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Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Updated: Sep 29, 2021

I am 28. I have been suffering from bloated stomach and tender breasts about one week before menses for the past few years. These symptoms disappear soon after menstruation begins. My friends tell me I am also grouchy at times and they can almost predict when my period is coming. Am I suffering from PMS? Anything I can do to help relieve my symptoms? I don't like to take medicines.

You are suffering from PMS or premenstrual syndrome with physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms which appear one to two weeks before your monthly periods and gradually improve or disappear when menstruation starts. About 10 % to 20% of women of childbearing age have PMS.

The symptoms are often mood-related and include feelings of unhappiness and extreme grouchiness. Abdominal bloatedness, breast tenderness, weight gain, fatigue, headache and loss of sexual desire are common.

The cause of PMS is not well understood. Studies have suggested that fluctuating levels of hormones and brain chemicals are important in the causation. Dietary and drinking habits, stress and lack of exercise are also contributing factors.

A wide range of medications including painkillers, oral contraceptive pills and antidepressants have been used to treat PMS with varying degrees of success.

Lifestyle changes may relieve some of the symptoms of PMS without medication. These include:

A healthy diet:

1. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains

Taking plenty of high fibre food like fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, such as brown rice, oatmeal and rye bread will reduce PMS symptoms

2. Increase intake of calcium and vitamin D:

Studies have shown that women with high intakes of calcium and vitamin D are less likely to develop PMS. It is suggested that calcium works in the brain to relieve depression or anxiety and vitamin D may influence emotional changes.

3. Cut down on sugar and salt.

Fluctuating female hormones may cause the woman to have craving for sugar and reduce levels of the chemical serotonin in the brain. These changes may affect a woman's mood and trigger PMS symptoms. Increase intake of salt may worsen the symptoms of bloatedness and water retention from PMS