What Is PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)?
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is known to be a combination of physical, emotional, psychological and mood disturbances which occur after a woman’s ovulation in the menstrual cycle. You’ll often notice PMS symptoms about a week before your period.
The most common mood-related symptoms associated with PMS include depression, irritation, oversensitivity, crying and mood swings. The most common physical symptoms include bloating, fatigue, acne, breast tenderness and food cravings.
Keep on reading for the most common causes of PMS, as well as risk factors and treatment options you may want to consider.
PMS may, or may not be accompanied by abnormal menstruation.
In case you’re wondering what the official definition of PMS is, according to the Cambridge dictionary, it’s:
“An abbreviation for Premenstrual Syndrome. It’s a condition in which some women experience unpleasant physical and emotional feelings for a few days before their period.”
What Are The Causes of PMS?
While the exact causes of the premenstrual syndrome are not known, there are several factors that contribute to it. Some of them include:
- Chemical Changes In The Brain: The fluctuation of a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) known as serotonin, which plays a significant role in mood states, may trigger PMS symptoms. Without a sufficient quantity of serotonin, symptoms such as fatigue, premenstrual depression, sleep problems and food cravings may occur.
- Cyclic Changes In Hormones: Premenstrual syndrome signs and symptoms change with hormonal fluctuations and go away with pregnancy and menopause.
- Depression: Certain women who have premenstrual syndrome have undiagnosed depression, even though depression itself is not the cause of every PMS symptom.
There is, however, a lot of uncertainty about PMS and whether or not it’s even real.
Risk Factors of Pre Menstrual Syndrome
- a family history of depression
- a family history of PMS
- A history of mood disorders or depression, such as bipolar disorder or postpartum depression.
- substance abuse
- domestic violence
- emotional trauma
- physical trauma
Associated symptoms include:
- major depressive disorder
- generalized anxiety disorder
- seasonal affective disorder
Causes and Symptoms of Pre Menstrual Syndrome
Symptoms of PMS
What are the symptoms of menstruation coming? Let’s find out!
On average, a woman’s menstrual cycle usually lasts for 28 days. On the 14th day of the cycle, ovulation occurs, which is when the egg is released from the ovaries. And on the 28th day of the cycle, menstruation or bleeding occurs.
Usually, the symptoms of PMS are mild or moderate. According to a medical study published in the American Family Physician journal, about 80% of women report either one or more symptom that does not affect their daily functioning.
The study also states that 20-32% of women report moderate to severe symptoms that affect some aspect of their life. 3-8% of women report PMDD.
The severity of these symptoms can differ by individual and by month. Some of the common symptoms include:
Emotional Signs and Symptoms of PMS
Some of the symptoms of menstrual coming include the following:
- Crying spells
- Depressed mood
- Tension or anxiety
- Appetite changes and food cravings
- Mood swings and irritability or anger
- Poor concentration
- Social withdrawal
- Change in libido
Are you really angry during PMS? You can learn more about How to Control PMS Anger here.
When you hear someone say, “I’m PMSing hard, these emotional symptoms are usually what they’re referring to.”
Physical Signs and Symptoms of Pre Menstrual Syndrome
- Joint or muscle pain
- Abdominal bloating
- Weight gain linked to fluid retention
- Acne flare-ups
- Breast tenderness
- Alcohol intolerance
- Constipation or diarrhea
For some women, emotional stress and physical pain are severe to the point that it affects their daily activities. But no matter how severe they may be, the signs and symptoms usually disappear within the first four days of most women’s menstrual periods.
However, a small number of women with PMS can have disabling symptoms every month. This is called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
The signs and symptoms of PMDD include mood swings, depression, anxiety, anger, difficulty in concentrating, feeling overwhelmed, tension and irritability.
When To Visit Your Doctor about Premenstrual Syndrome
The best time to visit your doctor is if or when you start experience symptoms related to mood swings and physical pain, especially if they affect your daily life, or if the symptoms are not going away. The diagnosis is finalized when you have more than one severe symptom likely to cause impairment and is absent between menses and ovulation.
The doctor may also rule out other causes like:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Thyroid disease
- Connective tissue or rheumatologic diseases
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
Things your Doctor May Ask You About
Your doctor may ask if there is any family history of depression or other mood disorders in order for them to determine whether or not your symptoms came from PMS or another condition. There are some conditions that have symptoms similar to PMS such as hypothyroidism, IBS and pregnancy.
Your doctor may also perform several tests such as a thyroid hormone test to make sure your thyroid gland is working right, a possible pelvic exam to check for any gynecological problems and a pregnancy test.
You must ensure to keep a record of your symptoms in a journal or a diary to determine if you indeed have PMS. Take a calendar and monitor your symptoms and menstruation every month. If these symptoms begin at the same time every month, then PMS could be a likely cause.
How Long Does PMS Last?
A common question that people have is how long PMS lasts for? According to Web MD, it can start 5-10 days before your period, and it dissipates once your period has started.
It’s closely related to fluctuating hormones throughout your menstrual cycle. It’s not all just in your head, but it’s now being recognized as a legitimate health problem that requires treatment in severe cases.
