A group of symptoms that occur in women mostly between ovulation and a period. The cause is yet not fully understood but happens due to changes in hormones during the menstrual cycle.
Symptoms include mood swings, tender breasts, food cravings, fatigue, irritability and depression.
These are normal premenstrual symptoms. But when they disrupt the daily routine of your life, the symptoms are known as of premenstrual syndrome (‘PMS’). PMS can affect your body, mood and how you act and behave nearer or in the days leading up to your menstrual period.
Some women first get PMS in their teens or in their 20s. Others don’t get it until their 30s. The symptoms may get worse in your late 30s and 40s as you near perimenopause.
What causes PMS?
PMS is related to hormonal changes that takes place mostly during your menstrual cycle. While the doctors still do not know fully why premenstrual symptoms are worse in some women than in other women. They do know the real reason as to why for many women the PMS runs in the entire family.
If you are not getting enough vitamin B6, calcium or magnesium in the foods then you eat can increase your chances of getting PMS. Stress, lack of exercise and too much caffeine or alcohol consumption can make your symptoms worse.
What are the symptoms?
Common physical signs include:
- Swollen and tender breasts
- Lack of energy
- Cramps and low back pain
It is also common to:
- Mood swings like being sad, angry, irritable, or anxious
- Be less focused and alert
- Have trouble focusing on tasks
- Withdraw from family and friends
- PMS symptoms may be mild or strong. It may also vary from month to month. If the PMS symptoms are severe, the condition is known as “premenstrual dysphoric disorder” (PMDD). But PMDD is rare
How is PMS treated?
A few lifestyle changes will help you feel better.
Eat a variety of healthy and nutrient dense foods, especially foods rich in calcium. Include whole grains, high protein, antioxidants, low-fat dairy, good fats, colored fruits and vegetables.
Cut back on caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, and salt.
Regular exercise and the right kind of diet and nutrient dense foods can control bloating, depression, mood swings and irritability associated with PMS. Agarwal recommends minimum of 45 minutes of exercise 3-4 times a week a few dietary changes. Research in studies have found that women who exercise regularly are less likely to suffer menstrual pain, cramps and mood disturbance. We are not certain why exercise is helpful for PMS, but studies demonstrate that exercise can release ‘happy’ hormones such as serotonin and endorphins, which may explain the benefit.
Diet can bring a range of health benefits as well as improving your experience of having periods. A growing body of evidence suggests diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as fish, calcium and vitamin D, and low in animal fats, salt and caffeine may reduce the risk of troublesome PMS symptoms. Avoiding salt can help prevent fluid retention, abdominal bloating, breast swelling and pain. High caffeine and alcohol intake can cause irritability, poor sleep and menstrual cramps.
A healthy diet is high in vegetables (five serves daily), fruit (two serves per day), nuts, seeds, fish (up to three servings per week) and other sources of omega-3 foods such as flax or chia seeds, low-fat dairy food, proteins such as legumes and eggs, and a variety of wholegrains such as rice (brown, basmati, doongara), traditional rolled oats, buckwheat flour, wholegrain breads (rye, Essene, spelt, kamut), wholemeal pasta, couscous, millet or amaranth.
Lean meat (red meat or chicken) is an important source of protein, especially for women with heavy periods. Avoid saturated fats such as butter, cream, bacon and potato chips; limit salt, processed, fried foods, alcohol and caffeine. Drink more water and herbal teas such as chamomile.
Increase your intake of calcium-rich foods such as nuts, low-fat dairy products, fish with bones such as salmon and sardines, tofu, broccoli and bok choy.
Eat less salt : Try to have homemade meals most of the time and add less salt while preparing food. If you experience bloating, breast sensitivity and swollen hands as part of PMS, then eating less salt can help you. You can add oregano, coriander, mint, basil, paprika and a variety of other herbs and spices to add more flavour to food. It will take time, but you will eventually get used to eating lesser salt.
Increase intake of leafy green vegetables : Including a variety of leafy green veggies in diet can help in warding off fatigue associated with PMS. Spinach, kale, broccoli, coriander, mint, lettuce, salad leaves and cabbage are some leafy green veggies which should be a part of your diet. They are beneficial for weight loss and blood pressure regulation as well.
Keep yourself well-hydrated : Do not drink water only to quench thirst. One needs to drink water all day to stay well-hydrated. Keep sipping. Do not gulp water. You can reduce intake towards the end of the day preferably. Drinking enough water can help in preventing PMS symptoms like bloating and indigestion. You can flavour water with ginger or coriander seeds or ajwain or fennel seeds for additional flavour and health benefits such as weight loss, etc. Drink enough water and keep yourself well-hydrated to reduce PMS symptoms
Eat more calcium : Nuts and nut milk, yogurt, drumstick leaves, sesame seeds, ragi, dairy milk are good quality sources of calcium. Eat them regularly to experience fewer symptoms of PMS.
Eat more whole grains : Swap processed foods and refined flour with bajra, jowar, barley, rice or broken wheat. Doing so can help in reducing serotonin, thus resulting fewer mood swings, depression, anxiety or irritability.
Eat more iron-rich foods : Eating iron-rich foods can help in combating with blood loss which occurs during periods. So, before your periods, have more pomegranate, spinach, apricot, dates, figs, legumes, eggs, chicken, fish and other iron-rich foods to ease PMS symptoms. Choose a diet of high-fiber, calcium-rich foods and do some physical activity (walk, bike or jog) most days.