What is Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)?

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) (also called PMT or premenstrual tension) is a collection of physical and emotional symptoms related to a woman's menstrual cycle. While most women of child-bearing age (up to 85%) report having experienced physical symptoms related to normal ovulatory function, such as bloating or breast tenderness, medical definitions of PMS are limited to a consistent pattern of emotional and physical symptoms occurring only during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle that are of "sufficient severity to interfere with some aspects of life". In particular, emotional symptoms must be present consistently to diagnose PMS. The specific emotional and physical symptoms attributable to PMS vary from woman to woman, but each individual woman's pattern of symptoms is predictable, occurs consistently during the ten days prior to menses, and vanishes either shortly before or shortly after the start of menstrual flow.

Only a small percentage of women (2 to 5%) have significant premenstrual symptoms that are separate from the normal discomfort associated with menstruation in healthy women.

Culturally, the abbreviation PMS is widely understood in English-speaking countries to refer to difficulties associated with menses, and the abbreviation is used frequently even in casual and colloquial settings, without regard to medical rigor. In these contexts, the syndrome is rarely referred to without abbreviation, and the connotations of the reference are frequently more broad than the clinical definition.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) consists of symptoms are similar to, but more severe than, PMS, and while primarily mood-related, may include physical symptoms such as bloating. PMDD is classified as a repeating transitory cyclic disorder with similarities to unipolar depression, and several antidepressants are approved as therapy.

What Causes Premenstrual Syndrome?

The causes of premenstrual syndrome are not known but there are underlying factors that may trigger the symptoms. These factors include:

Hormonal changes - Hormone levels may fluctuate due to the decreased production of sex hormones after ovulation has taken place

Brain chemicals - Fluctuations of serotonin in the brain may lead to mood swings and depression

Opioid peptides - These are also brain chemicals that fluctuate in response to the hormones produced by the ovaries and can affect mood

Other possible causes may include a poor diet, mineral and vitamin deficiency, and stress

Diagnosing Premenstrual Syndrome

Premenstrual syndrome cannot be positively diagnosed, but symptoms may be linked to your menstrual cycle. Your doctor may ask you to record your signs and symptoms of two menstrual cycles in a diary to establish a pattern.

The symptoms of premenstrual syndrome differ from one woman to the next. Some women experience mild episodes of PMS while others experience severe cramps, headaches, backaches and breast tenderness.

The common symptoms and signs of premenstrual syndrome include:
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Weight gain
  • Breast tenderness
  • Backache
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle pain
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Acne
  • Appetite changes and food cravings
  • Anger, irritability and mood swings
  • Anxiety, tension and depression
  • Crying and feeling ‘weepy’
Help for Premenstrual Syndrome

There are a wide variety of treatments and lifestyle changes that can alleviate and manage the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. These include:

Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen Prescription medicines such as oral contraceptives, antidepressants or beta-blockers

While these treatments can be beneficial, these medications are strong, and may have side effects. Some may also be addictive.

Natural and holistic treatments can be very effective in treating the physical and emotional symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and providing relief. Natural remedies have been used traditionally for many years to combat PMS symptoms and restore hormonal balance. These treatments usually work best in combination with a health program that is tailored to the individual’s needs.

Herbal and homeopathic remedies are completely safe, and non addictive – without the side effects of prescription drugs. These remedies contain ingredients such as Fennel, Pulsatilla and Melissa which help to naturally reduce the effects of premenstrual syndrome and support health. Don Quai is also a very effective Chinese herb which helps to restore hormonal balance and promote female reproductive health – thereby reducing the occurrence of pre-menstrual symptoms. Consult an herbalist or homeopath about a treatment that suits you.

Lifestyle changes can go a long way to improving the symptoms of PMS. These include eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep. Acupuncture and Chiropractic therapy can also be effective in lessening the troublesome symptoms of PMS.
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