Pre-menstrual syndrome has been recognised and documented by men in folklore since time began, but what do men really know about it?

Once thought to be "female emotionalism" it is now widely accepted as a medical phenomenon, which affects a large proportion of women of childbearing age. Some researchers estimate 50-80% of women suffer from PMS which we know to be a collection of physical, mental and emotional symptoms which precede a woman''s period. These symptoms are truly known only to women and are attempted in vain to be understood by men throughout the world. Pre -menstrual syndrome is a serious influence on many families. Doctors and counselors may be able to assist but women can achieve huge success by using a few self-help techniques.

SYMPTOMS OF PMS

Naturally symptoms vary between women and most experience five or six symptoms two to 10 days before menstruation. They usually resolve shortly after bleeding starts. Symptoms may be divided into six main categories:

- anxiety, irritability, mood swings
- food cravings, fatigue, headaches
- bloating, weight gain, breast tenderness
- depression, memory loss, lack of concentration
- cramps, lower back pain, nausea
- acne, oily skin and hair
Symptoms often first develop or get worse after having children and PMS gets worse as women get older.

WHAT CAUSES PMS?

Research currently shows that each sub-group of symptoms is caused by its own specific chemical imbalance. One important system is the balance between the hormones oestrogen and progesterone. The levels of each fluctuate during the menstrual cycle. When properly balanced these hormones promote normal function women''s reproductive systems (the uterus, vagina and breasts). Other hormone systems also control other aspects of health and the woman''s feeling of well being. When any of these systems become imbalanced PMS symptoms occur.
The great news is that women can do a lot to help relieve PMS and some simple treatments give excellent results.

TREATMENT

To learn about her body and understand her response to PMS will be invaluable to any woman trying to overcome PMS symtoms. Self-help is the absolute key to relieving PMS.
The main areas of treatment are diet, exercise, supplements and education of partners and family.
Diet- often health and well being issues have their roots in proper nutrition. This is true for PMS. When hormones have finished their tasks the liver and kidneys dispose them of. Any breakdown in this system will affect the hormone balance and therefore the appearance of PMS symptoms.
Both emotional stress and nutrition play significant roles in how effectively the liver operates e.g.. Rich foods, excess fats and sugars and excess alcohol will overwork the liver, which must process them as well as the hormones. To reduce PMS eat less fats and sugars.
Exercise- while exercise promotes health in a number of ways gentle stretching such as yoga helps many women to achieve a sense of calmness. Any exercise provides a way to relieve stress and achieve a sense of well being.

SUPPLEMENTS

Vitamin B6 has been shown to help PMS sufferers. It works in a number of ways to help with stress, providing energy, plus assisting with elimination of fluid retention. A woman''s body seems to need more B6 after ovulation.
Evening Primrose Oil/Starflower Oil- these products contain Essential Fatty Acids which are used to produce Prostaglandin''s. Prostaglandin''s are important hormone-like substances involved in regulating the health of every cell in the body. They may help with irritability, cramps breast tenderness and other PMS symptoms. PMS sufferers have been shown to have low levels of essential fatty acids.
Dong Quai is a traditional women''s herb. It is a highly nutritious herb containing significant amounts of Vitamins E and B12.
There are many natural and herbal treatments available to help temporarily relieve symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome. The reasons why supplements help is complex and fascinating - it is mostly concerned with correcting the balance of hormones in the body and providing it with optimum nutrition to allow it to work properly. Many women have found relief from taking Evening Primrose Oil 1000mg three-times a day, reducing after two months. Adding Vitamin B6 50-100mg per day two weeks before menstruation can also help.

SUMMARY

PMS is very real and very stressful for many women. Men and children can also feel the effects if they don''t understand the problem. It is not that women "turn mean", they suffer an imbalance in their hormones, which produces a variety of symptoms ranging from irritability and bloating to severe mood swings and depression. Self-help plays a big part in treatment. Diet is most important, and exercise and supplements are incredibly beneficial. An understanding partner provides valuable support.
However, if abdominal pain is severe or women feel depressed for long periods of time it is essential to see a doctor to check for further problems. There is so much more information available to women- the library holds some excellent self-help books or call in to the pharmacy where we will be pleased to discuss treatment with you.