Easing The Pains Of PMS

PMS is a disorder characterized by a set of hormonal changes that trigger disruptive symptoms in a significant number of women for up to two weeks prior to menstruation.

Of the estimated 40 million sufferers, more than 5 million require medical treatment for marked mood and behavioral changes. Often symptoms tend to taper off with menstruation and women remain symptom-free until the two weeks or so prior to the next menstrual period. These regularly recurring symptoms from ovulation until menses typify PMS, premenstrual syndrome.

Over 150 symptoms have been attributed to PMS. After complaints of feeling out-of-control, anxious, depressed and having uncontrollable crying spells, the most common complaints are headache and fatigue. But symptoms may vary from month to month and there may even be symptom-free months.

No woman suffers every PMS symptom. Characteristically, symptoms may be both physical and emotional. They may include physical symptoms such as headache, migraine, fluid retention, fatigue, constipation, painful joints, backache, abdominal cramping, heart palpitations and weight gain. Emotional and behavioral changes may include anxiety, depression, irritability, panic attacks, tension, lack of coordination, decreased work or social performance and altered libido.

There are as many theories regarding the cause of PMS as there are symptoms, and no one theory is universally agreed upon. Theories explored include a combination of hormone imbalance (progesterone deficiency, estrogen excess), biochemical factors, vitamin and mineral deficiency, prolactin excess, stress, nutrition and lifestyle factors.

What should you eat? In general, women are encouraged to eat regular, well-balanced meals. A diet low in salt and sugar, adequate in protein, moderate in fat, and high in complex carbohydrates (fruit, vegetables, and whole grains) will help your body stay in balance.

Try to eat three balanced meals a day. It may also be helpful to eat small, healthy snacks between meals. This will help keep your energy level up and decrease cravings. Snack on nutritious foods that are high in complex carbohydrates.

You may notice that you seem hungrier the week before your period. The amount of energy the body expends actually increases during this phase of the menstrual cycle. Listen to your body. If you feel hungrier, increase your portions at meals or snacks, but limit salty and sweet foods. Women sometimes crave sweets, such as chocolate, or salty foods prior to their period. To alleviate a craving, try having only a small portion.

You may have read that certain supplements may help alleviate symptoms of PMS. Research has shown that certain vitamins and minerals -- particularly vitamins A, B1, B6, calcium and magnesium -- may relieve some of the symptoms of PMS. A great deal of controversy exists over the use of vitamin B6 for treating premenstrual symptoms. While some women have experienced relief of some symptoms after taking vitamin B6, research is inconclusive and the vitamin is toxic in high doses. Consequently, most experts agree that high doses of vitamin B6 should not be relied upon for treatment of premenstrual symptoms.

Many women who restrict caffeine intake at least one week prior to their period have decreased breast tenderness. Coffee, tea, chocolate and caffeinated soft drinks contain caffeine. Since caffeine is a stimulant, restricting it can also alleviate the symptoms of insomnia, tension, and moodiness. If you choose to consume caffeine, have no more than one to two servings per day. A healthy diet, such as the eDiets plan, which includes adequate amounts of these nutrients, might help relieve your PMS symptoms and will at least improve your overall nutritional status.