PMS- Don’t Let it Drive You Crazy
PMS is a range of physical and emotional symptoms that women may experience in the 1-2 weeks prior to their period, which resolve once their bleeding begins. Up to 30% of menstruating women will experience some degree of PMS and 3- 8% of women will experience a severe form of PMS called PMDD – premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
Symptoms of PMS include:
- irritability breast tenderness
- mood swings fatigue
- depression fluid retention
- poor concentration insomnia
- anger food cravings
- lack of resilience headaches/migraines
It’s no wonder then that women can feel like they are going crazy in the lead up to their periods.
What Causes PMS
It is still not clear what the exact mechanisms of PMS are, however we know that there are complex interactions between cyclic changes in hormones including progesterone and neurotransmitters ( brain chemicals), inflammation, genes and the environment and certain lifestyle factors such as poor nutrition, smoking, high stress and physical inactivity.
But don’t despair! There are strategies that can significantly help to ease the hormonal rollercoaster.
Management of PMS
Herbs, vitamins and minerals
Vitex has been shown to bind to dopamine, opioid and oestrogen receptors, therefore supporting healthy hormonal balance and progesterone production. Studies show that it may improve mood and physical symptoms of PMS.
Withania, also known as ashwagandha, can reduce stress and anxiety and decrease the abnormal food cravings some women experience.
Magnesium levels may be low in women with PMS and supplementing with this mineral can support healthy moods and decrease headaches.
4. Vitamin B6
This vitamin can reduce the mood and breast symptoms and is often part of the supplement regimen.
Where mood symptoms are particularly dominant in PMS, studies are showing that the inflammatory model of depression may play a role in these women. A clinical trial where women received a turmeric supplement resulted in significant decreases in PMS mood symptoms. Exciting news for these women, especially as turmeric has so many other health benefits.
Progesterone, or alterations in this hormone, may play a significant role in PMS. One of its metabolites binds to GABA receptors in the brain (the calming neurotransmitter) and can decrease anxiety, insomnia and pain. Unfortunately the action of progesterone may vary in some women and may not always have the desired effect.
Either way, the use of bio-identical progesterone can be very effective in some women and may be a useful adjunct in the management of PMS. It’s important to note that the synthetic versions, called progestogens, do not have the same action as bio-identical progesterone.
Physical exercise releases endorphins, which make you feel better and have a stress and anxiety reducing action.
2. Stress management
Relaxation and stress management techniques such as yoga, mindfulness and tai chi can be helpful during this time of the month. If required, professional counselling should be sought.
3. Nutrient rich diet
Aim to eat regular nutrient dense meals with plenty of vegetables, some fruit, good quality protein and whole grains. Minimise processed foods and avoid sugar as much as possible. Also caffeine can aggravate symptoms of breast tenderness so limit caffeine intake. Increase water consumption instead.
Although there’s much that we still don’t understand about PMS, there are many simple yet effective therapies that can make that time of the month so much more bearable. You don’t have let it drive you crazy.