PMS got you down?

I remember a few years ago cutting out a cartoon for my refrigerator door about PMS. It depicted the usual crazed cartoon character/woman-- wild hair, bugged eyes with ratty clothes hung on a misshapen body. She has her hand in a drawer, the caption reads ''I have PMS and I have a gun. Any questions?'' Depending on the day, I might laugh, others, well it needs no explanation to any women suffering severe PMS.

Cranky and irritable, miserable in our bodies, headaches, no sleep, bloating and constipation are only the symptoms at the tip of the ice berg. No one including the doctors seem to have any good explanation as to what is going on in our bodies, therefore we get handed antidepressants, mood elevators and sleeping pills! What is going on?

PMS or premenstrual syndrome has been around for centuries, but only in the past two decades have we got around to giving it some kind of name. As much as I hate names tagged on to a group of symptoms, we had to start somewhere.

Most experts now agree that the symptoms of PMS are caused by hormone imbalance. Hormones are complex chemical substances produced by the body that act as chemical messengers throughout. Several things will influence hormone balance in a womans body including genetics, age, general health, diet, tobacco and alcohol use, exercise habits, medication use and mental attitude. Of course we can't do much about our chronological age or our genetics, but we can dramatically influence the other factors!

I once heard a lecturer talking about womens' health refer to the menstrual cycle as a unique opportunity for the body to cleanse itself. Yes, we understand that the lining built up over the past month needs to be shed, but the body views this as a chance to rid itself of other stored toxins as well. Her analogy to this process, ''think of an empty drawer in a dirty house.'' Yes, think about that-- all the byproducts of the tobacco, alcohol, and poor diet that you put in your body over a month's time. It's no wonder a woman is tired and out of sorts with all those toxins trying to move out of the body.

Absolute no-nos for women suffering with PMS-- caffeine, Nutrasweet, soda pop, tap water, concentrated sweets-- including an over abundance of pastas-- and other grains, dairy products, highly processed foods, alcohol and tobacco.

A study released in the Journal of American Obstetrics and Gynecology, August 1998 talks extensively about the reduction of the symptoms of PMS with the use of calcium and magnesium. Magnesium, called by some cellular nutritionists as ''life's lubricant,'' is known to relax and expand blood vessels, stop muscle cramping, prevent inflammation and allows energy to be used more efficiently. Magnesium also works with calcium to maintain nerve and muscle impulses. The balance of these two minerals, calcium and magnesium, is extremely important to the function of the cells, allowing them to excrete what they do not need and to absorb the nutrients they do need.

The best sources of calcium are green leafy vegetables, sea vegetables, broccoli and mineral waters. The best sources of magnesium are wheat germ, wheat bran, nuts soybeans, oats, barley, and green leafy veggies. Since minerals in general are very hard for the body to assimilate, most women will need supplements. Be sure to buy those supplements from the health food store or a reputable dealer. All mineral supplements are not created equal!

Be sure to get out in the sun! Vitamin D is important for calcium uptake. The body needs only very small amounts of vitamin D and it's easy to get too much. Most experts agree vitamin D in excess can cause joint discomfort as well as other symptoms.

Other supplements important for the control of PMS symptoms, Prim Rose Oil, herbs of black cohosh, red clover and dong quai. And, of course be sure to check in with your health care professional regularly.

Till next time, Rebecca.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online November 30, 1999

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