Over 90% of women may experience some symptoms that are associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), but what is PMS, what are these symptoms, what exactly causes them and how can we treat them? From bloating and cramps to headaches and mood swings, natural remedies to medicines, it’s time to understand and explore PMS! Keep reading to find out more information!
Abdominal pain and cramps
When you menstruate, the walls of the uterus contract and tighten to help shed the lining along your uterus. There are blood vessels throughout your uterus, but when it contracts, these blood vessels become constricted and subsequently, the blood and oxygen supply to the uterus is temporarily cut off. When there is no oxygen in your uterus, chemicals are released that trigger pain. Other molecules are also released, called prostaglandins. These prostaglandins cause the uterus to contract more, which intensifies the pain experienced.
When we are bloated it is because we are retaining water in our bodies. You may feel that your stomach is tight or think that you might be gaining weight if you experience bloating. When we bloat due to PMS, it is due to having low levels of the hormone progesterone as progesterone assists your body in getting rid of water.
Some women may experience headaches in the time leading up to their periods, and hormones are often the cause of this too. The levels of progesterone and estrogen decrease right before your period begins and some people may be more sensitive to these hormonal changes, which can cause headaches. Also, serotonin levels may decrease in your body as levels of estrogen decrease. When there are reduced levels of serotonin in your body, blood vessels can constrict, leading to headaches.
Hormonal acne is another potential symptom of PMS and it is also related to the fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone. As mentioned before, the levels of these hormones decline before your period. This decline can cause your sebaceous glands to secrete more sebum onto your skin. Sebum is oily and too much of it can cause your pores to become clogged and lead to acne. To learn more about hormonal acne, make sure you watch our great IG Live interview with integrative aesthetic and hormone doctor, Dr. Terry. You can find it on IGTV through our Instagram page!
Anxiety, depression and irritability
Some people may begin to feel increasingly anxious, depressed or irritated at a certain stage of their menstrual cycle. When our levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease, this can also lead to fluctuating levels of other hormones, such as serotonin and dopamine. Both of these hormones are known to be linked to our mood. Low levels of serotonin are associated with symptoms such as sadness, anxiety and irritability.
Insomnia and difficulty sleeping can be another consequence of menstruation and PMS. After you ovulate, the levels of progesterone increase. Progesterone has been shown to help with sleep, making you feel tired. When the levels of progesterone drop before your period, you are more likely to have trouble sleeping.
Estrogen and progesterone affect the breast too. Both of these hormones will increase around days 14-28 of the menstrual cycle, and this may be when breasts start to feel tender. Estrogen causes the breast ducts to enlarge and progesterone leads to the milk glands swelling. The action of both of these hormones may cause soreness in the breasts.
Exercise can help your entire body and mind, and therefore subsequently ease some of the symptoms associated with PMS. Exercise can uplift your mood, relieve anxiety and also mitigate fatigue. Try finding an exercise activity that suits you, such as walking, running, cycling or swimming and fit it into your regular schedule.
Diet & supplements
Eating a balanced and nutritious diet can improve our overall health and boost our energy levels while dealing with PMS symptoms. Try eating foods such as fruit and vegetables while also reducing your consumption of sugar, caffeine, salt and alcohol.
Supplements can also help to relieve the symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome. Vitamin D can help to alleviate symptoms, along with folic acid, vitamin B6, calcium and magnesium to reduce mood swings and abdominal cramps.
Stress and anxiety management
Mood swings, irritability, stress, anxiety and depression are all potential symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and therefore it is very important that we find ways and methods to support and look after our mental health. Explore new activities such as reading, doing yoga or taking a bath, that might help to reduce your levels of stress and anxiety. Cognitive behavioural therapy has also shown to be effective in treating the symptoms of PMS that affect mental health.
Other natural ingredients can also really help to alleviate the symptoms that are associated with PMS. These ingredients include vitex, primrose oil, marshmallow root and wild yam. Vitex can help ease the symptoms of PMS as it can relieve constipation, depression, anxiety, irritability, migraines and sore breasts. Marshmallow root has also been associated with pain relief and improving gut health and digestion. Primrose oil can also relieve diarrhea, irritability and bloating while wild yam root can be effective against muscle cramps.
Weight gain and bloating are both potential symptoms of PMS and therefore diuretics may be helpful in relieving these symptoms. Diuretics can help your body to get rid of excess water through your kidneys and can therefore be effective in relieving some of the symptoms of PMS.
Muscle cramps, abdominal pain and sore breasts are all common effects of premenstrual syndrome, therefore pain relief medication can be very useful. Medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen can be effective options for easing any pain that might be experienced during PMS.
Given that PMS is thought to be caused by our fluctuating hormones, hormonal medications may be a way to alleviate the symptoms of the condition. For example, hormonal contraceptives cause ovulation to stop, which may relieve PMS symptoms.