February 18, 2022 Glynis Kennedy
What is PMS, What Causes It, and How Can We Make it Better?
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a miserable condition that can have a hugely negative impact on a woman’s emotional, physical health, and behavior in the days just before her period begins.
It is so common that around 90% of women that menstruate have experienced symptoms of PMS. However, it must have a serious negative impact on your life for your doctor to take you seriously and diagnose you.
The actual cause of PMS is not known. Many doctors suspect that a change in hormone levels around the time of your period is the catalyst. Five to ten days before menstruation starts women can suffer from the various symptoms of PMS which typically go away once you begin to have blood flow.
Most evidence suggests that PMS results from the alterations in or interactions between the levels of sex hormones and brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters. Estrogen and progesterone increase and decrease at different times of the month. An increase in these hormones can cause mood swings, anxiety, and irritability. Ovarian steroids govern reproduction, your menstrual cycle and also can have a huge impact on cognitive function and memory storage.
Your level of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, can influence your mood, emotions, and thoughts.
PMS does not appear to be specifically associated with any personality factors or specific personality types.
PMS is not the same experience for every woman; symptoms vary from person to person.
Some physical symptoms of PMS are:
- insomnia or fatigue
- bloated stomach
- constipation and diarrhoea
- water retention
- gaining weight
- sore breasts
- joint and muscle pain
- food cravings
- bad headaches
- night sweats
Possible changes in Mood or Behaviour:
- depressed mood, which could include suicidal thoughts
- confusion and difficulty concentrating
- lower self-esteem ,
- fluctuating levels of sexual desire
- loneliness and irritability
- mood swings
Things that Constribute to PMS Symptoms
Some conditions affect PMS but don’t cause it. There are some common characteristics people with PMS seem to share.
- obesity – women with a BMI higher than 30 are three times more likely to have PMS symptoms
- smokers are 50% more likely to have severe PMS symptoms than non-smokers are
- mental health concerns
- poor physical health
- insufficient physical activity
- family history and genetics
Most women experience the symptoms of PMS a few days prior to their period. These unpleasant indicators could last for only a couple of days or longer than a week, but they start after ovulation and dissipate when your period actually starts.
They only leave for good when you say goodbye to menstruation and hello to menopause!
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
According to doctors a small number of women may experience more severe symptoms of PMS known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
PMDD statistics indicate that 6 million, or 1 in 20 women worldwide, struggle with this condition. According to the Recovery Village, the actual prevalence is estimated to be even higher, but many women may not come forward regarding their concerns because of fear of stigmatization. The average age of onset for PMDD is 26, but the condition can emerge at any time during a woman’s reproductive years.
Symptoms of PMDD are similar to PMS but are much more intense and can have a much greater negative impact on your daily activities and quality of life.
Symptoms can include physical, mental and emotional concerns:
- cramps, headaches and joint and muscle pain
- binge eating and problems sleeping
- feeling very anxious, angry, depressed or, in some cases, even suicidal.
When Should You See a Doctor?
If you haven’t been able to effectively manage the symptoms of your premenstrual syndrome with lifestyle changes or if they are interfering with your health and daily activities, see your doctor.
What You Can Do
There are lots of ways to manage PMS. Even if you can’t totally fix it, it’s nice to know you have the power to help yourself.
Some Tips to Feel Better
- 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day
- include in your diet whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
- Eat green leafy vegetables and salmon in for its calcium content
- Avoid salt, caffeine, and alcohol.
- Stop Smoking
- Create healthy sleep routines
- Stress Relief
- Try over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or naproxen. Be sure to follow the dosing instructions exactly as it says on the label.
Some women take vitamins and minerals like folic acid, magnesium, vitamin B-6, vitamin E, and calcium with vitamin D for safe symptom relief.. Others find that herbal remedies for the pain help. If you take any vitamins or supplements, check with your doctor first to make sure it’s won’t interact with any drugs or medications that you are currently using.
What Your Doctor Can Do
If you’ve tried a bunch of different treatment options, but still have bad PMS, it’s probably time to get help. Make an appointment with your doctor or gynecologist. They’ll ask about your symptoms, your health, and the medicines or supplements that you take. They may take some blood tests to rule out other health concerns and make sure the problem really is PMS.
Prescription medication is the most common treatment option from your doctor. Birth control pills sometimes help with headaches and cramps. Antidepressants (medicines that help treat depression) may be an option. Some women take medicine to get rid of extra fluid that makes them feel bloated. Doctors call these diuretics (water pills).
It is important to remember the risk of side effects when you are using prescription meds. Both birth control pills and antidepressants have a long list of side effects that would need to be considered before making your treatment choice.
