Symptoms And Treatments For Premenstrual Syndrome

Common physical/emotional symptoms, treatments and tips to help you avoid PMS pains.

Do you become overly emotional before your period? Do you suddenly crave chocolate or other sugary foods? Does your body ache all over? Are you experiencing water retention and bloating? Do your family and friends hide from you when you're going through PMS? Well, you're not going mad, you're not imagining your symptoms, and you're not alone. You're experiencing premenstrual syndrome, more commonly known as PMS.

Premenstrual syndrome refers to a group of physical and emotional symptoms that women experience on a regular basis in relation to menstruation. Dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps) is not considered a symptom of PMS, but a woman can experience both PMS and dysmenorrhea. The symptoms occur generally within 7 to 14 days prior to menstruation and then disappear a few hours after an onset of menstrual flow.

There are as many theories regarding the cause of PMS and no one theory is universally agreed upon as of yet. Theories include progesterone deficiency, estrogen excess, vitamin and/or mineral deficiency, prolactin excess, and stress.

We do know that PMS occurs in the two weeks between ovulation and menstruation (luteal phase of the menstrual cycle). We also know that the symptoms of PMS and the duration and severity of symptoms differ for each individual.

There is evidence that the premenstrual symptoms are a result of fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen has an effect on fluid retention in the body. Increased estrogen can cause symptoms such as weight gain, swelling, breast tenderness, and bloating.

PMS affects approximately 80% of menstruating women, although only 10% will experience severe symptoms. PMS is most likely to occur in women between the ages of 13-30, and there are over 150 physical and psychological symptoms associated with PMS.

Common physical symptoms of PMS:

Appetite change: loss or craving


Breast tenderness



Abdominal, leg or back cramping


Cold sores and acne


Fluid retention and bloating

Weight gain

Dizzy spells or fainting


Common emotional symptoms of PMS:



Feelings of sadness

Suicidal thoughts


Mood swings

Aggression or violent behaviors

Panic attacks

Low concentration

PMS symptoms usually improve or stop once your menstruation has begun. If your symptoms do not improve by the start of your period and especially if they worsen, you should talk to your doctor immediately.

Ways to reduce your symptoms of PMS:

Reduce and limit your salt intake and avoid salty foods for 1 to 2 weeks before your period begins as this will help to control any excess fluid retention, which can aggravate PMS symptoms. Drink more water and low-sodium juices.

Avoid caffeine - Even though caffeine does not cause PMS, it can aggravate some symptoms such as headaches, anxiety, and breast tenderness. Taper off of your caffeine intake one or two weeks before your period begins. Stopping abruptly or completely may make your symptoms worse.

Exercise - This will help to decrease the severity of your cramps (e.g., walking, jogging, biking, or swimming) and should be done at least three times per week. Also exercise is a natural anti-depressant.

Soak your body - Take a warm bath, use a heating pad or a hot water bottle, and drink herbal tea (e.g., chamomile, mint, raspberry, or blackberry) to help relieve cramps. These steps will help to relax tense muscles and alleviate anxious moods.

Try one of the many nonprescription (over-the-counter) PMS medications to help alleviate cramps, bloating, and headache.

Avoid alcohol - this will to help control PMS-related depression and mood swings.

Eat smaller, more frequent meals and eat at the same time each day, if possible.

Never go more than 5 hours during any day or 13 hours overnight without food.

Take calcium - Studies show that 1,200 mg of calcium per day reduce PMS symptoms within three months. Take a daily calcium supplement or increase your consumption of calcium-rich foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt, salmon, and broccoli.

Take vitamins - A daily multivitamin that includes magnesium, B6, and B12 will help your body regulate estrogen levels and stabilize magnesium levels in your blood. (Low levels of magnesium are often the reason for chocolate cravings, and high levels of estrogen contribute to PMS.)

Increase the amount of oils in your diet - Flax seed oil, black current oil, evening primrose oil all have shown to help ease the symptoms of menstrual irregularities.

Be good to yourself - Reduce your stress level as much as possible as it can aggravate the condition.

Women do not need to feel like they are going crazy for these two weeks every month. They are experiencing an exaggeration of normal function within their bodies. Taking care of yourself and getting proper rest will help to see a woman through these times in a healthy way.

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