You can feel it coming. The tension begins to mount, the irritability increases, and life just doesn’t feel like it’s suppose to. You are tired, cranky and unable to cope with the smallest of inconveniences or annoyances. You are all too familiar with these unpleasant symptoms, because you experience them at the same time every month.
Your husband knows when it is coming, and even your kids seem to keep their distance. How can you be such a sane, happy woman three weeks out of every four, and be such a “you-know-what” during those last seven, fateful days? The good news is that a solution to your 28-day, Jekyll-and-Hyde cycle might be easier to attain than you realize. And it may not be as uncommon as you think.
According to the Mayo Clinic, as many as three-fourths of all women of childbearing age suffer with premenstrual symptoms of one type or another. When these physical and emotional symptoms begin to interfere with your daily life, they are known as premenstrual syndrome or PMS. A much smaller percentage of women will suffer from symptoms so severe that they are put into a separate condition, known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD. This is an extreme state of PMS that often requires a doctor’s evaluation and treatment. On the other hand, many cases of PMS can be sufficiently managed through some simple lifestyle changes. But most women can beat the PMS blues, and sail through those fateful days in style.
You are what you eat
There have been studies that have shown that women who suffer from more intense PMS symptoms may not be getting adequate nutrition from their current diets. According to womenshealthlondon.org, a deficiency of certain vitamins and minerals can affect the hormonal levels throughout the menstrual cycle. The good news is that dietary changes are fairly easy for you to make, even if it means sacrificing that sugar donut a few days of the month for the good of your emotional state! There are plenty of good foods that you eat to replace your mid-morning snack, including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole-grain breads, lean fish and chicken, and low fat dairy products. Make sure that you are drinking plenty of water during this time of the month, and enjoy your decaf teas and coffee to your heart’s content.
While it may seem tempting to jumpstart your morning with a good strong cup of Joe, or drown your evening tears in a glass of Chardonnay, both of these activities can make you feel worse in the long run during this challenging week of the month. WebMD.com advises women to avoid caffeine and alcohol when striving to gain victory over those nagging PMS doldrums. It is also a good idea to say “no” to sugary foods (yes, like that donut), salty foods, red meat and other saturated fats. Take heart in knowing that once your monthly “friend” has arrived, you can again indulge in the occasional sin, although you may find out that permanently giving up many of these naughty items isn’t the necessary evil that you had originally thought.
Exercise is an amazing depression-buster, and it can work for PMS better than almost any other treatment. If you are already a fitness buff, make sure that you don’t neglect that workout during your PMS time. If you are new to the exercise game, keep in mind that even a brisk walk around your neighborhood three times a week can be effective in boosting endorphins and booting out stress. Weight training is another great method for tension taming, and can be an effective means of working out your frustration and annoyance with the world at large. Always check with your doctor before embarking on any new exercise journey, to make sure that your workout out will enhance your health without causing injury.
Is that all you’ve got?
If you have set your sights on lifestyle changes to get your PMS symptoms under control, but you still find yourself snapping at your spouse and crying over the EPT commercials, it may be time to see what your doctor can do for you. However, before heading into his office, it is a good idea to chart your symptoms for two or three months prior to your appointment. This will assist your doctor in diagnosing your PMS more effectively, since there is no single test that will offer a definitive diagnosis for this condition. You can find PMS logs on various Web sites, like womenshealthlondon.org, acog.org, which is the Web site for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, or in a variety of books on the subject, such as “The PMS Self Help Book” by Susan M. Lark, M.D. Once you have your chart in hand, you will be ready to discuss your symptoms and treatment options with your doctor.
There are many effective medications that are used to treat PMS symptoms today. Ibuprofen is probably the best medicine for the aches and pains that commonly occur, since the anti-inflammatory properties are most effective at reducing breast pain and headache, as well as the all-too-familiar abdominal cramps. If you need to, kick your medicinal therapy up a notch. Antidepressants like Prozac have been proven to work extremely well with some women. These prescription meds can be taken all of the time, or they can be added two weeks prior to menstruation. Oral contraceptives are another effective choice for some women, although the Pill has also been known to make the PMS symptoms more intense for certain patients.
If you have tried lifestyle and diet changes to no avail, there are other treatments for PMS available. The most important fact to take with you is that you don’t have to suffer alone. Many women deal with these difficult symptoms every month, and many have found the way to a happier, more balanced way of life. Talk to your friends, family members and your doctor about methods that you can use to gain control over your PMS. I guarantee that you (and those around you!) will be eternally glad that you did.