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October 9, 2009 at 2:44 PMComments: 1 Faves: 0

PMS, What Is It?

By Smarty More Blogs by This Author

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a cluster of symptoms that affect women a couple of days to a couple of weeks before the beginning of their monthly menses, and ending as menstruation begins. Roughly seventy-five percent of women experience premenstrual symptoms at some point in their lives. However, it is only if these symptoms are severe enough to interfere with daily life and function that they are properly referred to as a syndrome. Women in their late twenties to early forties usually have the worst problems with PMS, although teenagers and peri-menopausal women can also have symptoms. Women, who do not menstruate, whether because they're pregnant or menopausal, cannot have PMS.

Symptoms of PMS

There are many symptoms associated with PMS. Most women will have some combination of these symptoms. Typically, symptoms and symptom severity vary from month to month and at different times in a woman's life. The symptoms of PMS include:

  • bloating caused by fluid retention
  • cramping
  • lower back pain
  • food cravings
  • weight gain
  • headaches
  • acne
  • sleeping difficulties
  • fatigue
  • mood swings
  • irritability
  • depressed mood
  • trouble concentrating

In many women, stress can cause a worsening of symptoms.

What Causes PMS?

The causes of PMS are poorly understood, although it is clear that hormonal fluctuations inherent in the monthly cycle play a large part in the process. As women pass ovulation and begin to move towards menstruation, the levels of the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone drop off. This drop in hormone levels can cause abrupt changes in the body that sometimes produce unfortunate symptoms. Changing estrogen levels also affect serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is one of the brain's most important neurotransmitters. It is involved in regulating mood, appetite, sleep, and arousal. Because most of the symptoms of PMS relate to functions and behaviors modulated by serotonin (sleep disturbances, food cravings, depressed mood, etc.), many researchers believe that it is this change in serotonin levels which is the ultimate cause of PMS symptoms. However, all women are subject to hormonal changes as the month progresses, yet while some suffer terribly, others have no symptoms at all. Scientists believe there is a genetic component to PMS. The daughters of women with severe PMS are more likely to develop PMS themselves, as are other female relations. Eating a diet lacking in certain key nutrients and not getting enough exercise may also predispose women to developing PMS.

Treatment of PMS

While there are medications available to help treat the symptoms of PMS, notably anti-inflammatory, antidepressants and diuretics, for many women, lifestyles changes are the best, and healthiest, way to treat PMS symptoms. Exercising at least three times a week helps resolve PMS related symptoms in many cases. Exercise naturally boosts your mood, alleviates cramping, and combats food cravings and weight gain. It also reduces stress, a common PMS trigger. Relaxation therapy or yoga can also help address the issue of stress. Many women aren't getting all their essential nutrients from the food they eat. Studies have shown that getting adequate amounts of calcium and magnesium can reduce or prevent PMS symptoms in most women. Vitamins E and B-6 have also been found to be beneficial in many cases. While dietary sources are preferable, women who are unable to get enough of these nutrients through the foods they eat can profit from supplements.

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1 Comment

  • "In many women, stress can cause a worsening of symptoms."

    This is an important piece of information for us guys. Make sure to keep the misses happy and stress free, your life may depend on it. Thanks

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