Mood swings, ice cream buckets, hatred for every being around you––sounds relatable? Debates have been raging for decades to question if the Premenstrual Syndrome is a real thing or not. Well, we have news, it is! The extent to which women experience this may vary, of course, but there is certainly no negating the fact that the physical and emotional changes that take place before the start of a menstrual cycle do take a toll on women. Let’s understand this a bit deeper, shall we?
What is PMS?
Women of the reproductive age group may experience certain discomfort and symptoms related to the menstrual cycle that may be limited to mild discomfort or extend to premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMS is a common disorder seen that has a combination of physical, psychological, and behavioral changes that results in meddling with normal day to day activities, which typically subsides upon onset or immediately after menstruation.
Women experience biological and hormonal changes in the body that trigger mood fluctuations, and symptoms of depression and anxiety prior to their periods. They may also experience abdominal discomfort, water retention and skin sensitivity.
The biology behind PMS
The balance of estrogen and progesterone are crucial for optimal functioning of a menstrual cycle. The first day of the menstrual cycle is defined as the first day of a monthly period. Around mid-cycle approximately day 14 if your cycles are regular ovulation occurs. The egg cell is released which produces high levels of progesterone and lower levels of estrogen to prepare the womb for pregnancy if conception has occurred.
If the egg is not fertilised then it begins to break down and the production of progesterone and estrogen begins to fall. This starts about a week before the next period and the decline in progesterone levels affects serotonin in the brain. Fluctuations of serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that plays a crucial role in mood states, could trigger PMS symptoms. Pre-existing serotonin deficiency with increased progesterone sensitivity may contribute to premenstrual depression, as well as to fatigue, food cravings and sleep problems.
Women with premenstrual syndrome might be sensitive to the effects of progesterone and estrogen and it’s important to check the levels to understand if that’s the causative factor. Hormones can be measured on particular days in the menstrual cycle prescribed by a qualified medical practitioner. Ideally women with a regular menstrual cycle should check their estrogen on day 3 and progesterone on day 21 of their cycle.
How bad is it really?
The extent of these symptoms are governed by a woman’s psychological and social well-being at that particular time in her life. Studies have shown that lifestyle plays a significant role in PMS. PMS symptoms appear to be most distressing in women who are obese, lead stressful lives, follow sedentary lifestyles, disrupted sleep patterns or have a diet high in refined foods, alcohol, salt and smokes. PMS can be detected by a medical professional initially using two main aspects. Firstly the timing of the symptoms and second being the regularity of symptoms (every month, every other month, etc.)
How to manage PMS?
In order to manage these uncontrollable changes, it is vital for women to take extra care of themselves prior and during menstruation:
Manage Stress Well: Managing stress and following a healthy eating pattern coupled with physical activity will aid in combating PMS symptoms. Stress can be managed using simple relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation and this can help regulate emotional imbalances due to PMS. Even a simple 10-minute meditation on a wellness app in your phone can go a long way in alleviating your stress levels.
Exercise: Exercise indeed puts more pep in your step, every day and increases your overall sense of well-being. But it also has some direct stress-busting benefits. Exercise stretches your muscles and bumps up the production of your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins. Endorphins act as natural painkillers—and also improve the ability to sleep, which in turn reduces stress. If you’re confused about what might be the best exercises for you, let some of the best names in the field of fitness be your guide.
Balanced Diet: Eat a balanced diet regularly and two weeks prior to your periods cut back on processed foods, caffeine, sugar and fat. Even though your body may be craving sweets or fast foods that are high in fat, try to limit these foods since they may add to your symptoms such as bloating and indigestion. To ease water retention, stay hydrated and reduce salt intake. Foods rich in calcium, magnesium and essential fatty acids have shown in alleviating symptoms.
It might seem like a daunting prospect to follow so many guidelines, but the onus is on us to work towards a healthy body, inside and out! Taking the first step in the right direction can be a good start!
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