Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), two words that can strike fear into the hearts of men and inspire dread in women. Not all women experience the effects of this condition equally, but research has shown that up to 75 percent of women who menstruate experience some symptoms.
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In fact, a small number of women experience symptoms so severe that it can be disabling for them. Dealing with the effects of PMS month after month can be challenging, for those affected by the condition and those around them, but it can be treated effectively.
What Exactly is PMS?
Before dealing with PMS, it is important to know exactly what you are up against. PMS is a blanket term for the various symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle. Typically these symptoms occur a week or two before menstruation and are influenced by fluctuations in hormone levels.
Symptoms are usually mood-related as well as physical and include everything from depression, over-sensitivity and irritability to bloating, acne and food cravings. Symptoms such as backache, breast pain, nausea, anxiety, tiredness and difficulty concentrating are also not uncommon.
Dealing With PMS
Although the exact causes of PMS are not fully understood, there are ways to deal with the condition in order to make it more tolerable. And no, this does not include a large tub of ice cream while lounging on the couch avoiding the world.
In many cases a lot of the symptoms can be alleviated by simply avoiding food or activities that are unhealthy. In addition to making a couple of lifestyle changes, there are also a couple of natural remedies that can offer relief.
Sticking to a healthier diet can alleviate many of the symptoms commonly associated with PMS. For example, cutting back on the salt can help to avoid the bloating, while less caffeine means less anxiety or irritability. Excess sugar is disruptive for the blood sugar and can cause mood swings while alcohol can make depression worse instead of better.
The solution is to eat healthier food, such as vegetables and fruits during the week or two before menstruation and also to eat meals at regular intervals. Doing so is a great way to keep your blood sugar consistent and avoid spikes or dips.
Instead of indulging in any unhealthy cravings instead opt for healthy foods such as salmon, broccoli, quinoa, bananas and pumpkin seeds. These provide the high fiber, magnesium, vitamin B, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and vitamin D that the body needs to cope with PMS.
Exercise is a great way to deal with both the emotional and physical strain of PMS. The Office on Women’s Health recommends at least two hours and 30 minutes of physical activity that is moderately intensive as well as one hour and 15 minutes of vigorously intensive physical activity. Two or more days of muscle-strengthening activity is also highly recommended.
Easier said than done of course, but reducing stress can decrease PMS symptoms. This is because adrenaline and cortisol, the stress hormones, remain elevated during periods of stress which continually drains adrenal reserves.
This results in a feeling of fatigue, which can be hard to shake. Decreasing stress, by getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet and not taking on too many responsibilities will help to keep stress hormones more balanced.
There are a couple of different herbal remedies that can help with PMS symptoms, but remember the results will vary as not all women respond to them in the same manner.
Evening primrose oil is a good source of gamma linoleic acid (GLA), which is an essential fatty acid. Women who have a GLA deficiency can experience worse symptoms during PMS. Another good choice is chasteberry, which is said to ease menstruation and breast pain.
Peppermint, in the form of peppermint tea, can help ease bloating while peppermint oil is helpful for bowel conditions related to PMS. Headaches can also be treated with peppermint oil.
St. John’s wort, which is well known for helping with depression, can help with the moodiness associated with PMS. In order to get relief from irritability or fatigue the Chinese herb, dong quai, also known as angelica root is a good choice. Finally, the root of the black cohosh plant can be used for treating PMS discomfort.
One of the therapies with proven success when it comes to treating PMS is acupuncture. One study found that it had a success rate of almost 78 percent during tests. Although test results for bright light therapy are inconclusive, there are claims that it helps with depression related to PMS. In addition, reflexology can also provide relief from PMS symptoms.