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Some women experience various symptoms in the time leading up to menstruation. Premenstrual syndrome or PMS can cause severe or minor symptoms, and some women do not experience it at all. While the underlying causes of PMS and its more severe form, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), are still not entirely understood, research has found some risk factors that exacerbate the prevalence and severity of PMS symptoms. Certain factors are unavoidable, but changes to lifestyle and diet can have a positive impact on the symptoms of PMS.

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1. Stress Levels

The Journal of Women’s Health reports that women who experience high levels of stress in the two weeks before menstruation are two to four times more likely to experience severe PMS symptoms. These women tend to have increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. Research also shows that the more stressed a woman is during a month, the more severe her PMS will be. Finding strategies to help cope with stress —such as exercise, relaxation techniques, meditation, counseling, and biofeedback — may reduce stress and lessen the severity of symptoms during the premenstrual period.

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