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The complete beginner’s guide to Pre-Menstrual Syndrome

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Menstrual cycle is a normal phase which every female has to face during her days of puberty. This cycle holds great significance as it is associated with the release of various hormones in female body and for well-being. There is a term called as Pre-menstrual cycle or syndrome which we often hear but only a few of us are aware with the actual meaning of this word.

PMS stands for Pre-menstrual syndrome and includes a series of physical and emotional symptoms which women feel before the start of their menstrual period and after ovulation. Such symptoms are usually seen after the days of ovulation due to the drastic fall in estrogen and progesterone levels and go away within a few days when women’s menstruates. The signs are mild in some women while in some cases, the symptoms are so severe that the daily activities are disrupted.

 

Pre-menstrual syndrome holding a series of various symptoms are often seen in women who:

  • Have high level of stress due to various factors
  • Have a family history of depression and other non-communicable diseases
  • Have a history of postpartum depression

Symptoms of Pre-Menstrual syndrome

Women often ask that when do PMS symptoms start. Sometimes there are PMS symptoms but no period. There are potential signs and symptoms that indicates the presence of pre-menstrual syndrome faced by women of various age groups who menstruate each month.

Behavioral signs and symptoms

Physical signs and symptoms

Anxiety

Muscle or joint pain

Depressed mood

Headache

Mood swings

Fatigue

Irritability

Weight gain or fluid retention

Sudden episodes of anger

 

Sudden food cravings

Bloating in abdominal region

Insomnia

Breast tenderness

Social withdrawal

Acne or break outs on face

Poor concentration

Constipation or Diarrhea

Change in libido

Alcoholic Intolerance

 

Causes of Pre-menstrual syndrome

Scientific researches have concluded that there are no specific causes of PMS or severe PMS disorder. People experience the symptoms in a more severe way and here are a few theories suggested for you which are considered as causes of pre-menstrual symptoms.

  1. Hormonal changes

Experts suggests that PMS is a response to changing levels of hormones in body. The major hormones involved are estrogen and progesterone that naturally fluctuate throughout the menses cycle. Hormones reach a specific peak and then rapidly decline during the luteal phase followed by ovulation. It leads to anxiety, irritability and changes in mood.

  1. Chemical changes in the brain

Chemical messengers are also a factor of symptoms of PMS. The neurotransmitters called as serotonin and norepinephrine are important for bodily functions. They help to regulate mood, emotions and behavior. A sudden drop in estrogen leads to release of norepinephrine. It leads to decline in production of dopamine, acetylcholine and serotonin. Such changes eventually triggers sleep problems leading to low or depressed mood changes.

  1. Lifestyle factors

Our lifestyle plays a significant role in maintaining our overall health. Potential lifestyle factors can worsen the PMS symptoms leading to irregular menses. The factors worsening the condition are:

  • Smoking
  • Eating lots of high fat food
  • Consuming excessive sugar and salt
  • Lack of quality sleep

PMS affecting other health problems

Due to lack of awareness, majority of the women are not able to detect the pre-menstrual symptoms. There is a need to normalize the concept of premenstrual syndrome meaning in Urdu. There are many other health problems which gets worse before the menstrual period starts. These health problems has association with PMS including:

Depression and anxiety disorders

These are the common conditions that overlap with PMS. Depression and anxiety symptoms get worse before the menstrual period starts.

Myalgic encephalomyelitis or chronic fatigue syndrome

Women suffering from ME/CFS are more likely to have heavy menstrual bleeding, premature menopause or no menses at all.

Irritable bowel syndrome

IBS can lead to cramping, bloating and abdominal gas. These symptoms get worse before the period starts.

Bladder pain syndrome

Women who suffer from bladder pain syndrome have painful cramps during PMS.

Methods to ease the symptoms of PMS

There is a cure to every problem and so is the case with Pre-menstrual syndrome. The symptoms of PMS can be slowed down by adopting the following methods:

  • It is recommended to drink plenty of fluids for easing the abdominal bloating. You can consume herbal teas including chamomile or red raspberry leaf that may ease cramping.
  • Try to consume an overall balanced diet including all five servings of food groups. Focus on the intake of whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
  • Cut back on the items like sugar, salt, excessive caffeine and alcohol which can trigger the symptoms.
  • You can seek help from healthcare professional in case of excessive cramps and mood symptoms. You can try supplements like folic acid, vitamin B-6, calcium and magnesium.
  • It is recommended to get more vitamin D in the form of natural light, food or through supplements.
  • Try to get maximum sleep of 7 to 9 hours each night to help relieve fatigue and overall health.
  • Try at least half an hour of physical activity on daily basis. It is necessary to help relieve bloating and cramping and also lessens the anxiety and depression symptoms.

Diet related suggestions

A healthy diet plays a major role in overall well-being of a person. A balanced diet can cure all sort of symptoms associated with PMS too. Good food leads to good mood so here are few suggestions which can be adopted to lessen the PMS symptoms.

  1. Intake of high-quality calcium foods

According to studies, it has been seen that women who consume the highest intakes of calcium and vitamin D are less likely to develop PMS. It is recommended to consume calcium at about 1200 milligrams per day. RDA for women of age group 19-50 years should consume 1000 mg. RDA for women below 70 years regarding vitamin D consumption is 700 IU and above 70 years is 600 IU.

Calcium works in the brain to relieve some depression symptoms while vitamin D influences emotional changes. Calcium and vitamin D can be consumed through diet from various dietary sources such as:

  • Low-fat milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Fortified orange juice
  • Soy milk
  • Salmon
  • Fortified milk

 

  1. Don’t skip breakfast

It is recommended to never skip breakfast in any means. Try to consume regular meals and snacks throughout the day. It is beneficial to start the day with breakfast as it has various benefits. PMS includes a hormone storm and can affect the appetite of person. The mood becomes more irritable when a person skips meals and leads to rise in blood sugar levels.

