Premenstrual syndrome (called PMS for short) is the name given to the negative feelings and uncomfortable physical symptoms experienced by many women in the two weeks before their periods begin. PMS usually diminishes with the onset of bleeding and disappears until the middle of the next cycle. Most women will experience some mild to moderate PMS symptoms at some point during their reproductive lives, but some find that PMS is serious enough to interfere with their daily lives and routine.
Causes of PMS
Even the experts don't know exactly what causes PMS or why some women suffer more than others, but they do have a few theories. One possibility is that the hormonal changes taking place throughout the menstrual cycle (rising and falling levels of estrogen and progesterone) are what trigger the negative emotions and physical discomfort associated with PMS. Another idea is that brain chemicals such as serotonin, which also fluctuate during a woman's monthly cycle, are what give rise to the psychological symptoms of PMS. It's possible that women who have naturally low serotonin levels suffer from PMS more than women whose serotonin levels are higher.
Studies have also found that obese women are more likely to suffer from PMS than women of a healthy weight, and that stress and certain foodstuffs (salt, caffeine, and alcohol) exacerbate PMS symptoms.
PMS is such a common condition that over 100 different PMS symptoms have been officially recorded. If you're suffering from PMS, you may notice some of the following changes in yourself:
Physically, you may feel bloated, with abdominal pain, headache, backache and sore breasts. You may even notice that you've put on a little bit of weight.
Psychologically, you may be prone to mood swings, irritability, crying, and difficulty concentrating on your work.
You may also notice changes in your behavior, such as a drop in your desire for sex, or eating more or less than usual, or craving certain foods.
Unfortunately, there is currently no definitive cure for PMS, but many women find that making some basic changes in their diet and lifestyle can help them to manage their symptoms and maintain their quality of life.
In terms of diet - you should bring down your intake of salt, caffeine and alcohol, and try consuming smaller portions of food, to avoid bloating. You should also eat calcium-rich foods and lots of fresh fruit and vegetables to boost your body's levels of vitamins and minerals. (Deficiencies in certain minerals and vitamins are thought to aggravate PMS).
It's very important to keep hydrated - try to drink at least six glasses of water on a daily basis.
Exercise - exercise in itself helps to alleviate PMS symptoms, and, just like a good diet, it will help you to lose weight, which should bring about a noticeable improvement in your PMS.
Talk therapies - certain types of talk therapies with a professional counselor can help women who suffer from PMS. This might be particularly effective for you if you notice that your behavior changes each month, not just while you in the two week PMS "phase," but in anticipation of the PMS beginning. Basically, if you are in a bad mood all the time because you're dreading the onset of PMS, this may a necessary treatment for you.
Medical treatment, i.e. treatment with drugs, is reserved for only the most severe cases of PMS. When PMS has gotten to the stage at which a woman is deeply depressed and/or prone to violent or potentially violent behavior, the condition is no longer referred to as PMS, but PMDD. PMDD is an abbreviation of premenstrual dysphoric disorder. If you think you may have PMDD, you must seek medical help immediately.