Headaches, back pain, bloating, cramps, mood swings… that’s what 75 per cent of Aussie women gripe with Every. Single. Month. Thanks, periods! And while it might be easier to just surrender in front of The Mindy Project, giant bowl of ice-cream in lap, sedentary behaviour is actually the opposite of what your body needs.

Resident GP Dr Claudia Lee takes us back to school with the lowdown on our nemesis PMS. Yup, it’s time to get smart about the other cycle in your life.

WHAT IS IT?

Ever wondered why you have intense food cravings at a particular time of the month, possibly accompanied by fatigue, cramps, bloating and feeling like a downright diva? These symptoms are directly related to hormonal fluctuations that occur in the second half of the menstrual cycle, mostly the days just prior, called premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

WHY DO WE GET IT?

In the first half of the cycle, the hormones oestrogen and progesterone build up and prepare for a pregnancy where the egg is fertilised and implanted in the uterus (womb). However, when pregnancy doesn’t occur, the hormones take a dive to baseline levels to start all over again, and the bigger the dive (if unbalanced), the bigger effect on our moods and wellbeing.

HOW DOES IT AFFECT US?

Some factors associated with hormone imbalances and PMS include lifestyle stressors like juggling a career, family and social life; lack of sleep; eating more processed foods and alcohol; or an imbalance in the gut bacteria that help us break down and clear excess hormones, which is associated with our appetites and food cravings.

WHAT’S WITH ALL THE CHOCOLATE CRAVINGS?

One of the main reasons we crave chocolate before our cycle is that physiologically our body needs more magnesium, and more amino acids like tryptophan (that makes serotonin, the happy hormone) – and they’re both found in chocolate.

WHY DOES MY BACK HURT?

As for back pain and feeling bloated, this is not only the uterus enlarging slightly, but the effect of oestrogen which causes fluid to be retained. Some women report gaining kilograms of water around this time, leaving them feeling swollen around the waist and understandably irritable and uncomfortable, thus affecting mood.

I’M SO TIRED…

As for fatigue, or feeling tired before and during the cycle, historically we are actually meant to slow down and take it easier during this time of the month, be nicer to ourselves, and probably not do headstands, so listen to your body.

Sure PMS can be a drag sometimes but periods are only natural – and dealing with them should be too! Cottons, a female hygiene brand, are the champion of 100% chemical-free tampons, pads and liners made from 100% cotton. Want to give them a try? Cottons will send you a free sample – just click here.