PMS...What Can You Do?
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) refers to the time before a woman's menstrual cycle begins and usually improves once menstruation has begun. For many women the symptoms are unbearable. Symptoms are both physical and emotional and include: food cravings, mood swings and/or depression, fluid retention, compulsive behavior, headaches, nausea, crying, and a host of other complaints.
PMS is believed caused by an overabundance of estrogen and a deficiency in progesterone. Some also believe that PMS is caused by the body's inability to properly metabolize fatty acids.
PMS affects most women to some extent at some time during their reproductive years. With more than 150 symptoms, it can sometimes be a chore to get a correct diagnosis. Up to 80 percent of women may suffer from PMS, although many times the medical profession is unwilling to diagnose women with this disorder. Many doctors do not take women seriously when they present themselves, requesting treatment for PMS.
You should prepare yourself before seeing your physician, by keeping a calendar of symptoms for at least one month prior to your appointment. This way you will be ready to show your doctor what symptoms you have and when they occur. Your doctor will be able to give a more accurate diagnosis and treatment if you are prepared and able to give complete details.
What can you do?
- If you are overweight, you should try to lose some of your excess pounds. Excess body weight has been shown to increase the symptoms of PMS. Sugar consumption is also believed to contribute to symptoms, so you should try to limit your intake of sugar during the time you are experiencing symptoms. According to a report in the ""Journal of Reproductive Medicine,"" women who report symptoms of PMS, consume three times the amount of sugar as women who do not report symptoms. Try limiting your sugar intake before your period.
- One of the best ways to reduce some of the severity of PMS is through regular exercise. Try taking a 20-30 minute walk three or four times a week and see if your symptoms don't improve. Not only does exercise reduce, or sometimes eliminate premenstrual syndrome, it also is an excellent way to reduce stress and lower your risk of diseases including heart disease and cancer.
- Research has proven that you can reduce up to almost half of all symptoms (including mood swings, depression, and menstrual cramps) of PMS by simply consuming 1200 mg of calcium daily. Calcium is an important nutrient for women of all ages for the prevention of osteoporosis in later life.
- Women who experience premenstrual breast tenderness can reduce or eliminate this symptom by taking 600 IU of Vitamin E daily. Vitamin E also appears to have a protective effect on the cardiovascular system, may reduce the risk of some types of cancer, and offer other health benefits, according to the Mayo Clinic.
- Dietary changes that may help reduce the symptoms of PMS include following a low-fat vegetarian diet, and/ or reducing your intake of refined sugar, salt, red meat, alcohol, and caffeine. Increasing your consumption of complex carbohydrates, leafy green vegetables, fruit, cereals and whole grains is also helpful for many women.
- Women who crave sugar during the days they experience premenstrual symptoms often find relief by supplementing their diet with 300 to 500 mg of magnesium. Magnesium also may help reduce breast tenderness.
- Some women experience a decrease in symptoms by taking 50 to 300 mg of Vitamin B6 daily. Care should be taken not to overdose on Vitamin B6 as side effects such as numbness can occur when too much of this nutrient is consumed.
- Alternative treatments that may be helpful include taking about 1500 mg of Primrose oil daily, or using natural progesterone cream (amount varies by product).
- Some women are able to control the symptoms of PMS by using oral contraceptives; however it's important to weigh the pros and cons of hormonal treatment since the side effects are sometimes more bothersome than the original symptoms.
- Over-the-counter treatments that may help include ibuprofen, naproxen, and other drugs specifically made for relieving premenstrual symptoms such as Midol. Aspirin may not be a good choice for women during menstruation because of its potential to increase the length and severity of menstrual bleeding.