How to relieve Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) symptoms

PMS, PMT, premenstrual syndrome, sore breasts
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS ,also known as premenstrual tension (PMT) affects about 80% of women, with 10% having severe PMS that has a significant effect on their day to day lives.

What is Premenstrual Syndrome ?

PMS is used to describe a range of symptoms that occur in women after ovulation and usually ends when menstruation starts.

What causes Premenstrual Syndrome?

The cause of PMS is not well understood. There are several theories which look at:

  • changes in sex hormone levels
  • changes in brain chemicals that affect mood

Symptoms of PMS

Symptoms of premenstrual syndrome may vary from month to month and in some months may be more severe than others.

PMS and sore breasts and nipples

One of the most common symptoms you may experience as a result of premenstrual syndrome is sore breasts and nipples. Excessive water stored in the body leads to bloating which is the main cause of sore breasts after ovulation. Accummulation of water in the breast tissues leads to stretching of the skin and puts the other tissues under tension which accounts for the soreness.

Other physical symptoms of PMS

Other physical symptoms of PMS include:

  • weight gain
  • tiredness
  • sleep disturbances (sleeping too much or too little)
  • changes in appetite (food cravings and overeating)

PMS and mood swings

Mood swings are a common symptom of PMS. Other mood related PMS symptoms include:

  • anger
  • irritability
  • anxiety
  • crying spells

How do I know I have PMS

PMS symptoms are so varied that it’s sometimes difficult to know for sure that you have PMS. There are no tests to tell you whether you have PMS or not. The best way is to keep a menstrual diary over a few months. Here you can write down what symptoms you have and when you have them. If symptoms start around the middle of your cycle and end when you menstruate, then you probably have PMS. From the time you menstruate until around the middle of your cycle, you should not have any symptoms. If you have symptoms throughout the whole of your cycle, there are 2 possibilities:

  • you don’t have PMS
  • you have PMS but you may have another condition in addition

Other health problems that may behave like PMS include:

  • depression
  • chronic fatigue
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • cyclic water retention

How to ease PMS symptoms

Finding remedies for PMS (also known as premenstrual tension (PMT)) can be as difficult as making the diagnosis in the first place. There are some general changes you can make to your lifestyle that can make a big difference and help to ease symptoms of PMS.

General lifestyle changes that can ease PMS symptoms

There are several measures you can take to control PMS symptoms.

Diet

Reduce

  • salt
  • caffeine
  • animal fat
  • refined sugars like in sweets and chocolates (sorry!)
  • dairy products
  • calcium

Increase:

  • complex carbohydrates e.g rice, pasta
  • minerals (magnesium and zinc)
  • Vitamins A, E and B6 (Vitamin B6 should not be taken in doses more than 50mg 1-2 times daily to avoid damage to the nerves which may show up as tingling and numbness of the arms and legs.)

Exercise

Exercise is a great way of finding relief from PMS symptoms. Advantages of exercise include the following:

  • release of endorphins (“happy hormones”) from the brain which gives you that high you experience when you finish exercising. They also relieve pain amongst other things.
  • helps relieve tension and anxiety
  • improves your general health in terms of weight loss or maintaining your current weight and having a healthy heart.
  • reduces water retention

You need about 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 times a week to get the most benefit. If you don’t want to do high impact aerobic exercise like jogging or skipping you can swim, walk or dance which will put less strain on your joints.

Medication for PMS

These include several groups of medicines:

  • Drugs that help to remove excess water from the body – these are known as diuretics. There are several over-the-counter medications that can help reduce water retention and bloating. Some of these PMS medications include Diurex PS, Lurine PMS and Pamprin Multisymptoms.
  • Pain relievers – These include Advil, Motrin, Aleve and Anaprox.
  • Birth control pills – These can help even out the fluctuations in ovarian hormones. About 1/4 of women taking birth control pills to relieve PMS symptoms have some improvement in symptoms. In some women, it makes the symptoms worse. Needless to say, this is not the best option if you’re trying to get pregnant.
  • Drugs which suppress the ovaries – these can only be used for short periods of time because of an increased risk of osteoporosis.
  • Antidepressants – these are used to improve mood and reduce mood swings.

Natural progesterone cream for PMS symptoms

Research has shown that women who suffer from PMS, especially when it is very severe, tend to have low progesterone in relation to estrogen in the later part of the menstrual cycle. This can be relieved to a great extent by using natural progesterone cream for two weeks every month. This helps to restore the body’s natural hormonal balance. The best results will be achieved if natural progesterone cream is used together with stress management techniques and adjustments in diet.

Assuming you have a 2 ounce container of natural progesterone cream that contains a total of 960mg. That means that:
1/2 teaspoon= 40mg
1/4 teaspoon= 20mg
1/8 teaspoon= 10mg
For the first 2 months, use one 2 ounce jar per month from days 10 to 12 until day 26to 30. Start counting with the first day of your period as day 1. Starting on day 10, 11 or 12, apply a small dab of cream at night for a few nights, then a small dab of cream morning and night. Finish off the last 3 or 4 days with bigger dabs of cream, making sure you use up the whole 2 ounce jar. Do this until day 26-30 depending on when you expect to see your period. If your period starts before day 26, stop using the cream. Once you see your period, start counting day 1 again, then start the cream on day 10,11 or 12. When your symptoms are less severe, you can reduce the amount you use aiming to use 1/2 of a 2 ounce jar per month.

Alternative remedies for Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Premenstrual syndrome can be very uncomfortable for many women, some more than others. There are several alternative remedies and treatments for PMS. Research has found some of them to be effective and others less so.

Acupuncture for PMS

Some women have gotten some relief from lower abdominal pain after having acupuncture. Reflexology is a variation of acupuncture in which needles are not used. Instead, pressure is put on acupuncture points. This has also relieved PMS symptoms for some women.

Yoga for PMS

Increased stress levels have been found to worsen PMS symptoms in some women. Any form of meditation and relaxation usually reduces symptoms of PMS by relieving stress.

Spinal manipulation

Spinal manipulation carried out by a chiropractor in the week before menstruation may relieve PMS symptoms.

Light therapy for PMS-related depression

Light therapy (phototherapy) uses a bright florescent light to treat conditions like Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Women with SAD are more likely to have depression associated with PMS so light therapy may help to relieve PMS-related depression. You should not use light therapy if:

  1. you are taking drugs for vitiligo
  2. you are taking drugs for psoriasis
  3. you are using certain antipsychotic drugs (used to treat mental disorders)
  4. you are using certain antibiotics

Side effects include:

  1. headache
  2. eyestrain
  3. irritability

Stay awake to relieve PMS symptoms

Staying awake may help to relieve menopause symptoms. Some people believe that sleeping only 4 hours in one night and then making up for it by having a good night’s rest the next night may help to correct abnormal sleeping and waking patterns which may worsen PMS.

Herbal remedies for PMS

There are several herbal remedies that may help to relieve PMS symptoms. Researchers have not shown convincing evidence that these remedies work better than a placebo (usually a sugar pill), and some can be expensive. However, some women have found them helpful.

  1. Evening Primrose oil – This may help symptoms like bloating, soreness of the breast and nipples and depression.
  2. Chastetree berry – This may help with PMS and irregular periods. It contains substances which resemble sex hormones so you should avoid it if you have a chance of getting pregnant or if you are trying to get pregnant, as there is a chance it may harm the developing baby.