September 4, 2008
Making Life That Time of Easier at the Month
PMS is that dreaded term that many women - and men - dread every month.
The emotional rollercoaster is thought to affect about eight out of 10 women - however, many younger women don't realise they have it and are being treated for depression and anxiety instead.
There are lifestyle and diet changes you can try that could make all the difference.
We reveal how you too can help manage pre-menstrual monsters.
ACCORDING to the latest research, 84 per cent of women wrestle with the physical and emotional trauma of PMS every month - with half of that number admitting to starting a fight or argument as a result.
In total, sufferers spend an estimated two years of their lives struggling with a complex combination of psychological symptoms, including irritability, aggression, tension, anxiety and depression.
Add the physical changes - fluid retention, breast tenderness, headaches, bloating and weight increase - and it's no surprise that many women dread "that time of the month".
The exact cause of PMS is unknown, but it seems to be related to the fluctuating levels of hormones, including oestrogen and progesterone, that occur just before a period. Doctors still don't know why some women are more affected than others.
Michael Dooley, consultant gynaecologist and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, says PMS is a huge problem.
"It's the only condition that I know of where it's not the symptoms people are complaining of, but the time relationship of those symptoms," he says.
"You can have the depression, anxiety and loss of confidence before your period. But you can also get other symptoms like premenstrual migraine, pre-menstrual asthma, pre-menstrual epilepsy - conditions that may only present just before a woman has aperiod."
A lack of understanding of the condition means some doctors are prescribing antidepressants before other, less radical treatments, but Dooley says better diagnosis is needed.
"It's a disease that I think a lot of people don't realise they have," he says.
"Younger women are being treated for depression, anxiety and irritability, but if only people had started thinking about PMS as a potential diagnosis and got them to do a diary, this would help. A good diagnosis is vital."
Dooley suggests sufferers keep a daily record of their main symptoms - such as depression, irritability, bloatedness or breast tenderness. Work out a scoring system - nought - no symptom, one - mild, two - moderate, three - severe, then score how youfelt overall at the end of the day.
"I don't think it's unreasonable for women to ask their husband or partner how they thought they were and to get them involved."
"At least a woman can then chart her symptoms and see if there's a time relationship with her period. Is she scoring high before her period and low after? It's not rocket science but at least it's giving them some quantifiable assessment of theirsymptoms."
Dooley says nutrition and lifestyle changes - such as increasing exercise and reducing alcohol and excessive coffee - can make a huge difference to PMS.
"Initially, I always recommend complementary therapies such as Vitamin B6, magnesium and isoflavones," he says.
"And then the possible role of the contraceptive pill, newer ones such as Yasmin and Cilest are good at combating PMS. There are more elaborate hormonal treatments we can give, but they need to be done by a specialist in that area."
Linda Woolven, author of The Smart Woman's Guide to PMS and Pain- Free Periods, is a keen advocate of the herb, chaste tree berry (Agnus Castus).
"Chaste tree berry is the most important herb for normalising and regulating the menstrual cycle," she says.
"It's not new, it was used by the ancient Greeks for all kinds of menstrual problems, including heavy periods, lack of periods, lack of ovulation and frequent, infrequent and irregular periods. Today, it's used for all the same reasons as well astreating PMS and the menopause. Pretty impressive for one little herb!
"Women with acne problems related to their periods should take note of this amazing herb," she says.
"I've seen women with very bad outbreaks prior to their periods achieve clearer skin after only three months of using chaste tree berry and following a healthy, cleansing diet."
PREMHERB ment available based on traditional use. Helps to balance hormones by working on the pituitary gland and is especially helpful in the second half of the cycle. It should be taken once a day at the same time if possible, and may take up to threemonths to develop the maximum beneficial effect.
PremHerb (above left) contains 4mg of dry extract of the Agnus Castus fruit and costs pounds 7.99 for 30 tablets (call 01628 401 980 for stockists or visit www.medicherb.co.uk).
PERFECT HARMONY: A natural herbal formula designed to help stabilise hormones.
