According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), at least 85 percent of menstruating women have at least one symptom of pre-menstrual syndrome as part of their monthly cycle. What is PMS? It is a series of symptoms experienced usually one to two weeks before menstruation. Symptoms can be physical (e.g. bloating, food cravings, water retention, headaches) and/or psychological (e.g. irritability, fatigue, low self-esteem and depression).
Every woman experiences PMS differently. The frequency and intensity may also vary from month to month. Why some women experience PMS is not entirely understood, but nutritional habits, psychological and genetic makeup and brain chemicals (serotonin, endorphins), as well as hormone fluctuations (ratio of estrogen to progesterone), play important roles.
Let’s take a look at the symptoms and how you can beat them so you can feel like your normal self again.
Weight Gain and Bloating: Estrogen levels rise in the days before your period, which can lead to the production of hormones that promote water and salt retention. Many women report weight gain of several pounds. Don’t worry, it’s just water weight and in only a matter of days the bloating will disappear. Changes in your diet, which will be addressed later, can reduce the bloating and water retention.
Cravings: Estrogen also promotes a drop in your blood sugar level. So, don’t be surprised if your food cravings drive you to make late-night trips to the vending machine for cookies or chocolate. Luckily, an increase in metabolism also occurs seven to 10 days prior to menstruation, which can help offset some of the extra food intake. During this time, your body may burn as many as 100-300 calories more per day.
Irritability and Fatigue: Estrogen has been linked to increased brain activity, which can result in headaches, migraines, moodiness and fatigue. You may also feel more vulnerable and hypersensitive to things you might normally brush off.
The difference between you being a cranky, unbearable roommate or your normal cool self has much to do with what you eat. Here’s how to adapt your diet:
Being physically active reduces cramping and helps you manage the psychological impact of feeling out of sorts. Taking a 30-minute walk or participating in a yoga class can relieve tension and stress. Exercise also boosts your mood due to the production of endorphins, your body’s natural antidepressants.
Some women are affected so severely by PMS that they have a difficult time going about their daily tasks. If your symptoms are debilitating, don’t hesitate to contact your campus nurse or primary care physician and get a physical checkup. You want to rule out any medical issues that may contribute to your symptoms.