I Have Severe PMS! It May be PMDD
If you have PMS, but it’s very severe, then you may have what’s known as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. Think PMS, but far worse in terms of severity of symptoms.
You can learn more about it here: PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder).
Could your PMS actually be PMDD?
Treatment for PMS
Lifestyle changes, and home remedies can help relieve PMS symptoms for many women. But that depends on the severity of those symptoms for which your doctor may recommend one or more medications for PMS.
Also, the success of medication for treating PMS symptoms differs between women. The common medications usually prescribed for premenstrual syndrome include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): These can be taken before or right at the start of your period. NSAIDs such as naproxen sodium (Aleve) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) can reduce breast discomfort or cramping.
- Antidepressants: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) , which include paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva), fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem), sertraline (Zoloft) and more have been successful in lowering mood symptoms. SSRIs are first line treatments for severe PMDD or PMS. Usually, these medications have to be taken on a daily basis. But for some women who have PMS, there is a limited use of antidepressants in the two weeks prior to the onset of menstruation.
- Hormonal contraceptives: These are prescription medications that can stop ovulation, which can thereby bring relief from PMS symptoms.
- Diuretics: If both exercise and reducing your salt intake aren’t helping you reduce your swelling, weight gain and bloating, then taking water pills (diuretics) are advised to help your body shed excess fluid through your kidney. Spironolactone (Aldactone) can also help ease PMS symptoms.
Lifestyle and Home Remedy Treatments for Pre Menstrual Syndrome
You can also manage or reduce your PMS symptoms through exercise, making changes in your diet and your approach on daily life. Try these:
- Reduce your intake of salty foods to reduce fluid retention and bloating.
- Eat smaller portions of more frequent foods to reduce the feeling of fullness and bloating.
- Eat high-in-complex-carbohydrate foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
- Choose rich-in-calcium foods. But if you’re lactose intolerant or aren’t getting sufficient supply of calcium, then a daily calcium supplement is another option.
- Abstain from alcohol and caffeine.
Natural Remedies for Pre Menstrual Syndrome
Foods to Eat Before your Period
What you eat in the week leading up to your period can make a big difference in terms of how you feel. Make sure you’re getting enough of these nutrients in order to feel your best, and fight pre menstrual syndrome!
This is an important nutrient to the muscles, which can make it a nice choice to fight menstrual pain and cramps. Some magnesium rich foods include nuts (almonds in particular), and veggies.
Calcium and vitamin D
In some studies, both calcium and Vit. D have been shown to relieve symptoms of PMS, as well as cramps.
You can get your Vitamin D from the sun, take a supplement in cloudy climates, or those with limited daylight, or eat food like eggs and salmon.
Calcium can be found mostly in dairy products. Or, you can also eat almonds, figs and tofu.
Omega-3 fatty acids are excellent building blocks for hormones, and are known to help elevate your mood. This can help you out when you’re going through pre menstrual syndrome.
Some foods that are rich in Omega-3 include chia seeds, beans and nuts.
Fiber is important to keep your digestive system in good oder. Many good sources of fiber also contain lots of Vitamin B1 and B2, which may help to prevent pre-menstrual syndrome.
Fiber rich foods include veggies, fruit, and brown rice or whole grain breads.
Okay, it’s not a food, but water is important to the overall functioning of your body. Be sure you’re getting an adequate amount of it to feel your best before your period.
Foods that Fight Premenstrual Syndrome
Foods and Drinks to Avoid When Going Through Pre Menstrual Syndrome
Here are a few things to avoid right before your period.
Salt and Sugar
Okay, I know we all get cravings and it can be tempting to fill up on salty, sugary food right before your period. However, these things should be avoided because they actually will make you feel worse.
These things have an effect on the product of estrogen, a hormone that regulates menstruation.
Caffeine and Alcohol
Too much coffee can often make PMS and cramping symptoms worse. Alcohol can lead to hangovers, which is kind of the last thing you need right before your period.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol as much as possible to help yourself just feel better.
Avoid these Foods Before your Period
Make Exercise Part of Your Regular Routine to Fight PMS
For most days of the week, you can engage in at least 30 minutes of cycling, brisk walking, swimming or other aerobic activity in most days of the week. With regular daily exercise, you can improve your overall health and eliminate certain symptoms like a depressed mood and fatigue.
Am I Pregnant, or is it PMS?
The symptoms of pregnancy can look a whole lot like PMS. However, there are a few subtle differences that you should be aware of. And of course, check with your doctor if you’re unsure.
You can learn more about it here: PMS or Pregnant?
I Get PMS Symptoms After my Period
Some people experience typical PMS symptoms at atypical times: a week or two after their period ends. What’s the deal? Is this even a real thing?
You can learn more about this here: Post Menstrual Syndrome.
Pre Menstrual Syndrome: Have your Say!
What are your thoughts about how to deal with PMS? Do you suffer though it, visit your doctor, or try out a home remedy? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think about Pre Menstrual Syndrome.