Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
What Is PMS?
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is the name of a group of symptoms a woman may experience 7-14 days before menstruation. The symptoms usually stop soon after her period begins. Most women feel some discomfort before their period begins. But a woman who has PMS may feel so anxious, depressed, or uncomfortable that she has a difficult time coping at home and at work. Symptoms may be worse some months and better others.
Although there is disagreement on the exact cause or causes of PMS, the general consensus is that it is an imbalance of a combination of ovarian hormones and brain chemicals (called neurotransmitters). These imbalances may differ among women.
What Are the Symptoms of PMS?
PMS symptoms vary from woman to woman. They may come in several combinations, ranging in severity from mild to moderate or, in some cases, incapacitating. PMS can be diagnosed by the symptoms and their cyclical nature, as they occur each month and generally resolve during or after menstruation.
Physical Symptoms May Include:
- Tender, enlarged, and/or fibrocystic breasts
- Cramping pain in the lower abdomen
- Abdominal bloating
- Weight gain
- Appetite changes
- Nausea and vomiting
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Joint and/or muscle pain
- Swollen feet and/or hands
- Sleep disturbances (e.g., insomnia)
- Fatigue, lack of energy
Mental/Emotional Symptoms May Include:
- Crying spells
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling overwhelmed or out of control
Conventional Treatment of PMS
Although PMS can generally be controlled with lifestyle changes, some health-care practitioners prescribe drugs to control the symptoms. Antidepressants are prescribed for depression, fatigue, food cravings, and sleep problems associated with menopause. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are often used (either over the counter or prescription) for painful menses and breast tenderness. It should be noted, however, that the steps taken to alleviate PMS can also result in a less painful menses, once it arrives. Some women are prescribed birth control pills, which suppress ovulation and result in less dramatic hormone swings.
Thorne Research recommends that a woman consult with her health-care practitioner who can recommend one or more approaches to managing PMS based on her individual needs. There are a number of possible recommendations for controlling PMS without medication, including the following:
- Eat complex carbohydrates (such as whole grains and vegetables), fiber, and protein. Cut back on sugar and fat.
- Cut down on salt intake for the last few days before a period begins to reduce bloating and fluid retention.
- Cut back on caffeine to feel less tense and irritable and to ease breast soreness.
- Cut out alcohol. Drinking it before her period can make a woman feel more depressed.
- Take a comprehensive, well-absorbed multiple vitamin-mineral supplement.
- Include a daily essential fatty acid supplement.
- Try eating up to six small meals a day instead of three larger ones.
- Get aerobic exercise, working up to 30 minutes, 4-6 times a week.
- Get plenty of sleep – about eight hours a night.
- Keep to a regular schedule of meals, bedtime, and exercise.
- Try to avoid scheduling stressful events the week before a period.