balance sodium levels in the body. Incorporate foods like bananas, sweet potatoes, spinach, and oranges into your diet.
  4. Moderate Caffeine and Alcohol: Both caffeine and alcohol can contribute to dehydration and exacerbate bloating. Limit your intake of these beverages in the days leading up to your period.
  5. Exercise Regularly: Physical activity can help improve circulation, reduce water retention, and alleviate bloating. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week.
  6. Dietary Fiber: Consume a high-fiber diet to support regular bowel movements and prevent constipation, which can worsen bloating. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes are excellent sources of fiber.
  7. Herbal Teas: Some herbal teas, like peppermint and ginger tea, may help soothe digestive discomfort and reduce bloating.
  8. Over-the-counter Medications: Non-prescription diuretics or over-the-counter pain relievers (like ibuprofen) may provide relief for some individuals. However, consult with a healthcare provider before using any medication.
  9. Manage Stress: Stress can exacerbate PMS symptoms, including bloating. Practice stress-reduction techniques such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises.
  10. Consult a Healthcare Provider: If bloating is severe or significantly interferes with your daily life, consider consulting a healthcare provider. They can assess your symptoms, rule out any underlying medical conditions, and discuss potential treatment options.

Telltale Sign 3 – Breast Tenderness

Breast tenderness, also known as mastalgia, is a common symptom that many individuals experience in the days or weeks leading up to their menstrual period. This symptom is closely linked to hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle, particularly fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone. Here’s how hormonal changes contribute to breast tenderness:

  1. Estrogen: During the first half of the menstrual cycle (the follicular phase), estrogen levels rise. Estrogen stimulates breast tissue growth and the proliferation of mammary gland cells. This can lead to an increase in breast volume and sensitivity.
  2. Progesterone: After ovulation, during the second half of the menstrual cycle (the luteal phase), both estrogen and progesterone levels increase. Progesterone promotes the development of milk-producing cells in the breast, which can also contribute to breast swelling and tenderness.
  3. Inflammatory Changes: Hormonal fluctuations can trigger inflammation in breast tissue. This inflammation can cause discomfort, pain, and swelling in the breasts.
  4. Fluid Retention: Hormones like progesterone can also lead to fluid retention in the body, including breast tissue. This fluid buildup can increase breast tenderness.

Self-Care Tips for Alleviating Breast Discomfort:

While breast tenderness is a common and often temporary symptom of the menstrual cycle, there are self-care strategies that can help alleviate discomfort:

  1. Supportive Bra: Invest in a well-fitting, supportive bra that provides adequate support and reduces breast movement, which can exacerbate tenderness.
  2. Heat Therapy: Applying a warm compress or heating pad to the breasts can help relax breast tissue and alleviate discomfort. Be sure to use a moderate temperature to avoid burns.
  3. Dietary Changes: Reduce caffeine and salt intake, as these substances can contribute to fluid retention and breast discomfort. A low-sodium diet may be particularly helpful.
  4. Over-the-Counter Pain Relief: Non-prescription pain relievers like ibuprofen or naproxen can help reduce inflammation and alleviate breast tenderness. Follow the recommended dosages and guidelines on the packaging.
  5. Dietary Supplements: Some individuals find relief from breast tenderness by taking vitamin E supplements. Consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplements.
  6. Reduce Stress: Stress can exacerbate breast tenderness and other PMS symptoms. Engage in relaxation techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga.
  7. Limit Alcohol: Reducing alcohol consumption may help alleviate breast tenderness, as alcohol can contribute to hormone imbalances.
  8. Regular Exercise: Engage in regular physical activity to improve circulation and reduce fluid retention. A well-fitting sports bra is essential during exercise to minimize breast movement.
  9. Avoid Underwire Bras: Some individuals find underwire bras uncomfortable during breast tenderness. Opt for bras without underwire for added comfort.
  10. Consult a Healthcare Provider: If breast tenderness is severe, persistent, or accompanied by unusual symptoms, consult a healthcare provider. They can rule out any underlying medical conditions and discuss potential treatments.

Telltale Sign 4 – Food Cravings and Appetite Changes

Food cravings, especially for sweet, salty, or high-fat foods, are a common occurrence before and during menstruation. These cravings can be attributed to a combination of hormonal and psychological factors:

  1. Serotonin Levels: Hormonal changes affect serotonin, leading to premenstrual cravings for comfort foods.
  2. Estrogen and Progesterone: Hormonal fluctuations influence appetite and taste preferences.
  3. Blood Sugar Levels: Hormonal shifts can disrupt blood sugar levels, causing cravings for quick energy sources like sugar.
  4. Emotional Stress: PMS-related mood swings and emotional stress trigger cravings for comforting foods.
  5. Habitual Eating Patterns: Psychological associations develop between specific foods and relief from menstrual discomfort.
  6. Cultural and Social Influences: Cultural factors, advertising, food availability, and social situations impact food choices and cravings during the menstrual cycle.

