In Physical & Mental Health

Everything There Is to Know about PMS


When entering puberty, the question “What does PMS stand for” often tops the list of teen girls’ curiosities. They keep wondering what is going on with their bodies. PMS is an acronym for a very common condition known in medical books as Premenstrual Syndrome. This condition is typical among females, as it occurs prior to the time that a female experiences her monthly menstrual cycle. Males, therefore, do not experience it. There are many symptoms for premenstrual syndrome, ranging from mood swings to lethargy, which differs from person to person. Additionally, many cultures do not note premenstrual syndrome as a condition, partly because of the male-dominated focus of such cultures.

What Is PMS?

Premenstrual syndrome is a condition that only affects females. Finding out what PMS means depends on the person to whom you are talking. For some females, PMSing is a time of moodiness, bloating and a general lack of energy. Other females do not have anything to note about PMS, other than there may be a difference in the type of vaginal discharge they experience.

Typical Symptoms of PMS

For some cultures, this condition is considered a weakness and mental complaint rather than an actual illness or issue. In Western cultures, the idea of PMS is very real to the point that it is considered a medical condition. According to the Mayo Clinic, premenstrual syndrome is associated with irritability, mood swings, and fatigue, as well as the physical symptom of tender breasts. In more severe cases of PMS the female may experience depression that typically alleviates after the menstrual cycle concludes.

Food cravings, particularly those of sweet or salty flavors and with heavy carbohydrates, are associated with premenstrual syndrome. This is typical of the associated hormonal fluctuations of the body preparing for menstruation. Foods high in sugar are craved by those with depression, while salty foods help individuals combat the effects of stress.

Other symptoms of PMS can include:

  • Bloating in the abdominal area.
  • Pain in the joints or muscles.
  • Headache or feeling a tightness across the forehead.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Constipation.
  • Gas.
  • Spells of inexplicable crying
  • Anxiety, tension or nervousness.
  • Anger for no apparent reason.
  • Changes in appetite.
  • Insomnia or difficulties sleeping regularly.
  • Poor attention and trouble concentrating.
  • Flare-ups of acne or skin blemishes.
  • Withdrawal from social activities.

How Many Women Experience PMS?

In cultures that consider premenstrual syndrome a real symptom, PMS effects three out of four women who menstruate. Its peak time occurs when females are in their late 20s through their early 30s. The symptoms occur in a pattern, typically the week before and during menstruation. Emotional stress and bodily aches and pains associated with premenstrual syndrome can be strong enough to disrupt the routines of some women. This can be frustrating and life altering. However, for most women the symptoms of this condition will subside completely by the time that menstruation begins each month. Once a female reaches menopause, they are no longer menstruating. Therefore PMS ends, as well.

Is it the Same Every Month?

Stress, social environment and weather changes can have an effect on the severity of premenstrual syndrome. This is related to how well the individual copes with these types of situations, such as having increased stress at school or work, which can make PMS more pronounced. Weather changes, such as winter or summer seasons, can create changes in emotions, such as with seasonal effective disorder. This can have an effect on PMS due to decreases in serotonin levels due to other circumstances. Therefore, PMS can be more extreme during some months, while milder during other months because of life changes.

Why Do I Have this Condition?

For those who struggle with PMS each month, there are certain causes that lead to it. For most females, the changes in hormones on a monthly basis lead to body pain and irritation. Keep in mind that, while you are pregnant or after you go through menopause, you will no longer experience this condition. Another cause is the neurochemical called serotonin. As noted by the Mayo Clinic, when serotonin, a chemical in the brain that has a direct effect on one’s mood, fluctuates, as it does during the time before menstruation, this can cause PMS to kick into high gear. When the serotonin levels are low, as can occur with seasonal effective disorder, the depressive symptoms associated with menstruation can take place.

Food cravings and sleep disorders are also associated with fluctuations of serotonin. Furthermore, when someone is stressed out, such as during final exam time or due to life changes, they are more likely to experience PMS symptoms. Eating unhealthily throughout the month can lead to food cravings. This is related to the lack of vitamins and minerals being obtained during the month, or due to the intake of salty foods, caffeine, or alcohol as associated with energy level fluctuations and bloating.

What Can I Do About PMS?

While PMS cannot be remedied with a simple procedure. There are several things that you can do to alleviate the symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome. Here are some of the basics:

  • Eat a healthy diet of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins. Reduce your sodium intake and cut back on alcohol and caffeine. Do this all month long for the best results, not just in time for premenstrual syndromes.
  • Exercise regularly. This is a great way to reduce stress that can lead to PMS. Additionally, your physical health will be improved so that your body will be better capable of coping with cramps and joint pain associated with PMS.
  • Seek therapy for PMS related depression as this can be a sign of other forms of depression or chemical imbalances.
  • Get enough sleep on a regular basis, so that you can be more apt to notice if your fatigue is related to PMS or due to a lack of sleep, which can have an adverse effect on your stress levels and ability to heal.
  • Keep a diary and calendar noting your PMS symptoms and menstrual cycle. This will help you determine when your PMS symptoms are more likely to start, so that you will be able to handle your food cravings, irritability and lethargy better. By understanding what is causing these symptoms you can give your body and mind a better chance at managing the symptoms.

Can I Take Medicines for My PMS?

Consult with your doctor regarding the use of antidepressants. Also known as Zoloft, Prozac and Paxil, these medications can help you manage the effects of decreased serotonin levels, which include irritability, food cravings and sleep problems. If you are struggling with physical aches and pains, opt for a NSAID, such as ibuprofen or naproxen. These drugs can help ease pains in the breast tissue and abdomen. For dealing with bloating and weight gain, diuretics can be effective. Also known as water pills, diuretics work by assisting the body with removing extra fluid. This is removed via the kidneys through bowel movements. The diuretic spironolactone can also help with symptoms directly related to PMS.

Will Birth Control Help My PMS?

In more extreme cases of premenstrual syndrome symptoms, a type of remedy can be found with oral contraceptives. Better known as birth control pills, these drugs will stop the body from ovulating. In other words, it makes the body think that it is already pregnant so that it will not pregnant in the duration of taking the pills.

For those females with more difficult premenstrual symptoms, this can be a way to remedy the pain and irritability. Keep in mind that while the oral contraceptives are found to relieve PMS, the birth control shot known as Depo-Provera can cause greater increase in premenstrual symptoms including weight gain, fatigue and mood swings.

Easing the Stress of PMS

When dealing with premenstrual syndrome, the concern for most females is that the symptoms will create ongoing problems. You may feel like you will not snap out of the lethargy and moodiness associated with your PMS. By keeping track in a diary or journal of your PMS symptoms, you can gain control over the symptoms causing you so much pain and frustration. You will be able to better anticipate when they will start and end. Also, by taking control of your diet and lifestyle choices, you will give your body a better chance to reduce the effects of premenstrual syndrome. Just remember that the pain will not last forever, and if you are experiencing more PMS than normally noted, you should consult a physician.

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