Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) - What causes it? How to deal with it?

Posted by Harmony Stagg on

Premenstrual Syndrome: Causes and Symptoms


If everything around you is making you cry and you are spending most of the time curled into a ball, depressed and fatigued to the core just before your periods, chances are you might be suffering from what the doctors call Pre-menstrual Syndrome, or PMS.

Pre-menstrual Syndrome is a group of symptoms that you get a week or two before your period starts. It is a very common disorder affecting nearly 85% of women during their reproductive life. The symptoms usually subside by the time you start bleeding. It affects every woman differently. For some, it might just be a little troublesome, while for others it may affect their normal lifestyle very severely.

Let us first discuss what the symptoms of PMS are.


Symptoms of Pre-menstrual Syndrome:

According to the journal American Family Physician, around 80% of women experience these symptoms that are mild to moderate in intensity. The symptoms vary in each individual in intensity and frequency.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Acne
  • Abdominal bloating and pain
  • Sore or tender breasts
  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhea
  • Food cravings or appetite changes
  • Sadness
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Headache or backache
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Trouble concentrating


If you think you have any of these symptoms that are affecting your normal functioning every month, try to track them. You can use a tracking calendar or a chart to record your symptoms. You can then consult a doctor who will make a diagnosis based on these symptoms. The doctor will, however, rule out other disorders or diseases that share these symptoms like clinical depression, menopause, endometriosis or anxiety among others.

 Now that we have discussed how the symptoms look, let’s further talk about the causes of premenstrual syndrome.


Causes of Pre-Menstrual Syndrome:

There is a lot of research going on in this area, trying to find out the exact cause of PMS, but it is still not clear. There are, however, a plethora of factors that can contribute to the development of this syndrome:

  • The changes in hormone levels occurring during the menstrual cycles contribute to many of these symptoms. The hormones most closely related to menstrual cycle are estrogen, progesterone, LH and FSH. The signs and symptoms change with fluctuations in these hormones.


  • Another important factor that contributes to these mood changes and depressive symptoms is chemical changes in the brain. Levels of a neurotransmitter, serotonin, are seen to change during menstrual cycle. Low levels of serotonin may cause depression, fatigue or sleep disturbances.


  •  Other factors include low levels of minerals or vitamins, consumption of alcohol or salty foods and increasing use of caffeine. These factors might not the direct cause, but may lead to exacerbation of these symptoms.


 How to deal with PMS

Over-the-counter pain relievers may help with the physical symptoms. However we can not underestimate the importance of lifestyle changes in helping to reducing the intensity of PMS.

Engaging in regular exercise, eating nourishing food high in vitamins & minerals as well as keeping up with your hydration (and by that we mean water!) will help keep the symptoms manageable for some. Cut down on caffeine, especially around that time of the month and stock up on lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. 

Increase your iron intake by eating foods high in iron as menstruating women can get low in iron which can also present with symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness and nausea. 

Take time out for yourself around that time of the month, engage in low intensity exercise such as yoga or a stroll along the beach or park. Schedule in a "date" with yourself to nourish your womanly body and beautiful mind. Instead of loathing that time of month try and change your mind set to a more positive one - think of how magical the Women's body is, every month it prepares itself to potentially home another life (baby). Celebrate this wonderful gift, your body, that you have been blessed with.

In light of the above suggestions, we do understand that for some women the symptoms can get a little too much and It is always best to see a doctor if these symptoms & pains don’t go away or are negatively affecting your daily routine. We also recommend working with a naturopath as they are wonderful at helping to balance your homrmones and body in a wholistic way.

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