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The Truth about PMS
Do any of these symptoms sound familiar? Headaches, depression, anxiety, uncontrollable crying, fatigue, fluid retention, abdominal cramps, heart palpitations, weight gain, irritability, panic attacks, forgetfulness, migraines, back pain, decreased work or social performance, sleep problems, food cravings, breast tenderness, clumsiness, confusion. . . Sounds like a nightmare existence, doesn’t it?
Are you one of the 40-80% of women for whom this scenario, or at least part of it, is everyday life for a week or two of every month of your life from puberty to menopause? What disorder could cause these varied, and often disabling, symptoms for so many women?
Premenstrual syndrome! That is correct! It’s that old friend, premenstrual syndrome, the subject of so many jokes and depressions. You know, that “catch-all” phrase that, according to “so-called comedians”, covers all the “imaginary” problems that women “invent” as excuses to spend the day on the couch “watching TV and eating chocolates” .
I assure you that while it is true that doctors and researchers have not found any specific laboratory test that can identify PMS, this disorder is definitely not “imaginary” or “made up”. Serious medical research has been going on for years to identify the definitions, diagnosis, causes and cures for this disorder. Here are two of the resulting definitions:
1. Dr. Ellen Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania Health System describes PMS as “a set of emotional, behavioral, and physical symptoms that have a cyclical pattern related to the menstrual cycle, which worsens during week or two before menstruation and decreases with menstruation.
2. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists defines PMS as “the cyclical occurrence of symptoms that are severe enough to interfere with some aspects of life, and that appear in a consistent and predictable relationship with menstruation.”
How do you know if you or a loved one has PMS if there is no real test for it? Researchers and doctors generally agree that the overall identifying factor of this disorder is the fact that the symptoms stop once menstruation begins or once a woman becomes pregnant.
You should know that doctors have identified two severe forms of PMS that have effects far beyond the normal symptoms of PMS:
1. “Postpartum depression” is severe depression that some women experience after giving birth. Women with this disorder experience severe disappointment due to the high levels of pregnancy hormones and, due to the disruption of their nervous system, may harm themselves or their babies.
2. “Premenstrual dysphoric disorder” (PMDD) causes severe and incapacitating depression, anxiety, tension and angry irritability, intense mood swings in the week or two before menstruation begins, and women with this disorder have at least five of The physical symptoms of PMS also. Like normal PMS, PMDD symptoms go away with menstruation.
You may have heard that doctors find it helpful for women to keep a daily symptom diary throughout the month when trying to diagnose PMS. What should you look for when keeping a daily diary or considering the possibility that you or a loved one has PMS? Well, PMS comes with over 150 possible symptoms that affect women both physically and emotionally to varying degrees.
Physically, symptoms can range from mild, such as headache, fatigue, and slight abdominal bloating, to severe, such as migraines, severe cramps, and the inability to function normally. Emotionally, you may experience symptoms related to anxiety (irritability, irrational crying or emotional changes), depression (withdrawn, fearful or altered libido), cravings (for sweets, dairy or alcohol) and fluid retention (headache, breast tenderness) . , abdominal bloating and weight gain).
I can tell you that although doctors have yet to determine the exact cause of PMS, they agree that hormones and neurochemical changes within the brain are prime suspects. Estrogen hormones, for example, can contribute to increased brain activity, salt retention and blood sugar drops, because they have a central neurological effect on the brain.
What do you do if you realize that you or a loved one is suffering from some level of PMS? Obviously, if the symptoms are severe, you should see your doctor. Today’s doctors may prescribe psychiatric (psychotropic drugs, tricyclics, tranquilizers, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), medical treatments (anti-estrogenic hormone drugs), or a combination of both for severe cases.
However, if you think your symptoms are manageable or if they are intermittent, here are some tips that may help relieve some symptoms.
– Eat six small meals, high in complex carbohydrates and low in simple sugars, at three-hour intervals to help keep energy levels and blood glucose levels stable. Complex carbohydrates are found in foods that are eaten in their natural state such as oatmeal, cornmeal, barley and wheat germ, or in foods such as pasta, brown rice, root vegetables such as potatoes, wholemeal bread and cereals, etc.
– Cut back on caffeine, alcohol, salt, fat and simple sugars to help reduce fatigue, tension, depression and bloating from water retention.
– Add calcium, controlled levels of B6, B complex, magnesium and vitamin E to help maintain a normal mood and reduce fluid retention, cramps and back pain.
– Exercise three times a week for at least 20-30 minutes to improve mood, blood circulation, sense of well-being and relieve build-up of tension and stress.
– Learn to relax with deep breathing exercises, music, quiet time or yoga, to reduce symptoms and help you cope. Also, spend time with an understanding friend, get 8 hours of sleep regularly, and track your menstrual cycle on a calendar to prepare for the onslaught of symptoms to help you cope.
– Adjust your schedule during your menstrual cycle to avoid heavy decisions, stressful dates or events, or even arguments during PMS to help both your PMS and your relationships.
– Investigate the use of herbs. Much research is being done in the field of herbal remedies for PMS. Evening primrose oil, chaste tree berry, dong qui, and other herbs may have an effect on PMS symptoms, according to personal testimonies from women who have tried them.
For best results, I recommend a combination of all of these areas. A lifestyle that includes a balanced diet, adequate amounts of necessary vitamins and minerals, plenty of healthy exercise, adequate rest and relaxation, good mental attitudes, and the right herbs gives you the best defense against PMS symptoms. However, if all else fails, by all means throw in a couple of chocolates. Women for centuries have insisted that chocolate is a miracle cure!
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