Ingredients include chaste tree (to regulate mood swings), wild yam (to help alleviate painful spasms associated with the reproductive system) and dong quai (to correct hormonal imbalances).
Perfect Harmony (above centre) costs pounds 19.95 for one month's supply and is available nationwide (call 01912 913 385 for stockists or visit www/collagen4u.co.uk).
MN8: This device (above right) claims to help alleviate period pains, bloating and spots.
Every month simply attach the two little MN8 magnets either side of your pants/tights/underclothes, sandwiching the fabric between the two separate magnets. The larger of the two magnets should be placed on the side in contact with your skin directly inthe pelvic area at least a day before and during menstruation.
The magnets are believed to improve circulation and relieve painful cramps by reducing the build up of lactic acid.
MN8 costs pounds 19 (+ pounds 3 post and packaging) from www.magnopulse.com or selected branches of Boots.
EVENING PRIMROSE OIL: This is a rich source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and may ease PMS as symptoms can be worse when the body's supply of GLA is low.
Try Efamol Pure Evening Primrose Oil, available in capsule and liquid format, priced from pounds 3.99-pounds 7.99. Available from Boots and Waitrose stores nationwide or call 01372 379 828 for stockists.
DIET AND LIFESTYLE REMEDIES
CUT DOWN ON CAFFEINE: Several studies have linked caffeine consumption to a high incidence of PMS symptoms including tension, irritability, anxiety, sleep disturbance and breast tenderness. Some of coffee's components have a mild oestrogen-like effect onthe body and since oestrogen is responsible for pre-menstrual syndrome, it could be one reason why coffee aggravates the condition.
BOOST YOUR MOOD WITH FOOD: Studies also show that stabilising blood sugar levels can reduce PMS symptoms. Get into the habit of eating regularly, with no longer than three hours between meals or snacks, particularly in the two weeks before your period.Try to limit the amount of sugar, salt and processed food in your diet. Stick to starchy carbs but avoid white bread, cakes and biscuits made with white flour, which cause a sudden rise and fall in blood sugar. Instead, choose wholegrain versions such asoats, granary bread and brown rice. They boost the production of serotonin, which lifts your mood and relieves pain.
EXERCISE: Going to the gym may be the last thing you feel like but regular exercise has been scientifically proven to help PMS.
Working out releases calming brain chemicals called endorphins, which boost your mood. A study by George Washington University found that women with PMS who did aerobic exercise for 45 minutes, three times a week, showed decreased depression and anxiety.
Try brisk walking, jogging, swimming or cycling. Yoga is also beneficial as the stretches and breathing exercises can help reduce cramps and any feelings of tension.
ACUPUNCTURE: It can relieve pain and stress for any ailment so it's worth a try for PMS. A small study published in the Journal of Gynaecology and Obstetrics found that 78 per cent of patients with PMS found acupuncture eased their symptoms, comparedwith only 6 per cent who received a dummy treatment. The theory is that it helps balance hormones and regulate the monthly cycle but no one knows for sure. Visit www.acupuncture. org.uk for your nearest qualified therapist.
For more information on the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, see www.rcog.org.uk The Smart Woman's Guide to PMS and Pain-Free Periods by Linda Woolven (John Wiley & Sons, pounds 6.81). Available from Amazon.co.uk PMS Awareness Week,sponsored by the National Association for Pre-menstrual Syndrome (NAPS), begins on Monday. Visit www.pms.org.uk for information.
To get a free copy of Magic Away Your Monthly Monster (a joint production by NAPS and Efamol), call 01372 379 828 or visit www.efamol.com
See a doctor if you have the following symptoms before or during your period
SEVERE headaches or migraines.
EXTREME fatigue - tiredness that stops you doing normal things or going to work.
ANGRY outbursts or mood swings that affect work or personal relationships.
EXTREME irritability that may affect things such as driving or concentration.
SOCIAl withdrawal - avoiding making plans at this time of the month and shutting yourself away.
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