For most of my life, I thought the usual trope of a woman’s bad mood being directly associated to her cycle, was total hogwash. I for one had never really been much effected by my cycles, and had definitely never noticed a difference in my temperament leading up to or during my “time of the month.” Even after having kids, not much changed other than some physical aspects which we don’t need to get into, but the point being, I never really suffered from “mood swings” when my hormones were influx. Then, as I approached my 40’s I most definitely started picking up on some shifts. At first I didn’t directly correlate my bouts of foul temper and glumness, but after a few months there was no doubt in my mind that I was totally PMS’ing on a consistent, horribly predictable monthly basis. For at least a couple of days, I was hell on wheels and it disturbed me, as well as my family. In addition, I began suffering from hormonal migraines that woke me up in the early morning hours on the day I began my cycle, lasted for about 12 hours, and then left me with a brutal hangover that took me another 12 hours or so to overcome. Having never been a particularly consistent person with much of anything, the one thing I could count on was my PMS, including feeling bitchy and sad the week before, and laid up with a migraine the morning of.

It sucked and I was irritated, and so at my yearly exam I asked my trusted OB, who had watched over the development of all 3 of my babies, and helped bring them safely into this world, for help. Her first instinct was to put me on the pill. Knowing my inclination to lean towards a more “natural” approach though (I was one of her first patients to encapsulate her placenta), she could sense my hesitancy. She then recommended I at least give a supplement called Serenol a try, and if that didn’t work, she urged me to go on the pill. She sent me home with a few packs of samples (as well as a 3 month supply of the pill), and a discount code to try a box out if I wished to order.

The package description labeled Serenol as a supplement to help relieve PMS symptoms including irritability, mood swings, fluid retention, food cravings and intake, and sleep disturbances. I went home and did some research, discovering that it was made of flower pollen extract, used in Sweden for years to help treat symptoms of PMS, royal jelly, a substance produced by bees and chock full of vitamins and minerals, and Chromax chromium picolinate, a mineral “which helps the insulin in your body work efficiently to process sugar and reduce food cravings and intake.” Because it’s a supplement, it has not been reviewed by the FDA, but the research I did concluded that overall it’s a safe product that didn’t contain any questionable ingredients which personally raised any red flags for me. **Important to note here, that those with serious pollen and bee allergies, however, do need to proceed with caution.You can read more about the ingredients contained in Serenol, as well as the manufacturing process, along with results from their clinical studies for yourself, but what I deduced was that the ingredients were safe, however the results were mixed, but I was at least willing to give it a try. After using my sample for a month, I seemed to notice a slight improvement in my PMS symptoms overall, including a more calm disposition and slightly less cravings and bloating, so I decided to sign up for their membership.

After about 18 months of being a member, I recently cancelled my membership because number 1, the supplement is expensive. You get a shipment of 3 boxes every quarter, and are billed $40 on a monthly basis. At first I wasn’t paying attention to my charges and thought I was being charged just once a quarter when I received my 3 month supply. But then I realized that holy heck, I was being billed every month(!!), making each box $40, instead of what I originally thought was $40 every quarter, making it an easier pill to swallow at $13/box.

Second, I am incredibly inconsistent with routine in general, and often failed to even take the supplement, so much so that I have about a 9 month supply on hand that will most likely last me another 2 years haha!

Thirdly, I think taking the supplement helped with my moodiness, and I know it definitely didn’t at all make it worse, but I can’t say FOR SURE it did indeed help. And because I can’t with 100% certainty say it helped, I couldn’t justify continuing to pay $40/month for it. All in all, I feel like my experience has been almost identical to this woman who reviewed Serenol back in 2016.

So why the heck are you writing about it, Andrea? Well, because I love that this option does in fact exist, outside of birth control. Even at modern low dose levels, birth control pills continue to have scary side effects and links to breast cancer. I really try my best to weigh risks and benefits and not fall into fear mongering traps, but the recent birth control findings affirmed my decision to find a BC alternative, and prevent using it for as long as possible. And since many of you have also written to commiserate with me, I wanted to at least share this product in the hopes that it may indeed help someone. Like I said, the reviews are mixed, but from what I gather, it seems to have helped at least 50% of the woman who try it. I am going to try my best to consistently take my remaining boxes of Serenol until they’re out, and make a decision at that point if I should proceed with signing back on to a subscription plan.

One other product that I do want to share with you all, and that I am certain helped me with my hormonal headaches, is an essential oil from Young Living called Progessence Plus. Described on the website as an essential oil blend to help your skin combat the signs of aging, several women recommended it to me as another option to progesterone cream.

Women naturally experience a drop in estrogen and progesterone levels right before they cycles, which can lead to intense headaches or migraines for some women. The benefits and effects of applying progesterone cream is unproven, and can even be risky if you are taking it for an extended period of time. Progessence Plus does contain wild yam extract though, which is promoted as a natural source of progesterone.  I began using this oil over a year ago and saw results immediately with my next cycle. I only apply the oil for a few days leading up to the start of my cycle, and stop using it once I start. It can cause breast tenderness so be aware if you decide to give it a try, and I’d recommend experiment using it for as short of a time period as possible. **Important to note here as well, apparently Progessence Plus can cancel out some birth control pills. Do your research if you’re on the pill, as I don’t want to be responsible for any surprise babies! 🙂 As I continue to head into peri-menopausal territory, and eventually into full blown menopause, I’m sure I will have to continue experimenting with finding the best ways to combat the symptoms associated with these diabolical female conditions, which leads me to what I *am* certain of. Over the past couple of years dealing with increasingly intense PMS symptoms, the best outcome occurs when I make sure to drink plenty of water, get out and exercise, especially when I don’t want to, eat plenty of protein and vegetables, avoid sugar and fried foods as much as possible, avoid wine, get to bed at a decent time and follow a soothing bedtime routine, and don’t overload myself with plans, including being willing to cancel plans when possible. In other words, when I do all the things I should be doing anyhow to live as healthy a life as possible, my PMS symptoms are greatly reduced. Imagine that?! But life isn’t perfect and I often don’t do all those things perfectly, so I will continue to experiment with things which will help make up for my shortcomings and deficits, as any sane person would 😉 If you’ve experimented as well, and have found some relief, please share! I’m always willing to be a guinea pig 🙂

Photography by: Miranda StratfordPhotography by: