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Dr. Gaudet's Plan For Healthy Cycles

Most women do their best to ignore their menstrual cycle and get annoyed when their bodies and emotions don't cooperate, instead delivering cramps, moodiness, bloating, or all of the above. But what if, rather than dreading your period every month, you viewed it as an opportunity to work with your body and your emotions, rather than against them? The steps below will help.

1. Observe: Simply observe the changes you experience across one menstrual cycle. Make notes in your journal or on your calendar about how you're feeling, both physically and emotionally. Detail is not required; even jotting down "irritated with everyone, terrible stomach cramps" or drawing a sad or smiley face will help you recognize the cyclical nature of your symptoms.

2. Supplement: Take calcium (500 to 600 mg twice a day) and magnesium (200 mg twice a day). Research shows that calcium supplements can help alleviate water retention, mood changes, food cravings, and other PMS symptoms. Magnesium helps calcium do its work, further decreases water retention, and helps offset the constipating effects of calcium. If you notice mood changes or anxiety before your period, try taking 50 mg of vitamin B6, which can help reduce these symptoms, as well as breast pain and swelling. Take these supplements daily, and pay attention to how your body feels during your next three cycles. (Remember that supplements take more time to work than drugs do.)

3. Off-load: Write down emotionally charged issues in a personal journal. You'll have a safe outlet for negative feelings and gain new insight into the issues that trouble you. Don't be surprised if your journal lies dormant for the first part of your cycle and then makes up for lost time in the second half.

4. Reflect and Adjust: After a month, review your calendar and your journal and see whether you notice a pattern to your physical or emotional state. Which days or weeks were you happier? Were there stretches when life seemed difficult? Are there any adjustments you can make to honor your rhythms? Keep following these steps for three more months and see whether your symptoms (and your life) shift.