‘That time of the month’, otherwise called PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome), can be an extremely unpleasant time not just for women but also for their partners and family.
Pre-Menstrual Syndrome is a particularly prevalent condition, affecting a large percentage of menstruating women of childbearing age, and increasing with age. Quality of life can be severely disturbed, as symptoms can be extreme enough to disrupt personal relationships, social activities or job/school performance.
What is Pre-Menstrual Syndrome?
Pre-Menstrual Syndrome is characterized by a collection of potentially distressing symptoms prior to the onset of a period and usually abates very soon afterwards. Women whose health and resistance are good are less likely to suffer from Pre-Menstrual Syndrome than those suffering from poor nutrition and lack of physical exercise.
A Severe Form of PMS: Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder
A more debilitating and severe form of Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), affects 5-10% of women. PMDD manifests as Pre-Menstrual Syndrome and is accompanied by severe depression that occurs during the last week of the menstrual cycle and which markedly interferes with daily living. Women who suffer from PMDD display real ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ behavior.
PMS vs PMDD
Although the root cause of PMS and PMDD varies from woman to woman, unbalanced ovarian hormones (such as estrogen and progesterone) coupled with imbalances in neurotransmitters (brain chemicals such as serotonin) appear to be involved. By supporting healthy ovarian functioning and neurotransmitter formation through natural modalities real relief is possible.
PMS symptoms are wide-ranging and can begin as early as a girl’s first period and lasting through until menopause.
Common PMS Symptoms & Signs
- Mood changes such as depression, irritability or fearfulness
- Reduced ability to cope
- Breast tenderness
- Fluid retention
- Food cravings & hypoglycemia
- Headaches and migraines
- Skin complaints such as acne
- Abdominal bloating
Moods and PMS
Mood swings can be one of the most distressing symptoms of women experiencing PMS. It ranges from moodiness, irritability, tearfulness to severe depression and suicidal thoughts.
It is now understood that the changing levels of reproductive hormones throughout the menstrual cycle can have direct or indirect effects on mood.
The mood changes associated with PMS may also be the result of progesterone metabolites interacting with receptors that normally suppress anxiety.
Headaches, Menstrual Migraines & PMS
During the menstrual cycle, the altering levels of hormones can affect the prevalence and intensity of headaches.
Estrogen and progesterone have potent effects on our brain neurochemistry. Headaches that occur during your period appear to be due to estrogen withdrawal (however, it should be noted that increased estrogen during pregnancy and decreased estrogen during menopause may also affect headaches).
Furthermore, headaches associated with use of the oral contraceptive pill or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be partially related to periodic discontinuation of oral hormones and therefore changes to estrogen levels.
HRT is often seen to exacerbate migraine. It is important to realize that hormone medication may generate new headaches or aggravate or ameliorate pre-existing headaches.
Where medication is a potential causative factor, it may be necessary to discuss alternative methods of contraception or hormone replacement with your medical doctor.
Hypoglycemia and PMS
Low blood sugar levels are common prior to the start of menstruation and can contribute to the mood problems, food cravings and headaches.
The herb gymnema can be effective in controlling hypoglycemia, especially when taken in conjunction with eating a balanced diet and protein eaten throughout the day.