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Surefire ways to feel great all month long

Naomi de la Torre is freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom with two delightful boys, ages three and six. Naomi has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona, is a self-proclaimed salsa diva, and can make a killer octopus ...

Secrets of health and happiness

Are the hormonal swings and other symptoms of your monthly cycle getting you down? Get off the roller coaster and learn practical tips to feel great all month long.
Woman drinking water after workout

Eat foods that relieve cramps

Eating a diet of wholesome, unprocessed foods will not only keep your body in good shape, it will help you stay at the top of your game. If you suffer from bloating, cramps, moodiness and other menstrual symptoms, make sure to avoid foods high in salt, fat, sugar and caffeine. They can aggravate your symptoms. Believe it or not, there are actually certain foods that help to reduce cramps and other symptoms of PMS. Eat plenty of leafy green veggies, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, salmon, tuna, whole grains, turnip greens and pineapple to ease the pain and get an extra boost of energy. Peppermint, ginger and red raspberry leaf teas have also been shown to reduce the pain of menstrual cramps.

Discover more foods that help menstrual cramps >>

Drink more water

You'll feel your absolute best if you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Water is not only important to our health, it is essential. Because our bodies are composed mostly of water, we are dependent on hydration to keep every part of our body functioning at top capacity. Make sure to avoid caffeinated beverages and to drink plenty of water prior to and during your menstrual cycle to reduce symptoms. Staying well-hydrated can do wonders to alleviate the pain.

But how much water do we need? "The exact amount of water needed per day really depends on the individual," says Rick Hall, a registered dietician in Phoenix. "People who exercise, for example, will lose a lot more water through sweat and breathing, so their needs are higher." Eight glasses of water a day is average, but another good rule of thumb is to drink enough water that you have to urinate every two to four hours.

Sleep deeply

Stay bright-eyed and bushy-tailed by getting plenty of sleep. Good sleep is one of the essential keys to happiness and health. In order to feel your best, you will need between seven and eight hours of sleep each night. Not only does sleep boost your mood, improve your productivity, increase your ability to focus and strengthen your immune system -- it can actually protect you from a range of serious illnesses including heart attack, stroke and cancer.

Trouble falling asleep at night? Try these natural solutions for better sleep >>

Stay active

When bloating, cramps and general moodiness make you want to curl up in the fetal position, resist the urge! Regular exercise can improve your metabolism, mood, sex life and even the symptoms of PMS. High-powered cardio boosts circulation and releases endorphins in your body that can help to lessen menstrual symptoms. Not sure you're up to the challenge? Try some gentle exercises like walking, swimming, yoga and Pilates to help relieve lower-back and abdominal cramps.

Laugh it off

There's nothing like a good laugh to keep your spirits high. Plus, it's medically proven that laughter is good for your health. Take a few minutes to visit your favorite funny websites each day, keep in touch with your friends, plan a regular girls' night out or go to the park and really play with your kids. You don't need anyone's permission to let loose and have a good time. This is your life. Enjoy every minute of it.

More on self-improvement

8 Realistic steps to a healthier you
6 Reasons you aren't happy and how to change it
6 Ways nature can boost your mood

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