PMS symptoms or premenstrual syndrome affect an estimated 85% of all menstruating women. Symptoms are severe in as many as 10% of them.
The signs of PMS are similar to other conditions. If your symptoms occur during the two weeks before your period and are relieved within the first couple of days after your period begins, then you probably have PMS.
Although no one knows exactly what causes PMS symptoms, they are believed to be related to normal hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle.
Recent studies have shown that women who suffer from the most severe PMS symptoms (premenstrual dysphonic disorder) have lower than normal levels of serotonin. Serotonin is a compound derived from tryptophan that is involved in many processes in the human body. It is one of the substances that transmits signals among nerve cells and is involved in the regulation of moods, sleep cycles and appetite.
The signs of PMS that may be related to low levels of serotonin include:
anxiety and depression
PMS symptoms that are probably related to fluctuating hormonal levels include:
backache and bloating
All together there are around 100 different complaints that can be signs of PMS.
Typically, a woman's symptoms vary from month to month from no symptoms at all during some months to numerous symptoms in other.
Recommended medications for treating PMS symptoms include:
diuretics and synthetic hormones
However, lifestyle changes, dietary changes, nutritional and herbal supplements are often just as effective and carry less risks of side effects.
Lifestyle changes that can decrease the signs of PMS include:
avoiding alcohol and tobacco
getting adequate rest
stress management techniques.
Exercise produces chemicals in the body (endorphins) that naturally block pain, improve mood and the quality of sleep.
Alcohol increases bloating, breast tenderness, headaches, weight gain, reduces the quality of sleep and is a depressant.
Cigarette smoking and tobacco use increases anxiety, fatigue, reduces the quality of sleep and can trigger migraines.
Adequate rest is always important for good health. Without it, anxiety, fatigue and moodiness increase.
Chronic stress increases anxiety and can eventually cause depression and numerous other health problems. Deep muscle relaxation and other stress management techniques can help.
Dietary changes that can reduce PMS symptoms include:
caffeine and sugar
increasing water intake
vitamin E, and B-complex and complex carbohydrates
Salt increases the fluid retention that leads to bloating, one of the most common signs of PMS.
Caffeine increases anxiety and reduces quality of sleep.
Sugar may give you a quick rush of energy, but this will be followed by increased feelings of fatigue and irritability.
Water is a natural diuretic and everyone needs about 60 ounces per day.
We should all know how important calcium is for good bone health, but a chronic lack of calcium in the diet can increase insomnia and joint pain.
The B-complex vitamins are necessary for energy and regulate metabolism. Lack of B-1 (thiamine) can cause many of the signs of PMS, including depression, forgetfulness and exhaustion.
Lack of the vitamin can also lead to constipation, which tends to increase the bloated feeling. In fact, all of the vitamins and minerals are necessary for good health, high energy levels and emotional balance. A diet high in complex carbs (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, etc.) will reduce the likelihood of weight gain and constipation and increase the likelihood that you will get enough nutrients and dietary fiber.
Herbal and other dietary supplements that can reduce the signs of PMS include:
And many others depending on a woman's symptoms. Of these, 5-HTP may be the most effective.
5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is used by the body to create serotonin (described above), but carries none of the risks associated with the manufacturing process used to create synthetic tryptophan.
Studies have shown that it is a natural anti-depressant and pain reliever. It reduces anxiety, improves quality of sleep and motor coordination. Other studies have shown that it effectively relieves migraines and chronic headaches and reduces the cravings that can cause binge eating and weight gain.
In other words, 5-HTP addresses nearly all PMS symptoms, particularly those that dietary and lifestyle changes may not improve.