Strategies for Making Healthier Food Choices During PMS:

While food cravings during PMS can be powerful, there are strategies to help make healthier food choices:

  1. Plan Ahead: Be proactive by planning your meals and snacks in advance. Stock your pantry and fridge with healthy options so they’re readily available when cravings strike.
  2. Choose Nutrient-Dense Foods: Opt for foods rich in nutrients, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These options can help stabilize blood sugar levels and provide long-lasting energy.
  3. Small, Frequent Meals: Eating smaller, balanced meals and snacks throughout the day can help stabilize blood sugar and reduce the intensity of cravings.
  4. Hydration: Sometimes, thirst is mistaken for hunger. Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water, herbal teas, or infused water.
  5. Mindful Eating: Pay attention to your body’s hunger cues and eat mindfully. Savor each bite, and take time to appreciate the flavors and textures of your food.
  6. Healthy Substitutions: If you’re craving something sweet, try fresh fruit or yogurt with honey instead of sugary snacks. If you’re craving something salty, choose whole-grain crackers with hummus instead of chips.
  7. Protein and Fiber: Incorporate protein-rich foods and high-fiber options into your meals. These can help you feel full and satisfied, reducing the urge to snack on unhealthy choices.
  8. Limit Processed Foods: Highly processed and sugary foods can exacerbate cravings and mood swings. Minimize your intake of these foods.
  9. Support System: Inform your friends and family about your goals to make healthier food choices during PMS. Having a support system can help you stay on track.
  10. Moderation, Not Deprivation: It’s okay to indulge occasionally. If you have a craving, enjoy a small portion of the desired food rather than denying yourself completely.
  11. Stress Management: Practice stress-reduction techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises to reduce emotional eating triggers.
  12. Consult a Registered Dietitian: Consider seeking guidance from a registered dietitian who specializes in women’s health. They can provide personalized dietary recommendations and strategies for managing cravings during PMS.

Telltale Sign 5 – Fatigue and Low Energy

Fatigue is a common symptom experienced by many individuals in the days leading up to menstruation, and it can be attributed to various factors, including hormonal, physiological, and psychological changes:

  1. Hormonal Fluctuations: Hormones like estrogen and progesterone play a significant role in regulating the menstrual cycle. In the days before menstruation, there can be a sharp drop in estrogen levels, which may contribute to feelings of fatigue. Progesterone levels also rise, and while it can have a calming effect, it may also lead to drowsiness.
  2. Blood Loss: During menstruation, individuals may experience blood loss, leading to a decrease in hemoglobin levels. This reduction in red blood cells can result in anemia, which is associated with fatigue and a lack of energy.
  3. Pain and Discomfort: Menstrual cramps, bloating, and other physical discomforts associated with menstruation can disrupt sleep and lead to fatigue.
  4. Sleep Disturbances: Hormonal changes, pain, and discomfort can cause sleep disturbances, leading to poor-quality sleep and contributing to daytime fatigue.
  5. Psychological Factors: Emotional symptoms of PMS, such as mood swings and irritability, can also contribute to stress and fatigue.

Advice on Managing Fatigue and Boosting Energy Levels:

Managing fatigue before menstruation involves a combination of lifestyle adjustments and self-care practices:

  1. Prioritize Sleep: Ensure you get enough restful sleep by maintaining a consistent sleep schedule. Create a calming bedtime routine and create a comfortable sleep environment.
  2. Balanced Diet: Eat a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods. Iron-rich foods like lean meats, leafy greens, and fortified cereals can help combat anemia-related fatigue.
  3. Stay Hydrated: Dehydration can contribute to fatigue. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay properly hydrated.
  4. Regular Exercise: Engaging in regular physical activity can boost energy levels and improve overall well-being. Even light exercise like walking can help.
  5. Stress Management: Practice stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing exercises, or yoga to manage emotional symptoms and reduce stress-related fatigue.
  6. Limit Caffeine and Alcohol: Excessive caffeine and alcohol consumption can disrupt sleep patterns and contribute to fatigue. Consume these substances in moderation, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime.
  7. Small, Frequent Meals: Instead of three large meals, consider eating smaller, balanced meals and snacks throughout the day to maintain steady energy levels.
  8. Supplements: If you have a diagnosed iron deficiency, consult with a healthcare provider about iron supplements. It’s essential not to self-diagnose or self-medicate with iron supplements, as excessive iron intake can be harmful.
  9. Over-the-counter Pain Relief: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen can help alleviate menstrual cramps and reduce discomfort, potentially improving sleep quality and reducing fatigue.
  10. Consult a Healthcare Provider: If fatigue is severe, persistent, or significantly interferes with daily life, consider consulting a healthcare provider. They can assess your symptoms, perform blood tests to check for anemia or other underlying conditions, and provide appropriate treatment if necessary.

Why Understanding These Signs Matters

The five telltale signs are a natural part of the menstrual cycle, driven by hormonal fluctuations, and are experienced by many individuals. Understanding these signs is essential for self-care and overall well-being. By recognizing and acknowledging these signals, you can take proactive steps to manage them effectively. Self-care strategies like maintaining a healthy lifestyle, managing stress, and making mindful dietary choices can significantly improve your experience during this time.

However, it’s crucial to emphasize that severe or disruptive symptoms should not be ignored. If you find that these signs are severely impacting your daily life, consider seeking medical advice. A healthcare provider can help identify any underlying conditions or more severe forms of premenstrual symptoms and provide appropriate treatment options. Your menstrual health is an essential aspect of your overall health, and it’s important to prioritize it and seek professional guidance when needed.


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