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10 things you must know about PMS
Dr Roopa Nishi Viswanathan |
April 19, 2006
It's been talked about and discussed to death. Still premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, continues to come as a bit of a surprise for a lot of people. Here are 10 things every woman must know about PMS.
1. PMS is premenstrual syndrome
PMS is a set of symptoms related to your menstrual cycle. Most women experience these symptoms in the week before their period. Once the period starts, the symptoms usually fade away. Some women find that PMS can hinder their daily activities at home or work.
The exact cause of PMS is not known, but stress appears to make the symptoms worse.
Some symptoms could be related to fluid retention that occurs during this period.
You might not need to see a doctor unless your symptoms are really severe. Doctors usually diagnose PMS by asking you to keep a chart of your symptoms for two menstrual cycles. Treatment is suggested depending on the type and severity.
2. PMS is not uncommon
PMS is not a disease. It is not rare either.
According to research conducted by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, around 40 per cent of normal menstruating women demonstrate some symptoms of PMS. Most cases are mild and do not need drug therapy.
3. You know you have PMS if�
...you have one or more of the following symptoms the week before your period:
~ You experience breast swelling and tenderness.
~ You tire easily and have trouble sleeping.
~ You have bowel symptoms such as an upset stomach, constipation or diarrhoea.
~ You have aches and pains such as headaches, joint or muscle pain.
~ Your appetite changes significantly.
~ You experience tension, irritability, mood swings or crying spells.
~ You have trouble concentrating on regular tasks.
~ You feel anxious or depressed.
4. PMS is different in every woman
Some might be more sensitive to hormone level fluctuations, hence their PMS symptoms are worse. Every woman presents a different picture of PMS, so your story could be different from that of others.
5. Lifestyle changes to reduce symptoms
Though there is no one-shot treatment, studies have shown that yoga, reiki and meditation could help reduce symptoms.
Exercise can release some hormones and neurotransmitters that can help you feel better. It also increases circulation, thus reducing fluid retention.
Limit intake of alcohol and caffeine the week before your period. Remember that caffeine by itself can cause sleeplessness too.
Another tip: be regular in your routine. Go to bed and wake up at around the same time everyday.
These tips could prevent those hormones from going haywire.
6. No specific diet for PMS
You can try these diet tips though:
~ Eat small and frequent meals. This helps keep blood sugar levels stable and might reduce cravings.
~ Boost your serotonin (the hormone that makes you feel good) by eating high starch foods such as potatoes, bread and corn. Chocolate might help too, especially the dark kind.
~ Limit intake of fat and do not go on binging sprees triggered by your cravings. Stick to good sources of protein (such as beans, nuts and sprouts) and complex carbohydrates (such as steamed rice, rotis and bread) as opposed to sweets and artificial juices.
~ Some vitamins, especially B6, can help reduce symptoms. So might magnesium and calcium, according to some studies. Take one multivitamin-multimineral pill a day during those days. This will also help replenish the iron you lose during your periods.
~ Herbal remedies such as ginseng and chamomile tea can lift your spirits. Whether they actually treat symptoms has not been proved by research, but they can be tried.
7. Aches may respond to massage and acupressure
What could be better than a relaxing massage after a long, tiring day made worse by PMS?
Some women respond very well to massage therapy and acupressure. You can learn how to use these techniques on yourself or you could ask your partner to help you.
8. A severe form called PMDD
A word of caution for all women: PMDD (Premenstrual dysphoric disorder) is very rare. Do not assume you have this disorder unless a doctor says you do.
In this disorder, the physical and mental symptoms of PMS are highly exaggerated. In some cases, the symptoms are so bad that they significantly interfere with normal relationships and daily activities.
Women with PMDD will need to see a doctor and take medication to relieve their symptoms.
9. Medicine to treat it
One of the most common categories of medicines prescribed is analgesics. Pills like Aspirin, Ibuprofen, or Paracetamol can help relieve aches and cramps. These are commonly used by women all over the world.
For more severe cases of PMS, your doctor might prescribe diuretics (drugs that increase fluid excretion and thus reduce fluid retention), tranquilisers (drugs that calm you down) and anti-depressants (drugs to reduce symptoms of depression).
DO NOT take any of these drugs without a doctor's prescription. Remember that these are required in extremely rare cases and have their own side effects.
10. Talking about it helps
Discussing your symptoms with your partner and other women will not reduce them, but it might reduce your stress which, in turn, can prevent symptoms.
For instance, you could tell your hubby this is not a good time to bring his beer-drinking buddies over to watch a day-and-night cricket match over home-cooked food. With a little support from family and friends, you will be fine.
PMS is no big deal for most women, but if you think it is seriously affecting your life, you can try some of the above tips and see if they work for you.
As we mentioned, it is different in different women and you might have to try several approaches before one finally works for you. Once it does, stick to it and celebrate your PMS-free womanhood.
Dr Roopa Nishi Viswanathan has an MBBS from KEM Hospital, Mumbai, with a Masters in Nutrition from the University of Texas at Austin.