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What Causes PMS? — an article on the Smart Living Network
November 25, 2008 at 2:49 PMComments: 0 Faves: 0

What Causes PMS?


PMS is a collection of symptoms that women experience before their period starts. Even though women have been plagued by premenstrual syndrome for countless generations, scientists still aren't sure what exactly causes PMS. However, doctors have identified several factors that might contribute to the condition.

The relationship of hormones to PMS

Throughout your menstrual cycle, your hormones fluctuate in a predictable pattern. The cycle repeats each month. Scientists believe that the changes in estrogen and progesterone that your body experiences each month during your menstrual cycle are related to PMS symptoms. One reason they believe this is that during pregnancy and menopause, when you don't get your period, your hormonal fluctuations and PMS symptoms disappear.

Brain chemicals and PMS

Chemical changes in your brain may also influence PMS. The hormones estrogen and progesterone can cause changes in the levels of brain chemicals known as neurotransmitters.

One neurotransmitter, serotonin, affects your emotions and eating behavior. Estrogen determines how much serotonin is produced, so as the levels of estrogen in your body change during your cycle, so do the levels of serotonin. Estrogen levels rise during the first part of your cycle and drops after ovulation.

Other neurotransmitters:

  • GABA: gamma-aminobutyric acid is related to feeling calm
  • Endorphins influence feelings of pain and pleasure
  • Norepinephrine and epinephrine influence mood, blood pressure and heart rate

We don't know estrogen and progesterone's exact effect on nuerotransmitters yet, but researchers agree that it is related to PMS. In support of this theory: women often become sad after childbirth and during menopause when estrogen levels drop.

Your diet and PMS

What you eat may have a surprising effect on your PMS symptoms. A healthy diet can relieve symptoms like weight gain, headaches, irritability, breast tenderness and bloating:

  • Low levels of vitamins and minerals, like calcium and B6, can increase the severity of your symptoms. Try to eat calcium-rich foods and take a multi-vitamin.
  • Salty foods can increase water retention.
  • Fruit and Veggies are full of healthy nutrients and they can help decrease that bloated feeling.
  • Alcohol and caffeine can cause your mood and energy levels to fluctuate.
  • Eating smaller, more frequent meals can reduce bloating and cravings.

Stress and PMS

Stress does not cause PMS, but it can make PMS symptoms worse. To reduce your stress levels:

  • Performing muscle relaxation and deep breathing exercises can help with anxiety and insomnia.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep.
  • Get a massage.
  • Try yoga.

Exercise and PMS

The amount of exercise you get can affect the severity of your symptoms. Exercise reduces stress, which can help with PMS symptoms. Exercise has also been shown to lessen feelings of fatigue during PMS. Try to get 30 minutes of exercise on each day of your menstrual cycle. Yoga is a great exercise to do during PMS, it can help you to relax.

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