PMS – PLEASE! MAKE IT STOP!
PMS is the medical acronym for premenstrual syndrome. You know, that time before your period when you feel tired, fat, and cranky.
The Mayo Clinic has a long, long list of symptoms of PMS including fatigue, weight gain, bloating, anxiety, depression, insomnia, on and on. Some sources say that “up to 150 symptoms have been identified as part of premenstrual syndrome”. And if it gets really bad, PMS graduates to PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder), not that having an extra letter is going to make anyone feel better.
According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, PMS symptoms can appear in the one to two weeks before your period.
Wow! What a miserable way to spend one or two weeks out of every month. PMS should actually stand for “Please! Make it Stop!”
Is PMS Normal?
According to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, as many as 85% of women experience PMS symptoms, and 5-10% of women have symptoms so severe that they qualify as an impairment.
While some medical “experts” maintain that PMS is just a normal part of the whole fertility experience, there are others who have a different view of it.
Dr. Briana Lutz holds that PMS is common but it’s not “normal”. The bloating, the cravings, the tenderness, and all the other symptoms indicate to her that it’s time to do some digging to find out what the underlying issue is.
What Causes PMS?
Exactly what causes PMS? That’s a good question and one that apparently does not have a definitive answer. The Mayo Clinic says that “exactly what causes premenstrual syndrome is unknown” but they, and others, do identify cyclical changes in hormones as the likely culprit.
Well alright, the hormones. Hormones are often named as the source of any number of ailments but hardly anyone ever says what, exactly, hormones are. Did you know that the word hormone comes from the Greek word horman which means “impel, set in motion”? No, I didn’t know that either, but it makes sense. Hormones are substances secreted by the body’s endocrine glands and transported via fluids such as blood to various tissues where they stimulate specific effects. They are chemical messengers that tell various parts of the body what to do and when to do it.
The different hormones work together in a sort of intricate biological ballet. Having too much of one or too little of a particular hormone (or, more likely, hormones) causes your “ballet dancers” to run amok in a kind chaotic and jarring choreography called, broadly, “hormonal imbalance”.
So How Does Hormones Imbalance Even Happen?
There are numerous learned treatises on the subject, but the bottom line is that while fluctuating levels of hormones are natural, hormonal imbalances occur when the endocrine glands aren’t working properly.
More common and more easily remedied contributors to hormone imbalance are such things as diet, nutritional deficiencies, lack of exercise, lack of sleep, stress.
What Can You Do To Relieve or Even Eliminate PMS Symptoms?
While there are some drastic treatments for PMS such as pharmaceutical analgesics, antidepressants, anti-inflammatory drugs, and even surgery (yikes!), there are physicians who advocate less extreme measures.
Dr. Mark Hymann, Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine, suggests some non-pharmaceutical remedies to help balance hormones and provide some relief from PMS symptoms. He urges diet changes, supplements, aerobic exercise, and alternative therapies such as acupuncture and homeopathy.
Food is definitely a factor. Much of the food we consume contains hormones. Dairy animals and livestock are commonly injected with hormones to make them grow faster or produce more milk. That may be good for the meat and dairy industry but the problem is that when you eat these food products, you’re also ingesting the hormones that the animals were given. That’s not good. Add to that a typical caffeine-rich, high-sugar, low-fiber, high-carb diet of refined foods, and you have a quick trip to hormonal issues.
There are vitamins and minerals you can take to improve hormone metabolism and ease PMS symptoms including calcium and magnesium, B vitamins, multivitamins, evening primrose oil, and others.
Exercise is so underrated. Many of us necessarily spend hours and hours each day at a desk, and then we’re too worn out and tired to even think about exercising (been there, done that). But some physical activity is needed to keep the endocrine system and other bodily functions working as they should. There’s no need to engage in a brutal regime of punishing exercise. Take a walk, go for a swim, cruise around on a bicycle, have a game of soccer with the kids (watch out for the cleats). A half an hour of aerobic exercise four or five times a week could make a world of difference.
Stress is a very large subject area (more on that later) but there are a few simple things you can do to ease it. Try a hot bath, get a massage, do things that you find enjoyable. And, not to harp on the subject of exercise, it is also a very effective stress-reliever.
Many women have enjoyed some relief from PMS symptoms through therapies such as acupuncture and homeopathic remedies.
Women and their reproductive systems are not inherently flawed or defective. There are things you can do to help with PMS symptoms. If you need some guidance in deciding the best course of action for you, many health care providers can help.
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