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Mood swings? It Could Be PMS

Written by Dr. Jatin Bhide on Fri, 11 November 2022

Key Highlights

  • As many as three out of every four menstruating women experience PMS in some form.
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder or PMDD is a more severe form of PMS, affecting 5-10% of women.
  • Simple lifestyle changes you can adopt to deal with PMS depending on severity.
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PMS? For some women, Premenstrual Syndrome times are more like Pass My Shotgun days! A nightmare every single month! Irritable, snappy, downright violently angry, or then weepy, anxious, or depressed, women could find themselves struggling to control their emotions and actions.

As many as three out of every four menstruating women experience PMS in some form.

Mental and physical symptoms

PMS has both mental and physical symptoms.

Mental symptoms include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Feeling weepy
  • Irritability or anger
  • Sudden food cravings
  • Insomnia
  • Heightened libido

Physical symptoms include:

  • Back pain, especially lower back pain
  • Headache
  • Bloating due to fluid retention
  • Breast tenderness
  • Skin flare-ups
  • Constipation or diarrhea

However, no matter how severe these symptoms are, they generally disappear within four days after the start of the menstrual period.

How do you know that it's PMS?

Sometimes, symptoms of PMS overlap with other health issues like perimenopause 
depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, or thyroid disease. According to WebMD, you may have PMS if:

  • symptoms occur during the five days before your period
  • once your period starts, symptoms end within four days
  • symptoms return for at least three menstrual cycles.

What causes PMS?

Though the exact cause is unknown, factors contributing to PMS include:

  • Hormonal changes: Before the onset of the period, the levels of the female sex hormones estrogen and progesterone begin to fall. This can affect brain chemicals called neurotransmitters that influence mood. Once the period starts, the levels of estrogen and progesterone start rising, normalizing the mood.
  • Stress: Chronic stress, or then stress caused by physical discomfort during and around the period can contribute to PMS.
  • A history of mood disorders: If you already suffer from depression or bipolar disorder, you are likely to experience PMS more severely.

Is it PMDD?

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder or PMDD is a more severe form of PMS, affecting 5-10% of women. It has more prominent mood disturbances that can seriously impact relationships and functioning. Women may even want to harm themselves. It's best to consult your doctor and know your cycle. When you can predict when your symptoms may start will help you to manage life better during these times.

Ways to stabilize your mood

Whether it is PMS or PMDD, there are several things that you could do, as a part of self-care, to manage your mood better.

1. Exercise regularly

When you exercise, your body produces feel-good chemicals that can help relieve stress and better your mood. Have at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week. If you find it impossible to exercise in your PMS, try doing some gentle Yoga instead.

2. Don't drink.

Drinking during PMS could be the worst thing you could do for your health. Alcohol is a depressant that can worsen bad moods. It can also worsen your sleep.

3. Avoid too much salt.

Salt leads to water retention and will worsen your bloating. Try having some fresh fruit instead of salty chips or French Fries.

4. Don't load up on coffee

You may feel that having coffee could calm you down. It doesn't. Too much caffeine can also disrupt sleep and contribute to the PMS symptoms. Try to have your last cup of coffee about four to six hours before you go to bed.

5. Have enough water

This can reduce constipation which is a common symptom of PMS. A light belly leads to a better mood. Also, if you suffer from cramps, being lighter will help.

6. Eat complex carbs and whole grains

Complex carbohydrates are rich in fiber. They cause only a moderate rise in insulin levels, which can help stabilize your mood and keep your cravings under control. Sweet potatoes, lentils, rolled or steel-cut oats are good. Also, avoid processed grains for whole-grain bread, pasta, cereal, and brown rice.

7. Have dark chocolate

Many women crave chocolate during this time. This means you're low on magnesium. You could have a small piece of chocolate and then choose other less calorie-dense sources of magnesium like spinach, legumes, peanut butter, etc. or then opt for healthier dark chocolate. Always look for at least 75% dark.

8. Consult your doctor for diuretics and pain killers

Pain medication will reduce lower back pain, muscle pain, headache, and stomach cramps. A diuretic will help deal with bloating. The doctor may also recommend certain supplements like magnesium, calcium, and vitamin B-6. Take medications and supplements only as directed by and after talking to your doctor.

Conclusion

PMS and periods can be stressful due to the physical discomfort it brings on. However, women being the superheroes they are go about their lives bravely. But an understanding of, and sensitivity towards her mental and physical health from her loved ones during this time would go a long way to improving a woman's wellness and the quality of life for the whole family.

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Dr. Jatin Bhide

Dr Jatin Bhide is an Ayurvedic doctor with over 16 years of enriching experience in Marketing and Strategy across OTC/FMHG, herbal medicine and Nutraceuticals (Europe) industries. He did his Bachelor of Ayurvedic Medicine and Surgery (BAMS) from Mumbai University, before moving on to do a Post Graduate Diploma in Pharmaceuticals and Healthcare Management.

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