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Understanding Premenstrual Syndrome to Find Relief

By , MD
Monday, December 3, 2012
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Premenstrual Syndrome, or PMS, is a very normal part of many women’s lives, affecting up to 40 percent. It’s a condition most experience during the week prior to the start of their period and it can bring with it some very frustrating symptoms.

However, not everything should be chalked up to PMS. There are more serious conditions, like premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) and endometriosis that may emulate some of the same symptoms of PMS. This can make it difficult to know what is normal and the best way to alleviate symptoms.

What is normal?
PMS is probably brought on by the monthly hormone changes that coincide with the menstrual cycle, since a woman’s hormones spike right before the start of her period. But there are other possible reasons for it including neurotransmitter changes, hypothyroidism, adrenal disorders and more.

It’s a complicated syndrome which may very well include multiple and different causes between women, but they can all lead to a wide variety of bothersome symptoms that are both physical and emotional. These symptoms include:

  • Fluid retention
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Breast tenderness
  • Food cravings
  • Aches and minor pains
  • Irritability, anxiety and unexplained mood swings

All of the aforementioned symptoms are considered "normal" during PMS, as long as they're not extreme enough to completely disrupt your daily life.

Dealing with PMS Naturally
Whether used on their own or in combination with over-the-counter medication, natural remedies and lifestyle changes can make the monthly cycle easier to deal with physically and mentally. Here are some things to try:

  1. Lose Weight -- Studies show women who are obese will feel the symptoms of PMS more strongly.
  2. Exercise More -- This will actually help to alleviate cramps and fatigue and get relief from some of the stress and anxiety.
  3. Add Calcium -- Getting sufficient calcium through food or by adding a calcium supplement can lessen the severity of symptoms while protecting the bones and teeth.
  4. Learn About Supplements -- Chaste berry and evening primrose oil can both alleviate bloating and breast tenderness. Chaste berry can also help with irritability and mood changes. Studies show it may help even more when you also take vitamin B6. To help reduce mood swings, insomnia and anxiety, black cohosh as well as valerian root have been suggested. St. John’s Wort has also been used for depression, anxiety and fatigue. Lastly, magnesium may help with any cramping. Be careful and discuss supplements with your physician before you take them, especially if you’re on any prescription medications. Supplements can interact with medications and make them less effective or even lead to organ damage.
  5. Reduce Caffeine -- This may help reduce breast tenderness as well as anxiety.
  6. Eat Smaller Meals -- Unhealthy food cravings during this time can have a negative impact on the waistline and overall health. Try eating four or five small meals a day with plenty of protein to stay satiated and prevent unplanned eating.
  7. Unwind -- Try relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation to deal with the psychological side effects of PMS.

Unfortunately, in about five to 10 percent of women, PMDD may occur. Symptoms are similar to those of PMS but far more severe and can be extremely debilitating, interfering with your daily life. The closer you get to five or more of the following symptoms, the more it's time to visit your doctor. If you're not sure, keep a diary of your symptoms before each period. Some symptoms include:

  • Disinterest in daily activities and relationships
  • Fatigue 
  • Feeling sad or hopeless to the point of suicidal thoughts
  • Feeling extreme anxiety, panic attacks or being out of control
  • Food cravings or binge eating
  • Experiencing extreme mood swings and crying
  • Being irritable and angry to where it affects others
  • Trouble keeping focused or lack of concentration
  • Insomnia and poor sleep

Physical symptoms may include abdominal bloating, breast tenderness, headaches and joint or muscle pain. Although there are no laboratory tests or physical findings that can make the diagnosis, your doctor can help find out if you may have PMDD or a related serious disorder. Counseling and natural health improvement through diet and lifestyle modifications can help, but, in extreme cases, you may need medications to help you get through it. Specifically, antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) can help. Drugs are usually not the long-term answer but can help lift the cloud while you’re making adjustments to rid yourself of PMDD. Meanwhile, if you’re having suicidal thoughts, call 911 and know that there is help out there that works.

PMS is a natural part of the body’s monthly cycle, but it can be frustrating and just plain miserable for a week or two each month. Understanding the difference between PMS and more serious conditions is essential for alleviating symptoms and maintaining health.


Products you may like:

Now Foods Evening Primrose Oil  Now Foods Evening Primrose Oil 
Why you may like this product? Taking evening primrose oil can help alleviate uncomfortable bloating and painful breast tenderness associated with PMS. This supplement provides 1,500 mg of evening primrose oil per serving as well as 135 mg of gamma linoleic acid (GLA).
New Chapter St. John's Force  New Chapter St. John's Force 
Why you may like this product? If you suffer mental and emotional distress each month, St. John's Wort can help balance mood, reducing stress and anxiety to help you stay positive. This product contains the full spectrum of St. John's Wort extracts to keep your emotions stable and promote restful sleep that will also help you feel better.
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