Like clockwork, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) affects a large percentage of women (more than 90 percent!) who are of childbearing age in the days leading up to their period. This can include physical symptoms such as body tenderness, bloating, cramps, and fatigue — or they can be more emotional, causing an increase in mood swings, sadness, irritability, and anxiety. For instance, you could wake up in a perfectly good mood only to feel down in the dumps and irritable a few hours later with no real rhyme or reason.
The Why Behind PMS
Severe PMS that interferes with your day-to-day life can more debilitating and is known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). The exact cause of PMS can be a conundrum for experts, but it is likely linked to fluctuating hormones during the second half of the menstrual cycle (those last two weeks before your period starts).
As women age and approach perimenopause or menopause, PMS symptoms can worsen, which is also linked to changing hormones — as we enter menopause, a woman’s body slowly produces less estrogen and progesterone, which can in turn influence serotonin levels (the neurotransmitter that helps with mood regulation). These hormonal shifts can make your mood feel darker or more irritable — and if you’re already prone to depression or anxiety, these mental health issues can also worsen in the days leading up to your period.
What You Can Do
PMS is definitely no fun — not for us as women and not for those we love who may sometimes be on the receiving end of these mood swings, such as a partner or our children. The good news is that there are steps you can take to ease PMS symptoms and their impact on your body and mind. Here are a few tips.
Track your symptoms. Knowing that your emotions and mood changes are a result of PMS can help keep things in perspective. This can be done on paper or using a period tracking app (click here for a few of our favorites).
Consider birth control pills. Hormonal birth control methods are often used for many reasons beyond birth control. They contain either a mix of both estrogen and progesterone or just progesterone, which can help fill in the gaps when those hormone levels drop and potentially reduce PMS symptoms.
Try certain supplements. Many supplements have been studied and some have been known to help in reducing certain PMS symptoms such as calcium and magnesium. EstroDIM (diindolylmethane) can help balance out estrogen levels — especially in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women. Inositol (vitamin B8) has also been used to help improve PMDD and polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) symptoms. In clinical trials, oxaloacetate (the active ingredient in Jubilance) also has been proven to reduce certain emotional PMS symptoms.
Focus on nutrition. Although you may be craving chocolate, those sugar spikes can wreak havoc on your mood! Eating small meals throughout the day rather than two or three big meals and focusing on foods high in calcium (milk, yogurt, cheese) and fiber (whole grains, leafy greens) can help balance erratic blood sugar levels that could contribute to mood swings.
Get in some exercise. Try to exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Even a brisk walk through your neighborhood can help with feelings of sadness or irritability. Working out can also contribute to a better night’s sleep.
Manage stress. Stress levels can exacerbate negative emotions, so consider deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga to calm both your body and mind.
Look into medication. If other treatment options don’t seem to be helping, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are some of the more common types of antidepressants used to treat PMS-related mood swings.
Contact Beaches OBGYN at (904) 241-9775 for more information or to schedule an appointment to discuss PMS symptoms.