(Health Secrets) Mood swings, tender breasts, a swollen abdomen, food cravings, fatigue, irritability and depression. If you experience some or all of these problems in the days before your monthly period, you may have premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
An estimated three of every four menstruating women experience some form of premenstrual syndrome. These problems are more likely to trouble women between their late 20s and early 40s, and they tend to recur in a predictable pattern. Yet the physical and emotional changes experienced with premenstrual syndrome may be more or less intense with each menstrual cycle.
Still, these problems don’t need to control your life. In recent years, much has been learned about premenstrual syndrome. Treatments and lifestyle adjustments can help you reduce or manage the signs and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.
Signs and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome
For many women the signs and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome are an uncomfortable and unwelcome part of their monthly cycle. The most common physical and emotional signs and symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome include:
* Weight gain from fluid retention
* Abdominal bloating
* Breast tenderness
* Tension or anxiety
* Depressed mood
* Crying spells
* Mood swings and irritability or anger
* Appetite changes and food cravings
* Trouble falling asleep (insomnia)
* Joint or muscle pain
Although the list of potential signs and symptoms is long, most women with premenstrual syndrome experience only a few of these problems.
For some, the physical pain and emotional stress are severe enough to affect daily routines and activities. For most women, symptoms disappear as the menstrual period begins.
But for some women with premenstrual syndrome, symptoms are so severe they’re considered disabling. This form of PMS has its own psychiatric designation, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMDD is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome with symptoms including severe depression, feelings of hopelessness, anger, anxiety, low self-esteem, difficulty concentrating, irritability and tension. In some women PMDD signals underlying psychological problems.
Exactly what causes premenstrual syndrome is unknown, but several factors may contribute to the condition. Cyclic changes in hormones seem to be an important cause, because signs and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome change with hormonal fluctuations and also disappear with pregnancy and menopause.
Chemical changes in the brain also may be involved. One clue to the cause may be traced to fluctuations of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is thought to play a crucial role in mood states, especially depression. Insufficient amounts of serotonin may contribute to other symptoms of PMS, such as fatigue, food cravings and sleep problems.
Managing PMS Naturally
You can manage or reduce the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome by making changes in the way you eat, exercise and approach daily life. Try these approaches:
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals each day to reduce bloating and the sensation of fullness.
- Modify your diet to increase fruits and vegetables and decrease processed foods.
- Limit salt and salty foods to reduce bloating and fluid retention.
- Do not eat any type of sugar or use sweeteners.
- Substitute garlic powder or onion powder for salt when cooking.
- Choose foods high in complex carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Choose non-dairy foods rich in calcium and perhaps a daily calcium supplement.
- Use a multivitamin and mineral supplement and a greens powder for trace minerals. Maintaining optimal nutritional levels brightens mood and keeps energy levels up.
- Avoid caffeine.
- Engage in brisk walking, cycling, swimming or other aerobic activity most days of the week. Regular daily exercise can help improve your overall health and alleviate symptoms such as fatigue and a depressed mood.
- Reduce stress – EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) is wonderful for reducing stress.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Practice progressive muscle relaxation activities such as the corpse pose, or deep-breathing exercises to help reduce headaches, anxiety or trouble sleeping (insomnia). For difficulty falling asleep, supplement your natural levels of melatonin, the hormone of sleep.
- Record your symptoms for a few months.
- Look at your record to find the triggers and timing of your symptoms. This will allow you to intervene with strategies that may help to lessen them.
Natural Products for PMS
Here’s what’s known about the effectiveness of some of the more common natural products and remedies used to soothe the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome:
* Calcium. Consuming 1,000 milligrams (mg) of dietary and supplemental calcium daily may reduce the physical and psychological symptoms of PMS.
* Magnesium. Taking 400 mg of supplemental magnesium daily may help to reduce fluid retention, breast tenderness and bloating.
* Vitamin B-6. A daily dose of 50 to 100 mg of Vitamin B-6 may help some women with troublesome PMS symptoms.
* Vitamin E. This vitamin, taken in 400 international units daily, may ease PMS symptoms by reducing the production of prostaglandin, hormone-like substances that cause cramps and breast tenderness.
* Herbal remedies. Many women report relief of PMS symptoms with the use of herbs such as black cohosh, ginger, raspberry leaf, dandelion, chasteberry, St. John’s Wort and evening primrose oil.
* Colloidal Gold. Colloidal gold is one of the least known yet most effective mood and mental enhancers.
* Natural progesterone creams. These are derived from wild yams and soybeans. Many women report that these creams relieve symptoms.
* Combine one handful of chamomile and one handful of dried orange flowers in a cheesecloth or muslin bag and hang from the bathtub faucet. The warm water will release the fragrant oils and relieve PMS discomfort.
Other natural remedy topics that may be helpful:
* Pumpkin Seeds. Eat pumpkin seeds about a week before your menstrual period (a handful–1/4 of a cup a day) and your cramps should be non-existent. Also eat them as a snack during the period.
* Hot water and ginger. Boil the water and stir in two to three tablespoons of ginger and drink it up. You should feel better in 30-45 minutes.
* Yogurt or calcium. Eat two cups of yogurt a day in the days or week leading up to your period and you should not be moody or have cramps when your monthly period comes. If you don’t like yogurt, take a calcium supplement. Continue during the period. With either one, you should see a big difference in your time of the month.
* Oregano and water. Take three tablespoons of oregano and mix with one liter of water, then bring to boiling and continue to boil for five minutes. Strain and drink as tea. You should feel better soon and continue to feel well for an entire day.
* It should be no surprise that an herb named cramp bark (Viburnum opulus) would work wonders for menstrual pain. It contains at least six compounds that relax muscles, as well as salicin, the pain-relieving compound from which aspirin is derived. Take one teaspoon of the liquid extract every hour until your cramps subside. If they don’t ease within 48 hours, stop taking cramp bark.
* Ginger tea (for cramps). Grate two to three teaspoons of fresh ginger root and simmer in two cups of water for several minutes. Add lemon and honey to taste. Drink as much as desired.
* Aromatherapy. A couple of days before menstruation begins, massage the following combination into the abdomen once or twice a day, as well as using them in the bath. Blend together equal parts of chamomile, an anti-inflammatory; clary sage, which relieves depression; lavender, a relaxing herb; and tarragon and marjoram, which are anti-spasmodic.
* Hot ginger poultice. Make a strong ginger tea or add a half-teaspoon of ginger essential oil to a quart of hot water. Dip a towel in the water and wring it out, lay it over the abdomen, and place a hot water bottle over the ginger towel to retain the heat. Relax for fifteen minutes.
Photo by Alaskan Dude