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5 Natural Ways to Relieve Menstrual Mood Swings from an Herbalist



“Are you PMS or something?” That’s the question not to ask me when I’m about to have my period and suddenly feel very annoyed, sad, upset, or start crying profusely. Have you had a wild mood swing lately that you knew was probably related to your period? Sometimes it does feel like your hormones exist solely to Ruin. Your. Day. (and that of your parents/friends/roommates/coworkers/partners/kids). While menstrual mood swings are completely natural, they can be treated naturally, too. Let’s dig deeper into your cycle and the fluctuating hormones that go with it, what typical mood swings and PMS symptoms look like, the role period inequity can play, and finally, my top five natural ways to relieve menstrual mood swings.


The menstrual cycle and mood swings


People who menstruate experience large shifts in hormones during a full menstrual cycle. Hormones fluctuate from menstruation to the follicular phase, to ovulation, and to the luteal phase then leads to menstruation again (and the beginning of a new cycle).


Shifts in estrogen and progesterone levels can affect serotonin (the happy hormone). This may lead to mood swings. Understanding your cycle and its phases might help to prevent and relieve menstrual mood swings.


The four phases of your cycle are:

  • Menstruation (lasts from about 3-7 days)

  • Follicular phase (lasts from about 14-21 days)

  • Ovulation (lasts 24 hours)

  • Luteal phase (lasts about 11-17 days)


Mood swings are most common during the luteal phase, right before menstruation. While everyone in life can have mood swings, the majority of menstruators have symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome), which includes hormonal mood swings.


Mood swings and other PMS symptoms


Other common symptoms of PMS include:

  • Anger, irritability, depression

  • Breast/chest tenderness

  • Feeling cold

  • Increase in pain, chronic pain, arthritic pain

  • Bloating and/or digestive issues

  • Fatigue


Other symptoms of PMS that coexist with mood swings are important to notice because they can contribute to mood swings or worsen them. For instance, if you’re tired, in pain, and bloated, you might be more prone to irritability and fluctuations in mood.


It’s worth noting that being moody isn’t necessarily wrong. Feeling a wide range of emotions can be healthy, and being moody while premenstrual (some folks call it “being luteal”, which I like a lot) can offer an opportunity to feel all the feels and be honest about our disappointments and upsets. It can be like an emotional cleanse. Some people even muse that the monthly emotional cleanse might be the reason folks with uteruses live longer and healthier!


Does the lack of period equity lead to mood swings?


The physiological fluctuation in hormones is linked to menstrual mood swings. But other intersecting factors contribute to mood changes as well. Menstruators might be moody because their needs are systematically ignored.


For example, because periods aren’t respected as a window of rest and replenishment, folks who menstruate have to power through their periods while pretending they’re not menstruating. This happens in the workplace, in school, in sports, and at home.


And because of vast inequities in period care, some people have to spend a significant portion of their earnings on menstrual products, which might make them angry and irritated—for a reason.


Trans men and gender non-binary people who menstruate might face barriers to accessing period care, which can worsen moods.


People with precarious employment might risk getting fired if they need a period self-care day, adding anxiety to hormonal shifts.


People with uteruses who are trying to conceive might be very moody before their period because it confirms that they didn’t get pregnant.


In other words, there are many valid reasons to be moody while being luteal. Does any of that resonate with you?


How to relieve your menstrual mood swings


With that said, menstrual mood swings can severely disrupt your life and cause harm to your relationships. If your mood swings are causing more harm than good in your life, there are ways to relieve them. Have you tried any of the five tips below?


#1: Know your cycle


Once you know your menstrual cycle and understand which phase you are in, you can lessen the impacts and severity of menstrual mood swings. Charting your cycle enables you to have a menstrual calendar at the ready in which you can predict when you are luteal.


Simply being aware that you are in the luteal phase of your cycle (and therefore more prone to mood swings) can help you stay calmer.


#2: Try nutritional supplements


Some nutritional supplements have been shown to help lessen PMS symptoms, including mood swings. Take them preventively throughout the month for best results.


Magnesium supplements for instance can do wonders for PMS. (Ever crave chocolate while PMS? It could be because you’re craving magnesium!) Choose magnesium bisglycinate over other kinds, because it is more absorbable. Other beneficial supplements to try for relieving menstrual mood swings include fiber and B vitamins.


#3: Express your needs


Learning to express your needs as things come up (as opposed to letting them bottle up inside and explode later) can help lessen the severity of menstrual mood swings. Because many menstruators have been exposed to period shaming, you might hesitate to be upfront about your menstrual needs. But menstruating is normal and needs to be normalized.


Expressing your needs might mean telling your friends you’re not feeling as social, or asking someone to make dinner for you, or taking a day off from work if you’re in pain. You’ll probably be less moody when your physical and emotional needs are met.


#4: Plan something nice for your luteal phase


The luteal phase can be the most challenging for most folks who menstruate. You might experience pain in your body, digestive issues like diarrhea or constipation, you might be more irritable, and feel overall “blah.”


This is a good time to set up a recurring appointment in your calendar: be it a date with a friend who always makes you feel better, an appointment with a therapist, a restorative yoga class, a nature hike, a solo retreat, a massage or acupuncture session, or anything else that helps lessen the effects of being luteal on your emotional health.


#5: Use herbal medicine


Finally, medicinal herbs can help with your menstrual mood swings, too.


Milky Oats

Milky oats is a calming and uplifting herbal remedy you can take in the form of a liquid extract (tincture). It works mainly on the nervous system and is beneficial for irritability and anxiety. Take milky oats all month long for best results.


Reishi

The medicinal mushroom reishi is a general tonic that also helps support liver health. It’s beneficial to cleanse the liver during the menstrual cycle because it keeps hormonal levels balanced. You can take reishi in the form of capsules, powders, and liquid extract (tincture). Take reishi all month long for best results.


Damiana

Damiana is a mood-lifting herb with a strong capacity to relieve depression and dark moods. You can take damiana as a liquid extract (tincture) during the luteal phase, as needed.



I’d love to hear how you’re finding ways to relieve menstrual mood swings. If you’re up for it, go ahead and share it with us in the comments.


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