Your doctor might suggest talk therapy. It’s a way to feel better and learn new skills to overcome challenges by talking with a mental health counselor.
If you have notes about your symptoms, bring it to the appointment. Plan ahead about the questions you want to ask. That way you’ll get the best help from your doctor.
Natural treatments for PMS
The following remedies may be effective alternatives to medications for PMS:
Stress is definitely one of the contributing factors that can make PMS much worse. Meditation is a great way to reduce stress and help you deal with anxiety and depression.
Practicing daily Meditation can help you to relax, focus on the breath and stay present at the moment. At first, this might be difficult if you have never tried to meditate before, but after a few sessions your skill level will increase and you may get sp,e relief of both the physical and emotional symptoms.
Aromatherapy uses fragrant essential oils to provide physical and psychological benefits. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence showing the benefits of aromatherapy, people say it helps them deal with stress, pain, and sleep problems. Scholarly studies exist but have shown mixed results in some cases, additional studies may help to clarify the data.
Popular oils for PMS include:
- clary sage
Warm baths are relaxing and can encourage sleep. Add Epsom salts to the water to help reduce muscle cramping. Painful period cramps are caused by the uterus muscles contracting the magnesium helps relax these muscles and this helps relieve the pain. Enjoy a 20-minute soak before bed to address PMS symptoms.
Regular exercise is beneficial for premenstrual symptoms. One study showed that regular exercise for PMS decreased pain and increased mood. Physical activity like walking or hiking can reduce bloating and cramps, increase circulation and boost your mood by releasing endorphins.
- improve menstrual pain and physical function
- significantly decrease abdominal swelling, cramps, and breast tenderness
- enhance general health perception, energy levels, and mental health
A lack of sleep or constantly interrupted sleep can contribute to a depressed mood, and fatigue, and increase your sensitivity to pain.
A healthy diet can help improve PMS symptoms. Dietary changes can improve issues like bloating and anxiety. Eat regular healthy snacks or small meals throughout the day to keep blood sugar levels on an even keel. Oddly enough drinking plenty of fluids will also help reduce bloating.
There are a huge number of supplements available that are touted as being the “cure” for period problems. Any supplement making these miraculous claims is probably not worth your money. Alternative therapies can provide incredible relief for a wide variety of health concerns, but not all supplements are created equal. Always buy your supplements from a reputable source that has plenty of customer reviews and a clearly labeled ingredient list with instructions for use. Once you have found a company with high-quality supplements, go ahead and try out a few of the options listed below
|SUPPLEMENT||ALSO FOUND IN THESE FOODS|
|Calcium||dairy products, sesame seeds, almonds, leafy green vegetables|
|Magnesium||almonds, green leafy vegetables, peanuts|
|Vitamin B6||chickpeas, tuna, salmon, and other fish, potatoes and other starchy veggies, beef liver and organ meats|
People have used herbal remedies for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including hormone-related conditions. The Mayo Clinic says that some women report relief of PMS symptoms, but there is limited scientific evidence to prove the efficacy of herbal remedies. A study from 2014 considered both herbal medicine and acupuncture as treatment options, a review of previous trials concluded a 50% or better result, so if you are looking for some herbal options…
- evening primrose oil
- ginkgo biloba
- John’s wort
WARNING: Herbal remedies can cause adverse reactions and may interact with other medications.
An overproduction of serotonin can be caused by taking St. John’s Wort and antidepressants at the same time. This combination can lead to life-threatening levels of serotonin( a chemical in the brain that controls body functions including mood) in your body.
Only take herbal medicines in consultation with a doctor or qualified natural health practitioner. Choose products carefully and know the reputation of the manufacturer, after all, herbs are drugs too!
Research shows that acupuncture can be a very effective treatment for PMS, a study from 2016 showed almost 78% of women got excellent symptom relief within 24 hours of the treatment.
Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into specific parts of the body. It is thought to increase blood flow and promote the body’s innate self-healing process. Acupuncture is, nonetheless, a low-risk treatment option that may provide benefits for some people with PMS. Acupuncture is recognized as an effective approach to treating many conditions according to the World Health Organization.
Cognitive behavioral therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that helps people identify and change unhelpful styles of thinking and behavior. It may help people with PMDD more effectively cope with:
- mood changes
Homeopathy offers many options for the treatment of PMS. Before prescribing a suitable homeopathic medicine, the patient’s mental and physical symptoms are analyzed in detail. And then the homeopathic remedy that most closely matches their symptoms is prescribed.
The bottom line
For many women, PMS is a frustrating monthly ordeal. The truth is that there are lots of options to help with both your physical and emotional symptoms. If your life is being negatively impacted by how severe your menstrual cycle is you deserve some relief. Talk to a doctor or licensed naturopath to find out what the best solution is for you.