Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) also known as prementrual tention (PMT) describes emotional and behavioural symptoms that can occur in the two weeks prior to a woman’s period. Nearly all women of child bearing age will experince some PMS symptoms, but 1 in every 20 will have severe symptoms affecting their normal lives. The exact cause of PMS is not known however it is reasonably understood to be linked to the changes in hormone levels during the woman’s menstrual cycle leading to changes in the brain neurotransmitter chemicals. Risk factors are high caffeine intake, stress, increasing age, history of depression, family history and dietary factors.
Symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome
There are a range of symptoms of PMS, which vary from person to person, as well as in intensity and type each month. Physical symptoms can be tender breasts, bloating, food cravings , headache and fatigue. Psychological and behavioural symptoms include; mood swings, irritability, crying, feeling upset, anxiety, confusion and depression.
Treatment of Premenstrual Syhndrome
PMS cannot be cured but there are treatments that can help to manage symptoms. Mild or moderate symptoms may only require changes to diet and lifestyle. In severe cases medication can include; pain killers, oral contraceptive pill and antidepressants.
Acupuncture can help to increase relaxation and lower anxiety by affecting the brain’s mood altering chemicals i.e. reducing serotonin levels and increasing endorphins and neural products to resist negative psychological states. Locally, it can reduce pain by altering how pain signals is processed and perceived by the brain and spinal cord. Where there is inflammation it will reduce it by promoting the release of vascular and immune factors.
Nutrition: There is evidence to suggest that PMS is related to dietary imbalances and nutritional deficiencies. Therefore overall improvement in diet will help to improve symptoms. The includes; reducing intake of sugars, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods will reduce the body’s toxic overload, whilst increasing vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds, oily fish, whole grains and water will enhance the levels of vitamins and nutrients required. Deficiency of essential fatty acids and magnesium have been reported in women with PMS, and evening primrose oil and vitamin B are suggested as a helpful supplements.
Aromatherapy & Massage: Bergamot, German and Roman camomile, clary sage, geranium, ylang ylang, lavender, rose and other essential oils influence the production of hormones and therefore useful in treating PMS. The also have the added action of reducing depression and irritable behaviour. Massage has the added effect of lowering stress and improving relaxation, but may also improve tiredness, fatigue and feeling of being bloated.
Other therapies: Chinese herb Don quai has been found to relieve PMS symptoms. Other herbal preparations like black cohosh and ginger also offer some benefit. Regular exercise and improvement in sleep habits are also very helpful.
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). (2013). NHS Choices.
- Premenstrual syndrome. (2012). Patient.co.uk
- Premenstrual syndrome. (2012). British Acupuncture Council.
Revised: Dec 2014