Premenstrual syndrome is a name that describes physical and emotional symptoms that routinely occur in the days leading up to menstruation. Likely caused by fluctuating hormone levels, PMS occurs in the 5 days prior to the start of a woman’s menstrual period and subsides within 4 days after her period begins. To be labeled premenstrual syndrome, the symptoms must occur three months in a row and interfere with normal activities.
Symptoms of PMS include:
- Mood swings
- Food cravings
- Bloating or weight gain
- Headache or other aches and pains
- Abdominal discomfort
Making a few changes in your lifestyle and diet can relieve mild to moderate PMS symptoms. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night and develop a routine sleep schedule. Simple aerobic exercises like brisk walking, running, cycling or swimming for 30 minutes most days throughout the month can lessen premenstrual syndrome symptoms.
Diet also plays a role in symptom relief. Increasing the intake of calcium-rich foods such as yogurt and green leafy vegetables and adding complex carbohydrates found in whole grains is recommended. Reducing fat, salt and sugar intake and avoiding caffeine and alcohol may also be helpful. Opt for 6 small meals a day to keep blood sugar levels stable and avoid large meals or overeating.
Dietary supplements may also be helpful. A daily dose of 1200 mg of calcium may reduce PMS symptoms and magnesium supplements can reduce bloating, breast tenderness and mood swings.
See your gynecologist if your premenstrual syndrome symptoms are severe. In some cases, antidepressants, Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) and/or diuretics may be prescribed. Over-the-counter medications for the treatment of PMS and herbal remedies are not recommended.
If you suspect you have premenstrual syndrome, keep a diary outlining your symptoms and when they occur. Talk with your OBGYN about ways to relieve symptoms and get back to a normal routine.