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An OB/GYN tells us all we need to know about our monthly visit from Aunt Flo.

woman in pain period cramps

Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz: Periods ... most of us have them, but how much do we really know about them? Today, I appear on "The Tyra Banks Show" to discuss this very topic.

Here are some things every woman should know about "that time of the month."

• Almost one third of all women experience "distressing-to-disabling" symptoms prior to the onset of their menses each month.

• PMS and menstruation are NOT diseases! But the extreme symptoms "represent imbalances in a normal and natural hormonal tide, which, when ignored, lead to greater imbalances," according to Dr. David Simon of the Chopra Center.

Here are some tips to make menstruation and PMS more tolerable, and some opportunities to rebalance:

• Stay hydrated: Coconut water is an excellent source of electrolytes (better and lower calorie than sports drinks!). Of course, water will do, too.

• Castor oil hot packs: Soak a cloth you don't care about in three tablespoons of castor oil and put it directly on your belly. Cover that with an old-fashioned hot water bottle or heating pad to reduce cramping. Be sure to sit or recline on an old towel or sheet to eliminate the risk of staining or soaking the bed or couch you lounge on.

• If you know your cycle really well, take a "prophylactic" dose of nsaids (nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs found in ibuprofen, etc.) just prior to onset of menses to reduce cramps and discomfort.

• Make a tea of coriander, fennel, and cumin seeds to help with bloating and swelling. Other natural diuretics include parsley, cilantro, and lemongrass! Yum!

• Take a deep breath of high-quality rose, lavender, or any other flower essential oil you like to cool and calm your irritable brain -- it may diminish the risk of emotional blow-out at the time of PMS and, if you wear it, the bonus is that people who smell (and deal with) you may respond more charitably to your mood swings.

• Flax seeds have an anti-inflammatory effect when used long-term and may diminish cramps if used on a regular basis. They also are an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids and fiber and promote bowel health.

• Moderate aerobic exercise lifts the mood and gets the blood flowing. This may reduce cramps, bloating, and other unpleasant menstrual symptoms. Try a moderately paced 20- to 30-minute walk, even if you feel like slumming it on your couch with a bag of potato chips!

• Tired? Don't fight it! Get plenty of rest. Pushing yourself during your menses or difficult PMS days really does nothing for you -- that is, after you return from that short walk.

• Extremely heavy bleeding requiring tampon or pad changes (fully drenched) more than two per hour for more than two hours, shortness of breath, dizziness, or other serious symptoms and recurrent PMS symptoms that are unmanageable or disruptive to your ability to perform daily activities on a monthly basis -- causing you to routinely miss work, school, etc. -- require immediate medical attention.

next: My Kids' School Supplies Cost a Fortune!
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