Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Are you one of those women for whom having a period is almost torture? There you are getting on quite blissfully with the business of living… and then the big M – menstruation, blights you. And this happens on a regular basis. You rail against the laws of nature that have gifted the ‘curse’ of menses to women. Your head aches, your stomach cramps, your tummy feels bloated, you feel like crying for no apparent reason, and you bite everyone’s head off at the slightest provocation. Most of all, you hate it when people shrug and patronizingly mouth, “PMS!”

This syndrome was first recognized and given a name – premenstrual syndrome or PMS in 1931. There was official recognition of symptoms that have plagued women for centuries. Feminists were ambivalent about the acceptance by doctors that PMS was a problem that they needed to take cognizance of. They felt that this would just give men another opportunity to point a finger at the “weaker sex” and their physical and mental inability to cope.

The onset of menstruation signifies that a girl has stepped across a biological threshold into puberty. For some women, menstruation is merely an inconvenience. Others really dread “that time of month.” The latter are usually women who are plagued by premenstrual syndrome (PMS). For these women it is not the five days of actual menstruation that bothers them so much as the symptoms of PMS that manifest themselves any time from two to ten days before menstruation begins.

As its name signifies, the symptoms of PMS begin after ovulation, peak just before menstruation begins, and then vanish at the start of menstruation. The symptoms can be both physiological and psychological. There are a large number of symptoms of which the most common are: tender breasts, bloated abdomen, appetite changes and cravings, pimples, headaches, stomach upset and swollen hands and feet. Women afflicted with this problem also display mood swings, depression, fatigue, irritability, lack of concentration, over-sensitivity, crying jags, and social withdrawal.

Tips for relieving the symptoms of PMS

  • Try to avoid stressful situations and get some rest.

  • Mild exercise like walking can help relieve PMS.

  • Control the intake of alcohol and caffeine contained in tea, coffee, soft drinks, etc.

  • Reduce salt intake. Salt absorbs water and increases water retention.

  • Vitamin B6 also helps in reducing premenstrual tension and water retention.

  • Eat less at every meal, but more often. This will minimize the fluctuations in blood sugar. It may also help to eat more green leafy vegetables, whole grains and cereals, fish and poultry.

Sometimes the symptoms of PMS are so severe that they require medical treatment. Psychologists describe this as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PDD). In cases of PDD, the depression and mood swings of the woman are so severe that they disrupt her normal functioning. In such situations, the woman might have to be treated medically. Doctors may recommend painkillers, diuretics for fluid retention, and anti-depressants in extreme cases. 1.5 gms of Evening Primrose Oil taken twice daily has been found to alleviate painful and tender breasts. Both the physical and mental emotional symptoms of PMS have a biochemical basis that can be linked to the level of certain hormones in the blood. Hence, some doctors may even prescribe birth control pills to alleviate menstrual cramps and pre-menstrual tension on occasion. The ingredients of the pill probably even out any hormonal imbalance.

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