PMS and the Body: Know the Basics of Pre-Menstrual Syndrome

The monthly period, as it is, poses as a hassle for many women. Coupling it with premenstrual syndrome, it becomes more unbearable. No wonder many women are cranky with their monthly period.

In medical circles, premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, is known to be "a symptom or collection of symptoms five to 11 days before the onset of the period, and resolution of symptoms with periods or shortly thereafter." This condition affects about nine out of 10 women of childbearing age. For half of these women, PMS becomes worse enough to interfere with work and school, and about 10% have symptoms severe enough to disable them.

No one knows exactly what causes PMS; however, experts believe that this may be attributed to hormonal fluctuations that come with a monthly period. Prostaglandins in the body can cause uterine contractions, which cause bruises and tenderness in breasts. Bodily symptoms associated with PMS can also be attributed psychologically, as expectations could translate into psychosomatic symptoms. It could also be pathological, as some diseases like endometriosis, can exacerbate symptoms. A woman's diet can also worsen PMS symptoms. Caffeine raises estrogen levels and makes PMS more severe. Sweets and high-fat foods, on the other hand, can also cause bloating and even irritability.

The most common signs of PMS include breast tenderness and swelling, bloating, a headache, backaches, irritability and depression, mood swings, loss of libido, fatigue, and food cravings. Acne may worsen during PMS episodes.

PMS symptoms can be alleviated through some lifestyle changes. One important change that should come is eating the right kind of diet. Eating fruits instead can satisfy hankering for sweet food. Boosting the intake of vitamins and minerals can also lessen unhealthy cravings for sugar and salt. Smaller meals evenly spaced out during the day can also help in relieving PMS. Fiber also helps in preventing premenstrual constipation, which could add to the severity of abdominal pain. Exercise also helps in cutting fluid retention and boosting blood circulation. It also helps release endorphins that combat mild depression and tension.