  1. Consume whole grains, lean protein, fruits, and vegetables

Eating a nutrient rich and balanced diet can prevent the person from various health problems. It is a better approach to eat well to tweak the symptoms of PMS. Try to include plenty colorful and fiber-packed vegetables and fruits in your diet which are rich in antioxidants. Consume the maximum servings of whole grain foods like brown rice, oatmeal and rye bread to cure bloating.

It is also a good approach to consume Vitamin B-fortified breads and cereals. Researches have proven that higher intakes of thiamine and riboflavin can lower the risk of PMS. But the source should be through diet, not from the supplements. Initiate complex carbohydrates in diet which can help to stabilize your mood and keeps the cravings under control. Complex carbohydrates include lentils, potatoes and unprocessed oats providing the feeling of fullness and moderately rises insulin levels.

Focus on consuming iron-rich foods from lean meat sources to avoid anemia. Iron-rich foods are necessary to avoid any sort of anemic problem as heavy menstrual bleeding can lead to loss of blood in female body. Don’t forget to remove the excess fat from the meat sources. If you are a vegan, then you can ask your doctor for an iron supplement too in order to avoid iron deficiency.

  1. Don’t overload on sugar items

Cravings for sugar is a common issue faced by females showing symptoms of PMS and is difficult to resist it. It is due to the shifting levels of estrogen and progesterone hormones and can also decrease the serotonin levels in brain. All these changes trigger the PMS symptoms and affect’s the mood in a woman. Studies have shown that a women with PMS should consume extra 200-500 calories per day. But, in our daily life those extra calories come from sweet foods and fats. It is advisable to consume whole grains instead of sugars to boost the serotonin levels.

To avoid sugar cravings, you can snack on nuts which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and provide the feeling of fullness in body. There are variety of nuts like pecans, walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts. A person should munch on healthier sources of snacks instead of sugary items to avoid inconvenience in health.

Medications

There are some prescription medicines and over-the counter pain relievers that can help to treat some PMS symptoms.

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers

These are available on almost all sort of medical stores which help to lessen physical symptoms like cramps, headaches, backaches and breast tenderness. These pain relievers include:

  • Naproxen
  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen

 

  • Prescription medicines

You can also seek help from prescription medicines, if in case over-the-counter medicines are not working. These includes:

Antidepressants: These can help to relive emotional symptoms of PMS in some women where other medicines are not working. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are the common type of antidepressants used to treat the symptoms of PMS.

Diuretics: They are also called as water pills and helps to reduce the symptoms of bloating and breast tenderness.

Anti-anxiety medicines: These may help to reduce the feelings of anxiousness.

It is recommended to consult your doctor before taking any sort of medicine as they can have side effects too. Avoid taking any sort of medication without prescription.

Supplements and vitamins

Vitamins and minerals also help to relieve the symptoms of PMS. FDA does not regulates vitamin and minerals or any sort of herbal supplements like they regulate medicines. It is recommended to talk to your doctor before taking any sort of supplement.

Here we will discuss some benefits of vitamins and minerals which help to ease the symptoms of PMS.

  1. Calcium:Calcium is a mineral found in foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products. It helps to reduce some PMS symptoms including fatigue, cravings and depression. There are also some fortified cereals, breads and orange juices available in market which have calcium added in them. These items can also be implemented in diet instead of a calcium supplement.
  2. Vitamin B6:This vitamin may also help to treat the PMS symptoms including moodiness, irritability, forgetfulness, bloating and anxiety. Vitamin B6 is found in various food items like fish, poultry, potatoes and fruits excluding citrus fruits and fortified cereals.
  3. Magnesium:It helps to relieve some symptoms of PMS including migraines. Magnesium is rich in green leafy vegetables such as spinach, nuts, whole grains and fortified cereals. It can also be taken as a supplement.
  4. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids:Polyunsaturated fatty acids help to reduce cramps and other PMS symptoms. Flaxseeds, nuts, fish and green leafy vegetables are some good sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Related questions

What syndrome is common before the period starts? PMS known as pre-menstrual syndrome is a combination of syndrome seen before the start of menstrual cycle in women. The symptoms include bloating, headaches, and moodiness.

How long does the PMS lasts in a women? PMS called as pre-menstrual syndrome lasts for about 2-3 days after the period begins. The symptoms are worse during the starting days of period. Certain body changes and mood changes are seen during this phase.

Why does a female feel crazy before her period? Low levels of serotonin causes the feelings of sadness and irritability. This neurotransmitter helps to regulate the mood, sleep cycle and appetite in a person.

What are signs which indicate that date of menstrual cycle is near? There are some signs which indicate that period is coming which includes:

  • Soreness or heaviness in breasts
  • Break outs on face
  • Tiredness and cramps
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Headache and mood swings

Why does females get anxiety before a week of their period? The rollercoaster of hormones affects the neurotransmitters in brain such as serotonin and dopamine. These are associated with mood regulation and leads to increase in symptoms such as anxiety, depression and mood swings.

How can a female balance her hormones before the period starts? Hormones can be balanced during and before the start of periods through the following means:

  • Get enough sleep
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat complex carbohydrates, proteins and healthy fats
  • Drink a lot of water

Dn.Zainab Naeem is Hosting and Content Writing Head of SDNO. She is a freelance nutritionist and writer, and also a self-taught calligrapher, artist and chef.  She can be reached at @xayni_de_artista.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is not intended as sound medical advice for your particular illness; rather, it is meant to increase awareness of common health issues. Before implementing any recommendations made in this article or choosing a treatment plan based on its contents, you should always speak with a qualified healthcare professional.

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