Premenstrual syndrome

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) refers to a variety of symptoms experienced by women one to ten days before the beginning of a menstrual period. These symptoms disappear with the onset of menstruation and include physical discomforts and mood disorders. PMS is particularly common in women who are over 30 years of age.

Symptoms of Premenstrual syndrome

There are more than 150 identified premenstrual syndrome symptoms and these have been divided into four subgroups, each subgroup being linked to particular symptoms,hormonal and metabolic changes. These are:

PMS-A: Anxiety, irritability, mood swings and nervous tension.

PMS-D: Depression, insomnia, lethargy and confusion.

PMS-H: Bloating, weight gain, headaches and breast tenderness.

PMS-C: Increase in appetite, cravings for sugar and/or salt and fatigue.

Premenstrual syndromeOther symptoms include crying spells, constipation, muscle aches and pains, and acne. In some women, respiratory problems such as allergies, and infections and eye complaints may be worse. Most women experience some emotional and physical changes premenstrually, and the severity of PMS varies. Some women experience only a few symptoms, while others have many. Also, the discomfort felt as a result of PMS symptoms ranges from mild to so severe that it may interfere with everyday activities such as performance at work and/or relationships with others.

Causes of premenstrual syndrome

There are many theories as to the causes of PMS but none are universally agreed upon. Estrogen-progesterone ratio imbalance, excessive aldosterone or anti-diuretic hormone levels, carbohydrate metabolism changes, low blood sugar, high prolactin levels, allergy to progesterone, retention of sodium and water by the kidneys, psychological factors, alterations in neurotransmitters and prostaglandin levels, and nutritional inadequacies or excesses may all play a part.

Treatment of premenstrual syndrome

Oral contraceptives help relieve the symptoms of PMS in some women. Painkillers, diuretics and tranquilizers are also sometimes used. Regular exercise and good stress-reduction techniques are also beneficial.

Diet and premenstrual syndrome

A healthy diet is essential to help minimize the symptoms of PMS. Reducing refined sugar intake and limiting alcohol, caffeine and salt are particularly beneficial. Eating several regular small meals that include complex carbohydrates may also be helpful.

Researchers involved in a 1991 double-blind randomized study looked at the effects of a vitamin and mineral supplement on premenstrual symptoms in 44 women. The women took either six tablets, 12 tablets or a placebo for three menstrual cycles. Significant effects were seen in three symptom subgroups for the six-tablet group, and in all four subgroups for the 12-tablet group.

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