The conversation around menstruation and women’s health issues such as PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) still remains a taboo or a joke for some reason. It’s not uncommon to find references in pop culture, online series or movies where women are subjected to remarks such as “It’s all in your head” or “Why are you complaining? Doesn’t this happen to you every month?” PMS shaming is a harsh reality.
“Unfortunately, awareness about hormonal changes that occur during PMS is lacking—even among educated women and men,” says Dr. Anuradha Panda, obstetrician and gynaecologist, Apollo Hospitals Hyderabad. However, this does not mean that PMS is an experience felt by just a minority of women. A study conducted by The National Medical Journal of India says that 62 percent of women experience some or the other (major or minor) symptoms of PMS. In 25 to 35 percent of women, it is a worrisome problem that requires specialised consultation and in 5 to 10 percent it becomes grave, due to the seriousness of symptoms such as severe fatigue, paranoia, difficulty in concentrating and coordinating, finds a study Premenstrual syndrome: a neglected public health problem.
Weird But Normal Symptoms Of PMS
You get anxious: Do you begin to excessively or intrusively worry about little things days before and after menstruation? It can be a sign of anxiety. Your body has decreased levels of allopregnanolone during PMS. Allopregnanolone is a naturally produced steroid that treats low mood and depression. Due to lack of allopregnanolone, you might find yourself amid increased anxiety levels, finds Clinical Psychology Review.
A good way to deal with anxiety is to choose fruits, vegetables and wholegrains over sugars and trans-fats. Good nutrition works in favour of brain and helps relieve symptoms such as anxiety and mood swings. “Eat in frequent intervals and manage your salt intake to help manage your hormone levels better,” suggests Dr Panda.
Secondly, manage your stress levels. BMC Women’s Health notes that avoiding stress, practicing self-care, controlling anger, being mindful and seeking social support helps to manage severe symptoms of PMS such as anxiety.
- You feel fatigued: If you feel zapped of energy or have muscle aches and body pains just before your period, it is normal. According to molecular biology studies, there is a decline in acetylcholine, dopamine, and serotonin levels in the body that leads to fatigue.
Implement coping strategies such as deep-breathing exercises, yoga and massage, says Dr Panda. Thirty minutes of aerobic activity such as walking, cycling for 5 days in a week “improves overall health including the symptoms of PMS such as fatigue.
Low levels of calcium can cause extreme fatigue. Obstetrics and Gynecology Science says that calcium supplements are an effective method to reduce mood disorders and fatigue during PMS. You needn’t pop supplements right away.. You can start off with eating calcium rich foods such as dark leafy greens, soybeans, milk and cheese followed by a daily supplement post doctor’s consultation.
- You can’t sleep: Even if you are someone who likes to hit your bed on time, sleeplessness during PMS can o be a major inconvenience. Reason, the temperature of your body rises before your period which makes sleeping difficult. Also, there is a drop in estrogen and progesterone that can impact sleep.
Keep a sleep diary. Make notes. Accepting the changes in PMS significantly controls distress, finds a study titled ways of coping with premenstrual change. arm, soothing teas such as ginkgo, ginger, chamomile and lavender can act as sleep aids, helping you drift off into sweet slumber.
- You can’t seem to get anything right: Did you know that your sex hormones—primarily estrogen and progesterone—are interlinked with your ability to think, learn and understand? Fluctuations in these hormones can cause brain fog and disrupt cognition levels making it difficult for you to focus, concentrate and coordinate.
Practice mindfulness.Before your period, try meditation, or box breathing as it helps increase attention and concentration, says the study The effects of MBCT in women with PMS. Mindfulness is a therapeutic mechanism that has a central healing effect on women with PMS, says the study further.
- Your breasts hurt: Dwindling hormone levels during PMS is the major reason you experience sore breasts. Your breast ducts enlarge with estrogen. And, your milk glands swell with progesterone causing breast tenderness.
“Avoid consuming excessive caffeine,” suggests the doctor. Large amounts of caffeine can lead to changes in hormone levels that may further cause breast pain. Secondly, “Use a bra that offers better support.” If the pain is persistent, you can use ice packs or heating pads.
- Your latest bestie is acne: It’s not uncommon to find clogged pores or breakouts just before your period starts. The drop in estrogen and progesterone levels triggers sebaceous glands to secrete more sebum. Too much sebum causes hardened plugs, resulting in acne.
“Acne’s can be healed with a right mix of some OTC medications and alternative healing,” suggests the doctor. A study published in Elsevier finds that using tea tree oil can treat acne.
- You get severe migraines or headaches: A throbbing, constant, ache on your forehead during PMS is a menstruation related headache. Estrogen, a primary player in a woman’s menstrual health, influences the serotonergic and glutamatergic systems of the CNS (central nervous system)–which accounts for headache.
Some of the easy remedies include applying an ice-pack, and using peppermint oil to treat headaches. Stay away from dietary triggers such as chocolate, citrus fruits, nuts, ice cream, tomatoes, onions, dairy products, alcoholic beverages, monosodium glutamate (MSG). These can trigger migraine attacks, notes a study in Nutrients, 2020.