PMS is the storm before the storm. The weeks leading up to menstruation are often linked to a series of very upsetting physical and psychological symptoms. In fact, we know that 20% of women see their everyday life very limited during this period. It is for this reason that an adequate diagnosis is necessary with a multidisciplinary approach in order to be able to improve the daily life of these patients.
Whenever we talk about PMS, we commonly focus on a single aspect: the change in a woman’s mood. Often , we look at the superficial aspects without looking at the complex mechanisms that actually organize the menstrual cycle. Estrogens and progesterones fluctuate from week to week. Serotonin levels drop and other hormones that can promote fluid retention, abdominal pain and headaches, among other things, kick in.
“Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is characterized by a series of physical and psychological symptoms that appear during the luteal phase and end when menstruation begins. “
This relentless dance of neurotransmitters and hormones puts all fertile women in the face of a series of symptoms. These can range from a slight discomfort in the breasts or a certain fatigue, to an extreme requiring them to immobilize themselves due to cramps, nausea, vomiting, and this Pain with a capital letter for which ibuprofen does not are not sufficient.
Remember that some countries such as Japan grant 3 days of rest to women for their periods or premenstrual syndrome. This is the seirikyuuka , the right which any worker can benefit from if she feels the need, without fear of losing her salary. Other countries do not conceive of this type of initiative. On the other hand, one obvious reality remains on the table: both the period and the weeks preceding it are linked to a series of very debilitating symptoms.
What is PMS and why does it affect you?
As we pointed out before: Not all women live with a particular discomfort during the premenstrual or menstrual stages. Nevertheless, it is known that 80% of the female population experiences some type of symptomatology and 8% may suffer from premenstrual dysphoric disorder. The latter is linked to a series of limiting physical and psychological characteristics that make it almost impossible to run a normal life.
PMS disorders are related to the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. When the unfertilized egg disintegrates to be expelled during menstruation, it begins to release progesterone and estrogen. This disorder also stimulates other hormones such as aldosterone, a mineralocorticoid that promotes fluid retention, swelling, the feeling of heaviness …
As if these symptoms weren’t enough, serotonin levels also drop in the period leading up to menstruation. Thus, feelings of discouragement, fatigue, discomfort and even anger are undoubtedly part of the emotional tissue associated with PMS.
The 4 characteristics of premenstrual syndrome
On average, we assume that PMS consists of 4 disorders and 4 dimensions. Within the latter, we observe a series of very concrete symptoms that each woman experiences at a more or less important level. Let’s see this in detail.
PMS-A (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome with Anxiety)
The low levels of serotonin can cause a feeling of stress, anxiety, nervousness, bad mood, constant oppression, excessive worry… It is a period which can last between 3 and 10 days during which the woman notices a mental over-activation that is as grueling as it is disturbing.
PMS-D (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome with Physical Pain)
In this second step, all the physical characteristics associated with the two weeks preceding menstruation are integrated. Not all women have the same conditions, but here are the most common:
- Abdominal pain
- Pain in the lower back
- Breast swelling and tenderness
- Articular pain
- Episodes of diarrhea or constipation
PMS-AN (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome with desire for sugar or other cravings)
PMS often causes an attraction to sweets, chocolate or any other food rich in sugars. This is due to changes in hormone levels: an increase in estrogen and a decrease in serotonin associated with a lower level of glucose. Our brain thus pushes us to have a very concrete desire for sweet foods.
PMS-T (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome with Sadness or Depression)
Fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone are linked to problems with sleep, demotivation, fatigue, hot flashes, and even worse, very high discouragement which is almost experienced as genuine depression.
How to reduce the symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome?
A large proportion of women use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen to reduce symptoms associated with both menstruation and PMS. However, it is always good to try new approaches that may be more effective. They are as follows:
- Calcium and vitamin D significantly improve the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (we can take vitamin supplements or increase the consumption of fish such as salmon, cereals, orange juice or fortified milk…).
- Magnesium, Vitamin E, and Vitamin B6 are also very effective, especially in reducing pain, swelling, or fluid retention.
- Natural plants such as sage or roots such as ginger are also very suitable.
- We must also reduce the consumption of foods high in salt, refined flour, saturated fat, and also coffee and alcohol.
- Performing moderate exercise is also very helpful.
- Yoga or relaxation exercises also give a very good result.
To conclude, it should be pointed out that when the symptoms are very painful and prevent a normal life, it is recommended to speak with doctors. In these cases, treatments with birth control pills or even antidepressants are common and rather effective approaches.
On the other hand, do not hesitate to have recourse in addition to the advice previously mentioned. The multidisciplinary approach, when the natural combines with the psychological to find pharmacological principles, will undoubtedly allow us to obtain a very positive response to this type of circumstance.