Premenstrual syndrome (PMS): what impact does it have on the body and menstruation?

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS ) refers to the set of physical and emotional symptoms that occur a few days before menstruation. It generally ends with the onset of menstruation or a few days after the start of menstruation.

What is premenstrual syndrome (PMS)?

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a set of physical and psychological symptoms that begin a few days before the menstrual period and generally end with theonset of menstrual flow. These symptoms generally occur 2 to 7 days before menstruation, but can sometimes last up to 14 days. Women may experience a variety of symptoms, including anxiety, irritability, headaches, sore breasts and increased swelling.

PMS is similar to menstrual symptoms, although it disappears when menstruation arrives, or a few days later.

A common syndrome in women

It's very common to experience uncomfortable symptoms as menstruation approaches. It's estimated that around 75% of women experience these symptoms, but they should remain mild and not handicap them in their daily lives. On the other hand, 20% to 30% of women experience very intense symptoms that can interfere with their daily activities. Even if these symptoms are unpleasant, they must remain bearable.

Finally, some women are also affected by premenstrual dysphoric disorder, also known as PMDD. It affects between 2% and 6% of women.

What are the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome?

PMS manifests itself in a variety of ways, with both physical andemotional variations.

Physical symptoms

There are many physical symptoms, including

  • Breast tenderness and pain
  • A feeling of bloating
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Digestive problems (diarrhea or constipation)
  • Lower back pain

Emotional symptoms

Beyond the pain, malaise is also mental and psychic, with the following signs:

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • altered libido
  • sadness
  • heightened sensitivity, including crying
  • Food cravings
  • Fatigue

What causes premenstrual syndrome?

The causes are still unclear to scientists. Premenstrual syndrome is intrinsically linked toovulation and the menstrual cycle. Another explanation highlights the role of hormonal fluctuation at this point in the cycle. In fact, menstruation is controlled and regulated by a multitude of hormones produced by thepituitary gland, thehypothalamus and the ovaries, until the age of menopause. During the second phase of the menstrual cycle, estrogen secretion declines, while progesterone production increases.

Estrogen is a hormone that increases breast size and causes water retention, while progesterone reduces the effects of estrogen. But the body is not a clock, and in many cases, menstruating women may have too much estrogen or too little progesterone. Fluctuations in these hormones are perceived by the brain, so this could explain the psychological changes.

Some women are also naturally more sensitive to the signs of PMS.
Serotonin levels are also sometimes lower for women suffering from PMS, as serotonin is supposed to regulate mood: this could explain the excessive feelings.
Finally, those suffering from magnesium or calcium deficiency may experience a more exacerbated syndrome.

How is PMS diagnosed?

To help diagnose PMS, we encourage you to keep a diary of the symptoms you experience in the days leading up to your period.
In fact, especially if you suffer from severe PMS, writing down your feelings will help your doctor to better understand and analyze them, and to derive a trend regarding your degree of impairment. In any case, if your PMS is too severe, you should definitely consult your doctor for a diagnosis: your period and your cycle should not make you suffer to the point of preventing you from living your life normally.

When symptoms are too severe, we speak of premenstrual dysphoric disorder. This is a form where symptoms are so intense that they interfere with work, social interactions and relationships with loved ones. Some women experience severe depression during this period, and may even have suicidal thoughts.

If you have symptoms of depression, you can be tested for depression and consult a psychiatrist. But a doctor or healthcare professional can tell the difference between mood disorders and PMS or dysphoric disorder, based on the duration of symptoms, which in the case of the latter last only a few days.

Generally speaking, to diagnose it, symptoms must last during the pre-menstrual period, but over several months, to ensure that they are indeed cycle-related symptoms.

Our tips for reducing the impact of premenstrual syndrome!

Of course, there are ways of reducing the impact and symptoms. Even if it can be difficult to treat, since there is unfortunately no single treatment or medication that will relieve all symptoms.

A healthy diet

Diet plays a key role in relieving cycle and period pain.
In fact, certain foods can be more inflammatory than others. For example, we recommend avoiding foods such as hot dogs, potato chips, sodas, coffee, processed and canned foods and red meat. On the other hand, we recommend eating fruit, vegetables, wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta, fiber-rich foods, lean meats and foods rich in calcium and vitamin D. You can also consume more protein, less sugar and caffeine. It's also a good idea to opt for organic foods, which are much better for your health! Finally, drink plenty of water to aid digestion!

Good stress management

The stress hormone cortisol increases PMS symptoms, including aches and pains, anxiety and depression. You can learn to manage your stress by practicing activities such as yoga, sophrology or meditation.

Regular physical activity

When we exercise, our bodies produce the happiness hormone endorphin. Regular exercise is an excellent way to reduce symptoms, maintain a healthy weight and regulate sleep. You can try out different sports until you find the one that suits you and makes you feel good.

Should I consult a doctor if I have premenstrual syndrome?

If you're suffering from severe PMS that's preventing you from leading a normal life, talk to your GP or gynecologist. He or she may be able to prescribe treatment: anti-inflammatories, medication or hormonal contraception such as the pill, which can relieve symptoms.

Premenstrual syndrome FAQ

How can premenstrual syndrome be treated naturally?

There is no cure for PMS, but you can find natural methods to relieve symptoms. For example: sport, a healthy diet, drinking enough water and relaxation.

How can you tell the difference between PMS and early pregnancy?

PMS symptoms reappear every month before the start of your period. If your period is late and you've had a risky relationship, take a pregnancy test.

You may also like: