Ah, yes. The familiar cramping, bloating, unexpected emotional surges, and maybe even a breakout. Annoying, yes, but expected. But chills, night sweats, nausea, and body aches? No thanks. Not everyone experiences flu-like symptoms prior to Aunt Flo’s monthly visit, but for those who do, it’s a major nuisance and makes you dread this part of your beautiful, complex cycle all the more.
Flu-like feelings prior to or during menstruation can be caused by the big drop in estrogen right before it starts, according to Dr. Nita, board-certified OB-GYN and cohost on The Doctors. This decrease is the typical reason behind the more common symptoms, i.e. the aforementioned bloating and cramping, but sometimes can manifest in a higher resting body temp and even sore muscles.
Another possible reason for these more extreme symptoms is still hormonal, yes, but has nothing to do with estrogen. The release of the hormone prostaglandin occurs at the site of an injury, but could also happen when the lining of the uterus detaches during menstruation. If you overproduce this hormone during your period, excessive inflammation can occur, which can feel like flu-like aches, pains, and fatigue.
Anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen are great at preventing and fighting these symptoms. If you want to fight them more naturally, increase your uptake of anti-inflammatory foods like ginger, turmeric, and fiber the week before your period and during it.
Dr. Nita also notes that deficiencies can manifest themselves more prominently during menstruation. Taking B vitamins (namely B6 and B1) and vitamin A, as well as minerals such as magnesium and calcium, can help temper the severity of these symptoms.
She made clear that your diet might have a lot to do with how you’re feeling, according to many studies. So make sure to eat foods dense in nutrients and minerals before and during your period. Cool it on the fried foods, caffeine, alcohol, and sugar.
If you’re deep into the journey of exploring your severe PMS and have tried many of these easy wins like eating thoughtfully and healthfully and supplementing with vitamins, minerals, and herbs, Dr. Nita points out that it may be time to visit your doctor. “The good news is that there are lots of treatment options available … your doctor might recommend hormonal treatment,” among many other options. It’s worth it to explore so you can regain your life. No one should feel like they have a monthly flu.