What are Pre-Menstrual Symptoms?
Pre-menstrual symptoms or commonly known as PMS defines a broad range of symptoms the majority of women experience to some degree in the run-up to their period arriving. These symptoms can affect the way women feel physically and emotionally and while they are typically only mildly debilitating, for some women they can interfere quite severely with their everyday lives. Most women are familiar with the milder symptoms of PMS such as breast soreness, spots and pimples, mood swings and irritability but some suffer more serious effects such as depression, anxiety, migraines and panic attacks.
What are the causes of PMS?
The fluctuation in levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone during the monthly cycle is a major contributing factor of PMS, but also diet, weight, lack of regular physical activity and stress can aggravate PMS symptoms. While there are medical options available to control the more debilitating PMS symptoms – such as the contraceptive pill, medications to treat depression, hormone therapy, and painkillers, there are a great many lifestyle changes that can be made that will improve general health and help to lessen the symptoms of PMS.
1. Lose weight
Did you know that the more weight we carry, the more oestrogen hormone the body produces? Being overweight can itself cause a hormone imbalance simply because of our body over-produces, so if we regulate our weight this will, in turn, help to regulate our hormone levels. Our hormones are basically messengers inside the body, and when a hormone has done its job and sent its message, it needs to be eliminated from the body, or it can also cause an imbalance of hormones – which is what leads to PMS. Getting rid of hormones from the body happens during detoxification. Detoxing needn’t be a complex process – it can be done easily by making some simple lifestyle changes – it means cutting out what is not good for us and doing a lot more of what keeps us healthy in both body and mind.
2. Focus on Nutrition
What you eat generally affects how you feel and behave. It affects the hormones that the body produces during the menstrual cycle, and those hormones often cause cravings for certain types of foods such as salty, sweet or fatty foods. Giving in to these cravings doesn’t improve PMS symptoms and can mean that your diet also may not be particularly healthy as a result. There are some very simple ways to boost your general health through diet and in turn help to reduce your PMS symptoms:
- Wholegrains: great for energy and for reducing tiredness and lethargy
- Vegetables: obviously vital in making sure you meet the all-important five a day – focus more on leafy green vegetables, such as Cabbages, Kale, Broccoli, Asparagus, Lettuce, Rocket, Spinach, Radishes, Celery, and Herbs, etc. rather than potatoes and fruit as they can lead to further sugar cravings
- Beans and pulses: good sources of carbohydrate and fibre which are essential for general body health
- Proteins: eaten in moderation this helps to keep blood sugar and moods stable
- Healthy fats: the omega 3 in fish is particularly good for brain and emotional health, as well as for its anti-inflammatory properties
3. Avoid Stimulants – Alcohol and Caffeine
Alcohol generally has a negative effect on PMS – even though we feel at the time that it is relaxing and calming. Alcohol can increase breast tenderness and headaches and make mood fluctuations worse, and if you are concentrating on being kinder to your body during peak PMS time, then it is probably kinder to avoid it completely at that time. Caffeine is essentially a stimulant which increases blood pressure and heart rate – too much can cause anxiety, tension, sleeping difficulties and tiredness – all of which can, in turn, exacerbate PMS symptoms. Ensuring that caffeine intake is minimal at that time of the month can only benefit your body. Try some green tea instead! It’s a great alternative and is high in antioxidants.
4. Quit Smoking?
Smoking has been proven to affect hormone levels, and women are more likely to develop PMS if they are smokers. This is probably one of the lesser-known negative effects of smoking on the body but is as good a reason to quit as the other more well-known ones.
5. Move everyday
Exercising is one of the best things that you can do for your body generally as well as during the time when your period is approaching. Exercise triggers the release of ‘feel good’ endorphins which can have a counter-effect on low mood and it also helps to relieve physical PMS symptoms such as bloating. Exercise doesn’t have to be a full-blown gym session; it could be a relaxing swimming session, a bracing walk with (or without!) the dog, or even an afternoon tidying up the garden. The positive effects of regular physical activity on the body cannot be overstated.
6. Deal with stressors in your life
The stresses that everyone experiences in life generally can have a negative effect on our health and the effects of PMS can themselves cause us to feel stressed. There are things that can be done to avoid stress, and when it is unavoidable, there are things that can be done to improve how we handle it. Good health and fitness allow us to manage stress more effectively but also making time to relax, do things that we enjoy, talking to people about worries that we may have, and generally taking control of our environment, are all positive ways to minimise stressful situations and their effects.
In summary, many women feel that PMS controls their lives to varying degrees on a regular monthly basis. But the truth is that the things and we do – and don’t – put into our bodies significantly affect our PMS symptoms and so in effect we are more in control of PMS than we probably think. There really is no escaping the fact that by and large ‘we are what we eat’ and how our bodies function is pretty much almost completely down to how we feed it, exercise it and generally treat it. We can help ourselves to take control of PMS rather than viewing it as something that has to be accepted as part and parcel of being a woman.
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