Do you turn into a monster once a month?

women with pmsSelf Help for PMS Sufferers

The majority of women suffer with some form of pre-menstrual symptoms, and as many as 30-40% experience symptoms which can cause disruption to their daily lives. A small percentage can have symptoms so severe that they are regularly confined to bed. The most common problems include abdominal cramps, bloating, breast tenderness, and mood swings from anger to weepiness.

The most severe form of PMS is Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).  PMDD is characterised by feelings of overwhelming sadness or hopelessness, often to the extent of feeling suicidal, tension, anger, dramatic mood swings and extreme irritability.  Sufferers can sometimes experience panic attacks.  Other symptoms can include disinterest in daily activities, trouble concentrating, fatigue, binge eating, sleep disturbances and physical symptoms, such as bloating, breast tenderness, headaches and joint or muscle pain.

Tips for helping you to avoid PMS

Diet

Low blood sugar is associated with mood swings, irritability and carbohydrate cravings. Blood sugar naturally drops just before menstruation due to the action of hormones. You can prevent blood sugar imbalance by eating meals based around complex carbohydrates combined with protein (such as porridge oats topped with yoghurt and nuts or seeds, chicken on granary bread,  salmon with rice and vegetables) and by eating small regular meals. Diets high in sugar, caffeine and alcohol are associated with PMS, so avoid those cakes, chocolate bars and quick fix snacks.

High salt intake can cause water retention and bloating so again avoid crisps and ready made foods and snacks.

Physical Activity
Getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days is consistently associated with an improvement in PMS symptoms, even if it involves simply taking a walk.

 Supplements

Magnesium

There is a link between lower dietary intake of calcium and magnesium and symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Calcium, in combination with magnesium, regulates muscular contractions which are the major cause of pre-menstrual pain. Generally if following a standard western diet, most women will have more than enough calcium, but be deficient in magnesium. Magnesium is classed as ‘nature’s tranquilliser’ and women with PMS have been found to have lower levels of red blood cell magnesium than women who don’t have symptoms.  Studies have found that supplementing with 200 – 250 mg of Magnesium per day can lead to a reduction in symptoms such as cramps, fluid retention, breast tenderness and bloating by some 30-40%. Supplementing with magnesium may therefore be extremely useful in alleviating PMS-related pain and even more effective when taken with vitamin B6, another important nutrient that can ease PMS-related symptoms.

Gamma linolenic acid (GLA)
GLA is an omega-6 fatty acid which is used by the body to reduce inflammation.  GLA is found in very small amounts in oily fish like salmon and mackerel.  The richest source is starflower (borage) oil (20-27% GLA) followed by evening primrose oil (7-14%). Due to its anti-inflammatory properties GLA can reduce symptoms of PMS.

Omega-3 fatty acids

These essential fats, found in oily fish, nuts and seeds are also anti-inflammatory. There is some preliminary evidence to show that fish oil may also help PMS suffers.

Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 is required for many of the body’s chemical processes and particularly for the synthesis of the “feel good” neurotransmitter serotonin. There is some evidence that vitamin B6 supplements may improve symptoms of PMS such as breast pain or tenderness and PMS-related depression or anxiety.

Agnus Castus)
The fruit of the chasteberry tree, commonly known as Vitex or Agnus Castus is widely used to treat female hormone imbalances. It needs to be taken for some 3 months to obtain the full effect. Unfortunately it is more difficult to obtain this herbal supplement now, since the Herbal Medicines directive came into force, but some supplement suppliers are beginning to re-introduce it.

Comments

  1. Thanks for a useful post, I will be trying some magnesium suppliments 🙂

  2. Helpful and timely. I was that monster last night and the PMDD today… Happens only about 1 time a quarter…will pay attention to some of these tips.

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