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

Premenstrual syndrome refers to the set of physical and emotional symptoms that occur a few days before your period. It usually ends with the onset of menstruation or a few days after the beginning of menstruation.


What is premenstrual syndrome (PMS)?

Premenstrual syndrome is characterized by a set of physical and psychological symptoms that begin a few days before the menstrual period and generally end whenthe menstrual flow arrives. In general, these manifestations arrive from 2 to 7 days before menstruation, sometimes up to 14 days. Women may experience a variety of feelings such as anxiety, irritability, headaches, sore and swollen breasts.

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

A common syndrome for women

It is very common to experience uncomfortable symptoms around the time of your period. It is estimated that it affects nearly 75% of women, but they should remain mild without handicapping them in their daily lives. On the other hand, 20 to 30% of women have very intense manifestations 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 called PMDD. It affects between 2 to 6% of women.

What are the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome?

PMS manifests itself in various ways: there are both physical andemotional variations.

Physical symptoms

They are multiple, one finds there:

  • Sensitivity and pain in the breasts
  • A feeling of bloating
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal cramps
  • Digestive problems (diarrhea or constipation)
  • Localized pain in the lower back

Emotional symptoms

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

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • A change in libido
  • Sadness
  • Increased 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 the hormonal fluctuation that takes place at this time of the cycle. Indeed, menstruation is controlled and regulated by a multitude of hormones that are produced by thepituitary gland, thehypothalamus but also by the ovaries, until the age of menopause. During the second phase of the menstrual cycle, estrogen secretion decreases, while progesterone production increases.

Estrogen is a hormone that increases breast size and causes water retention, while progesterone reduces the effects of estrogen. However, the body is not a clock and it is possible that in many cases, menstruating women have an excess of estrogen or, conversely, an insufficiency of 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 who suffer 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 to diagnose PMS?

To better diagnose PMS, we encourage you to keep a diary of the symptoms you feel on the days preceding your period.
In fact, especially if you suffer from severe PMS, writing down your feelings will allow your doctor to better understand and analyze them and to determine a trend regarding your degree of impairment. In any case, if your PMS is too severe, you should absolutely consult a doctor to make a diagnosis: your period and your cycle should not make you suffer so much that you cannot live your life normally.

When the symptoms are too severe, we talk about premenstrual dysphoric disorder. This is a form where the symptoms are so intense that they disrupt work, social interactions and relationships with loved ones. Some women experience very strong depressive states during this period, and sometimes even have suicidal thoughts.

If you have symptoms of depression, you can be tested for depression and consult a psychiatrist. But a doctor or health care 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.

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

Our advice to reduce the impact of PMS!

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

A healthy diet

Diet plays a key role in relieving cycle and period pain.
Indeed, some foods can be more inflammatory than others. For example, it is recommended to avoid certain foods such as hot dogs, chips, sodas, coffee, processed and canned foods and red meat. On the other hand, it is recommended to consume fruits, vegetables, wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta, foods rich in fiber, lean meats and foods rich in calcium and vitamin D. You can also consume more protein, less sugar and caffeine. It is advisable to choose organic foods, which are much better for your health! Finally, drink plenty of water to help with 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, relaxation therapy or meditation.

Regular physical activity

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

Should I see a doctor if I have PMS?

If you suffer from excessive PMS, which prevents you from living your life and your daily routine normally, talk to your doctor or your gynecologist. He or she may be able to prescribe treatments: anti-inflammatory drugs, medication or hormonal contraception such as the pill, which can relieve the symptoms.

The FAQ of premenstrual syndrome

How to treat PMS naturally?

PMS cannot be cured, but you can find natural methods that will relieve the symptoms. For example: sports, a good diet, drinking enough water and relaxation.

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

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

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