Photo of woman standing and wearing period underwear

The 411 on PMS causes, symptoms, and natural remedies.

Last Updated: July 5, 2021

Got a case of PMS? Fear not! Premenstrual syndrome is a bummer, but we’ve got hot tips to keep you cool-headed and cramp-free while your body sorts itself out.

A quick Google search for PMS shows an image of a woman in pajamas sitting on her sofa, resting her head on her knee. She’s surrounded by pillows and a quilt is wrapped around her belly. A laptop is half open in front of her and she just paused her favorite true crime series to stare sleepily into space after taking a bite of a giant glazed donut.

If that’s not an accurate representation of how PMS feels, we don’t know what is. If you have ever had a period, you’ve probably had to deal with this delightful little affliction at some point in your life too.

So what is PMS, what causes it, and most importantly, what can you do to ease the symptoms naturally?

What is PMS?

Uterus illustration

PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, is a collection of physical and emotional symptoms that typically occur after a person ovulates, but before the start of their menstrual period (aka when you start bleeding).

Over 90% of people who menstruate experience PMS.

What causes PMS?

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Researchers aren’t entirely sure what prompts PMS, but the general consensus is that it’s caused by fluctuations in the sexual hormones estrogen and progesterone and the brain’s happy chemical, serotonin.

These chemicals become dramatically low in your body once it realizes you aren’t pregnant, which can leave those with PMS feeling down in the dumps, with symptoms including irritability and pain.

How do I know if I have PMS?

PMS symptoms vary wildly from person to person. You might feel emotional symptoms, like crying about things that you’re usually able to brush off, or physical ailments such as bloating and gassiness.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, you probably have PMS.

Physical symptoms

  • Swollen or tender breasts
  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness, which may lead to dizziness
  • Acne
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Cramping, including dysmenorrhea (extreme cramping) which can cause nausea
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased tolerance for light and noise
  • Bloating or gassy feeling

Emotional symptoms

  • Food cravings
  • Crying spells
  • Irritability and hostility
  • Changes in sexual desire
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Trouble concentrating or with memory recall
  • Tension or anxiety
  • Mood swings
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Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, or PMDD, is a supercharged form of PMS that can disrupt a person’s ability to function normally. PMDD is less common than PMS and can cause extreme mood swings and severe depression and anxiety in addition to common PMS symptoms like cramping and breast tenderness.

The good news is that PMDD is treatable by a medical professional. If you suspect you’ve got it, schedule an appointment with your physician for medical advice.

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How long does PMS last?

Blue clock illustration

The time frame varies depending on the person, but in general, PMS symptoms start about one to two weeks before you begin ovulating and usually go away once menstruation begins. Most people only experience PMS for a few days during each menstrual cycle.

Do magnesium supplements help relieve PMS?

In a 2010 study done in conjunction with a midwifery, researches and PHDs found that “the combination of Mg [magnesium] and vitamin B6 is an effective and affordable treatment in PMS.”

Magnesium supplements come in different forms, like gummies, powder, or pill, and are generally used by people looking for a calming effect. One reason these supplements may help PMS symptoms is because some people have decreased magnesium production before and during their periods.

Want to give ‘em a try? Read this review of CALM’s magnesium gummies to see if they may be right for you.

Read more about magnesium and other natural home remedies for cramps and PMS symptoms from our conversation with Erica Matluck, Director of Wellbeing at the Tia Clinic in our guide: 6 Natural Remedies For PMS & Cramping from the Experts.

Other ways to deal with PMS symptoms naturally

Don’t let PMS ruin your week. We’ve got some tips to keep you cool-headed while your body figures itself out.


  1. Ditch the tampons. Some people find that tampons make their cramps worse, so put the tampons back on the shelf and give period underwear a try instead!
  2. Have an orgasm. Whether you’re by yourself or with a partner, having an O or two is a great way to deal with cramps naturally. Orgasms release feel good hormones like endorphins and oxytocin, which decrease pain and increase pleasure. (Always remember to wrap it before you tap it, if you have something to wrap!)
  3. Take a bath. Soaking in a hot bath does wonders for cramps and aching muscles. Grab your smuttiest book, light a few candles, and add some epsom salts for extra pain relief.
Illustration of blue bubbles


  1. Get some aerobic exercise. Working out is probably the last thing you feel like doing when you’re bloated, but it’s actually a great way to reduce bloating, ease cramps, and boost your mood.
  2. Kick the caffeine. Caffeine can overstimulate your digestive tract, irritate your bowels, and make you retain water. If bloat is a common PMS symptom for you, skip your morning cup of Joe until your period is over and have a glass of bloat-banishing kombucha instead.
  3. Watch what you eat. Processed foods, foods high in saturated fat, and cruciferous vegetables all contribute to water retention and gas build-up. Instead, eat foods that fight against bloat like yogurt with berries, avocado toast, and oatmeal.

Bad moods

  • Rest up. We all know that lack of sleep makes us groggy and irritable the next day, but it also lowers our pain threshold –– not an ideal situation when you’re in the midst of PMS-induced cramps and depression.
  • Find ways to relax. Give yourself a break and do whatever you need to do to get in your happy place. Watch your favorite trashy TV shows, pay a little extra to have your groceries delivered, and postpone any social situations that might stress you out.
  • Eat a healthy diet. You’re probably tired of hearing it, but eating healthy food really does help with PMS symptoms. Don’t deny yourself that glazed donut you’ve been craving, but balance it with some veggies. And, remember, sushi counts as a healthy food.
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