Not just abdominal pain, fatigue or headache, but even insomnia and mood swings are known to commonly affect women before their periods start. PMS symptoms are different for all, but for some they can be no less than a nightmare. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a group of symptoms ranging from physical, psychological to behavioural that occur a week or two prior to the start of the menstrual cycle. While 3 in 4 menstruating women suffer from some of the other kind of PMS trouble, in some cases the symptoms are severe enough to affect day to day functioning. (Also read: Can we eat curd during periods, or not?)
“Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) includes a wide range of signs and symptoms such as mood swings, abdominal cramping and pain, food cravings, fatigue, irritability, and even a headache. These symptoms can steal your peace of mind, making it difficult for you to do your daily activities with ease,” says Dr Shalini Vijay, Senior Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospitals, Lullanagar.
“In extreme cases women may be unable to interact personally or socially or professionally – withdraws from social and professional activities,” says Dr Pragya Goel, Senior Consultant, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Chandigarh.
Dr Goel says that PMS generally affects women in their late 20s or early 30s and rarely adolescents. It resolves after menopause.
What causes PMS?
“Although the exact cause remains uncertain it is likely caused due to the imbalance or interaction of estrogen and progesterone (female sex hormones) with the hormones of the brain i.e. serotonin and GABA,” says Dr Goel.
PMS symptoms can be eased with certain lifestyle modification from doing exercies, eating nutritious food, antidepressant medications and hormonal strategies in some cases.
If you too are suffering from any of these common PMS symptoms, experts offer you tips on how to tackle them.
1. Headache: It is one of the common symptoms that women tend to experience if they are suffering from PMS.
How to get relief: “Try to get rid of a headache by drinking enough water, going for a warm shower, or even taking paracetamol after speaking to the doctor,” says Dr Shalini Vijay.
2. Abdominal pain and cramping: These symptoms can be extremely uncomfortable. Prostaglandins which are hormone-like substances get released by the uterus and lead to uncomfortable cramps. Even bloating and constipation can also be seen.
How to get relief: “Eat foods loaded with fibre like beans, broccoli, avocado, popcorn, whole grains, apple, berries, and even nuts. Avoid junk, spicy, processed, and canned food they can disrupt the digestion process. Alcohol and caffeine can take a toll on your digestive system and even cause dehydration. Say ‘no’ to these things. Exercising regularly will relieve PMS-related bloating and discomfort, and regulate bowel movement,” says Dr Vijay.
3. Food cravings: It may happen due to fluctuating hormones and serotonin levels during menstruation. Hormone changes can drop one’s blood sugar levels and one may crave sugar. Serotonin levels – the “feel good” chemical in your brain is low during this time. When that happens, one will crave sugar and carbohydrates (like potato chips). Cravings for chocolate may also occur due to low magnesium levels and changes in the levels of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. This is the reason people may end up eating salty foods while PMSing.
How to get relief: “Opt for complex carbohydrates like beans, lentils, and calcium-rich foods. Try to avoid fatty, salty, and sugary foods. Chocolate contains magnesium but it is also high in fats. To get magnesium, you can eat leafy vegetables, such as spinach, almonds, seeds, and whole grains. Drink a smoothie or have a trail mix to beat your sugar cravings,” says Dr Vijay.
4: Fatigue: A large number of women will feel fatigued before the period begins.
How to get relief: Avoid over-exertion, rest enough, and get a good night’s sleep of at least 8 hours.
5: Tension, irritability, stress, anxiety, mood swings, and feeling upset: These symptoms can also haunt you before your menstrual cycle.
How to get relief: Try relaxation techniques such as yoga and meditation to calm down and perk up your mood. Butterfly Pose (Baddha Konasana), Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana), legs-Up-The-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani), Child’s Pose (Balasana), Cow Pose (Bitilasana), Cat Pose (Marjaryasana) are some of the poses that will help you to overcome stress and anxiety. You will surely be able to relax and feel better.
6. Insomnia or sleep disturbances
How to get relief: “By following regular sleeping habits in which one wakes up and goes to sleep at the same time every day, avoiding tea, coffee and alcohol before bed, exercise more as it helps to promote good sleep,” says Dr Pragya Goel.
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