What is PMS and how can I reduce the symptoms experienced?

What is PMS?

Many women experience physical symptoms as well as emotional changes or mood swings just before and/or during their period. These symptoms, which can often begin more than a week prior to a period, are known as either pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) or pre-menstrual tension (PMT). PMS is a fairly common complaint and it is thought that approximately one in three women experience some of the symptoms every time they have a period.

What are the causes?

In more severe cases it is thought that a woman’s body can become highly sensitive to her own progesterone. The hormonal changes that occur in order to induce and complete the menstrual cycle are generally held responsible for the physical and mental fluctuations as well. Lifestyle choices and stress levels are also seen as risk factors, as is the case with most health related complaints. Surprisingly, PMS is most common in women who have already had children. Women with particularly heavy periods are generally more likely to experience PMS symptoms.

How can I prevent it?

It’s generally considered beneficial to make time for regular exercise. This way you raise your own energy levels and are less likely to notice a change in mood. Also try to allow time for deliberate relaxation and take regular breaks throughout the day to avoid becoming stressed.

It has been suggested that caffeine tends to worsen PMS symptoms, so try to avoid it if you can. If not, aim to reduce your intake during that sensitive time leading up to your period.

If possible, don’t drink alcohol when you’re experiencing PMS symptoms. Doing so is generally found to worsen the symptoms. Water tablets can be used to reduce any bloating. Better yet, as a preventative method to avoid bloating, drink as much water as possible. About three litres a day is recommended.

Generally aim to consume a healthy, balanced diet and avoid foods high in sugar. Maintaining more constant blood-sugar levels will keep you energised and reduce mood swings. Avoid processed foods if possible and eat as many fresh fruits and vegetables as you can.