Your Guide to Dealing with PMS

Written by Yuki Hayashi

(3 min read)

Crankiness. Crying. An unquenchable hunger for chocolate. Popular stereotypes or PMS reality?

Both, actually…

Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, is a health condition with an array of physical and emotional symptoms. An estimated three out of four menstruating women will experience PMS at some point in their lives. Some women first experience PMS in their teens or early 20s, while others don’t until later in life — typically symptoms get more noticeable in their 30s or 40s.

PMS is an important talking point for women’s health and can impact mental health and physical health affecting daily life. Women tend to experience PMS symptoms before a menstrual period. These symptoms are believed to be caused by hormonal changes and imbalances and disappear within days of their start. Symptoms of PMS vary widely, and can include:

Emotional symptoms:

• Mood swings or mood changes, including sadness, anger, irritability and anxiety

• Appetite changes and food cravings

• Insomnia

• Poor concentration

• Libido changes

Physical Symptoms:

• Aches and pains (joint and muscle pain, backache, migraines, cramps, etc.)

• Fatigue

• Bloating and water retention

• Sore breasts and breast tenderness

• Acne

• Constipation or diarrhea

Most women experience a few, but not all symptoms.

Managing PMS 

Depending on your symptoms and their severity, you may be able to manage them on your own. Here are some solutions to common PMS symptoms:

For bloating, try… 

• Eating smaller, more frequent meals;

• Reducing salt intake;

• Avoiding caffeine and alcohol.

For fatigue and bad moods (sadness, irritability, anger etc.), try…

• Working 30 minutes of brisk walking, cycling, swimming or other moderate physical activity into your schedule several times a week.

For stress, anxiety and insomnia, try…

• Getting more sleep;

• Yoga (take a beginner class or watch a video online, if you’re new to it);

• Getting a massage;

Deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation exercises.

For aches and pains, try…

• An over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin B, etc.) or naproxen (Aleve), following package instructions.

When to see the doctor

See your doctor or healthcare provider if these remedies don’t improve your PMS symptoms. Some women benefit from prescription medication including antidepressants or hormonal birth control pills. 

There are a number of complementary or “alternative health” remedies said to help with PMS symptoms, including acupuncture, herbal products and vitamin supplements. While there’s a lack of conclusive scientific evidence supporting their effectiveness, some women swear by them. If you want to give any a try, be sure to discuss their use with your healthcare provider

ahead of time, because some herbal or vitamin supplements can interact with other medication you may be taking, including birth control.

The good thing about PMS is, it’s temporary. And if you want to cocoon in bed or have that extra bit of chocolate? There’s no harm in that whatsoever. 

Join the conversation: Do you experience PMS? What’s your top coping tip?

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