Monday, July 03, 2006

Can You Control PMS?

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a group of symptoms related to the menstrual cycle. They usually occur in the week or two weeks before your period and go away after your period starts. PMS may interfere with your normal activities at home, school, or work. PMS often includes both physical and emotional symptoms, such as breast swelling and tenderness, fatigue and difficulty sleeping, upset stomach, bloating, constipation, headache, irritability, and anxiety.

Symptoms vary from one woman to another. If you think you have PMS, try keeping track of your symptoms for several menstrual cycles. You can use a calendar to note which symptoms you are having on which days of your cycle, and how bad the symptoms are. If you seek medical care for your PMS, having this kind of record is helpful.

No single PMS treatment has been proven to work for everyone. If your PMS is mild or moderate, a few lifestyle changes can help you feel better:

  • Adopt a healthier way of life. Exercise regularly, get enough sleep, choose healthy foods, don't smoke, and find ways to manage stress in your life.
  • Try avoiding excess salt, sugary foods, caffeine, and alcohol, especially when you are having PMS symptoms.
  • Be sure that you are getting enough vitamins and minerals. Take a multivitamin every day that includes 400 micrograms of folic acid. A calcium supplement with vitamin D can help keep bones strong and may help with PMS symptoms.
  • In more severe cases, drugs such as diuretics, ibuprofen, birth control pills, or antidepressants may be used.
  • Although PMS does not seem to be related to abnormal hormone levels, some women respond to hormonal treatment. For example, one approach has been to use drugs such as birth control pills to control ovulation. There is also evidence that a brain chemical, serotonin, plays a role in severe forms of PMS. Antidepressants that alter serotonin in the body have been shown to help many women with severe PMS.

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