Living With PMS
by Eve Lees
MacKenzie Report - February 7, 1996
Do you feel anxious, irritable, and sad? Do you have no energy, you feel bloated and you ache all over? You could be one of many women who experience some form of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS).
PMS is a hormone-stimulated collection of emotional upsets and physical discomfort, experienced by many women of childbearing age. There are over 150 physical and mental symptoms.
"PMS is not a disease. It is a regular physiological occurrence." says Dr. Shaila Misri, a clinical professor of psychiatry and obstetrics/ gynecology at the University of British Columbia. She is a consultant of the PMS Clinic at BC Women's hospital and head of the Reproductive Psychiatry Program at St. Paul's Hospital.
The precise cause of PMS continues to puzzle scientists. However, experts suspect interaction between reproductive hormones and brain neurotransmitters.
Dr. Shaila Misri advises women to be their own health advocates. If you suspect PMS, chart your symptoms. PMS is a cyclic disorder. Keep a record for two months, beginning with your first day of menstruation. If a pattern emerges, you can prepare for periods of hormonal change with basic treatments.
A diet rich in complex carbohydrates can temporarily increase brain seratonin levels, a chemical that stimulates calmness. Eat more whole grains, vegetables and fruit, and limit or avoid added sugars and fat. Smaller, more frequent meals have also shown to stabilize seratonin, and blood-sugar levels. Try to avoid caffeine, alcohol and other drugs. These may increase hormone sensitivity during premenstrual changes. Caffeine can stimulate and increase irritability, anxiety and mood swings. Alcohol will increase emotional vulnerability.
There is some evidence that calcium, magnesium and vitamin B-6 may lessen PMS symptoms. Get advice from nutrition professionals.
Regular physical activity can also lessen many PMS symptoms. Dr. Jerilynn Prior, professor of endocrinology at UBC, recommends aerobic activities such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming or bicycling. When exercise raises body temperature it seems to stimulate the production of estrogen and progesterone. Which brings the hormonal system into a normal balance. Dr. Prior has conducted studies where women starling exercise programs reported a positive change in several of their PMS symptoms.
Learn to relax. Adequate sleep and rest periods are fundamental for controlling stress. Uncontrolled stress makes us more prone to react badly to hormonal changes in our bodies.
Talk about your disorder, to help control emotional swings. With correct diagnosis and counseling, women can learn to experience the moodiness and depression of PMS without impulsive and destructive reactions. Join a support group to bring peace of mind, and provide information about the disorder
A family history of depressive illness, or a background of any type of depression, places a woman more at risk for PMDD, For these hormone-sensitive individuals, menopause and pregnancy may also be difficult times warns Dr. Misri. She recently authored the book Should 't I be Happy? about the emotional problems of pregnant and postpartum women.
Medications may be helpful for severe PMS. Dr. Misri suggests to find a physician with PMS expertise, as the type and dosage of medication will vary with each individual and must be closely monitored.
PMS research is ongoing. Until more is known about the disorder, try to make positive changes in your lifestyle habits. Both severe and mild sufferers should follow healthful lifestyle habits, particularly during major hormonal changes such as premenstrual, postpartum or menopause.
Eve Lees is a fitness counsellor, health writer and speaker, and editor of Personal Health Newsletter.