Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) has been around since the dawn of time, and yet many are still in the dark about it. It’s a condition that affects women who experience their monthly periods. PMS is characterized by a series of physical and psychological symptoms that tend to recur at every cycle. It usually begins about two weeks before a woman’s period and tapers off right after the flow starts.
PMS can be a debilitating condition and it affects the quality of life for many women. Women often have to miss work or school because of PMS, and functioning on a daily basis becomes a challenge. For the longest time, no one knew what was happening and therefore women largely suffered in silence.
The symptoms of PMS are very varied and different women experience different symptoms. No two PMS conditions are alike. Symptoms are divided into physical and psychological ones, with both occurring at the same time.
The Physical Symptoms of PMS
PMS symptoms are largely caused by changing hormone levels, and this can cause various issues that affect the nerves and blood vessels. Symptoms may include, but are not limited to:
- Headaches and dizziness
- Pimples and other skin conditions
- Aches and pains, including backache and cramps
- Bleeding gums
- Breast swelling and tenderness
- Leg swelling
- Changes in appetite and craving for salty or sweet foods
- Abdominal bloating
- Facial swelling
- Sudden allergies that cause hives and rashes
- Nausea and vomiting
- Weight gain
Apart from just physical effects, PMS can cause mental and psychological symptoms too
The Psychological Symptoms of PMS
The mental symptoms caused by PMS are no less important. However, women who live with these usually don’t talk about them since they may be misunderstood. Society often regards the psychological symptoms of PMS with apprehension and negativity, implying that they can be controlled by the women experiencing them.
This view is changing, but at a slow pace. More often than not, women are derided and made fun of as ‘having PMS’ when they engage in interaction that are less than desirable with other members of society. Psychological symptoms may include:
- Panic attacks and the development of phobias
- Feeling extremely tensed or confused
- Difficulty concentrating
- Crying spells and feeling highly emotional
- Memory loss
- Difficulty in making judgements and decisions
- Various personality disorders
- Fear of being in public, causing one to be shut indoors
PMS is a condition that isn’t easy to diagnose as the symptoms are non-specific and there are any diagnostic tests for it. However, if treated, PMS sufferers stand a 90% chance of recovery and improvement of their symptoms. Not much is known about the specific causes of PMS, but experts believe that elements in the patients’ lives may interfere with progesterone production.
Hormone Related Headaches
Migraines and headaches caused by fluctuating hormone levels aren’t different from any other headaches. To know whether or not they are really hormone related, one needs to ask when these headaches occur. Usually, hormone related migraines happen during pregnancy, around the menstrual cycle, upon the onset of puberty, and at a fixed time every month.
These headaches happen because of the increase of estrogen in the body. When it travels to the brain, it binds some salt, causing water retention or edema. Water retention during PMS can be improved by certain lifestyle changes. These include avoiding too much salt, drinking enough water, exercising, taking evening primrose oil and other diuretic rich foods like strawberries and parsley.
Improving PMS in Everyday Life
Certain nutrients can help improve PMS, and one of these is Magnesium. Women with PMS usually have low magnesium level and should consume more Magnesium rich food and take Magnesium supplements.
Vitamin A is another thing that is help as it has diuretic, anti-stress, anti-fatigue and antioxidant properties. Exercise is also beneficial on the whole.
Several herbs are also useful in combating PMS symptoms, including Black Cohash and Chasteberry. Black Cohash ( Cimcifuga racemose) can help balance out hormone levels and can help fight cramps and pains. Chasteberry ( Vitex agnus castus) helps increase progesterone and decrease the hormones that start the PMS cycle. It also helps prevent swelling and water retention.
Finally, consuming some progesterone as prescribed by your doctor is also effective in managing PMS. PMS should not be the reason your quality of life is compromised. There are many safe and effective ways to treat and manage it, which will benefit you in the long run.
Written by Dr. Lai Jun Min