By Mary Howard RN
Pre-Menstrual Syndrome, yes it is real and exists in varying degrees in a large percent of women. We will talk about the symptoms, causes and treatment of this strange burden that women get to carry. If Eve just hadnít eaten that apple in the Garden of Eden! Oh well, since she did I guess we better find some ways to deal with it!
The medical diagnosis of PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) occurs in as high as 25% of menstruating women. To have a "clinical" diagnosis, the identical symptoms must occur for 3 consecutive months. A much higher percent of menstruating women experience some form of PMS symptoms. Symptoms vary widely from one woman to another and from one cycle to another in the same person.
The exact cause of PMS is unknown. It is believed to be related to a decreased progesterone concentration during part of the female cycle. A stressful life appears to be related to the intensity of physical symptoms. PMS also occurs more frequently in women over the age of 30. Other theories or related factors that could aggravate PMS are vitamin deficiencies, mineral deficiencies, endorphin malfunction (like depressive disorders) and multiple psychological disturbances.
Symptoms that many women exhibit with PMS are:
Behavior changes - tension, irritability, mood swings, anxiety, crying, depression, and insomnia.
Signs of water and sodium retention - edema, weight gain, breast enlargement and tenderness, and abdominal bloating.
Fatigue - Palpitations, increased appetite, headache, and backache.
Other symptoms - Oliguria (increased urination), diarrhea, constipation, nausea, vomiting, recurrence of herpes and acne, conjunctivitis, sties, vertigo and plenty of others.
To understand why some of these symptoms occur, let's look at a womanís cycle over the course of a month, the hormone changes that take place, and some of the many functions of Progesterone in a womenís body:
A womanís cycle starts the first day of menstruation. About halfway through the cycle (about day 14) ovulation (the releasing of an egg to move toward the uterus) occurs. Progesterone levels begin to rise two days before ovulation and also large amounts are produced just after ovulation occurs. Women are usually free of PMS symptoms during this phase. PMS symptoms can begin near ovulation, but usually after ovulation occurs. During the time after ovulation the uterus is preparing for possible pregnancy. If you aren't pregnant, then the progesterone levels drop and menstruation occurs. At the time of this sharp drop in progesterone levels is when PMS symptoms usually occur.
Other Functions of Progesterone include:
1. Helps the body use fat for energy
2. Helps regulate the thyroid gland
3. Has an effect on the brainís endorphins - so it works as an Anti-depressant.
4. Has an affect on sodium to water balance, so it keeps swelling and bloating from occurring. 5. It has a normalizing affect on blood sugar levels.
6. It normalizes the menstrual cycle and increases fertility
7. Helps with the absorption of vitamins and minerals.
8. Protects against breast fibro cysts, breast cancer and other types of female organ cysts and cancers.
9. It promotes bone growth so it protects against osteo-degenerative diseases (where the bones become weak and brittle).
10. It enhances libido.
In short, Progesterone is the female equivalent of the male testosterone hormone.
There are some things you can do to ward off symptoms of PMS. By strengthening your body before PMS occurs, you can give your body the added strength it needs to function a little closer to normal. Some of the things you can take control of:
1. Eat a well-balanced diet with appropriate amounts of protein, green vegetables and fruits.
2. Maintain some sort of an exercise program during the symptom free part of your cycle.
3. Eliminating or restricting your intake of sugar, alcohol, caffeine and nicotine.
4. Managing your stress with a diversional activity or a relaxation technique that is helpful to you.
5. Managing your weight.
6. Eat a high fiber diet.
7. A good Multivitamin/Mineral supplement may be very helpful.
Some physicians prescribe pain relievers, diuretics and Progesterone. Progesterone is not absorbed very well through the digestive system (by mouth) so it is best taken as a cream applied to the skin (topically). There are effective progesterone creams sold over the counter (with out a prescription needed).
If you opt to try a progesterone cream during the time of your cycle when PMS symptoms are present just remember it can increase fertility and may decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills.
By taking care of your body and giving yourself the extra strength you need during PMS you will weather the storm a little easier. Remember to lower your personal expectation during that time of month and by doing everything "In Moderation" you will be on your way to feeling better and stronger.
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