PMS -- A women's mystery

I'm going to crack the joke before someone else does. Look out! She has PMS and she has a gun! The joke is funny but there's really nothing funny about serious premenstrual syndrome. Women really do suffer physiological symptoms of a wide and varied nature that can leave them feeling on the edge and out of control.

Irritability, lethargy and depression are known as the PMS triad -- and almost all sufferers complain of these. There can be a host of other emotional and physical symptoms accompanying PMS such as headaches and migraines, flu-like symptoms, recurrent yeast infections, food cravings and, in more serious cases, seizure-like activity.

Nobody really knows the cause of PMS but there are many theories. A favored theory among holistic practitioners is poor nutrition -- a diet high in animal fat, high in calcium in proportion to magnesium, and lacking in certain vitamins, especially B complex.

Some believe that PMS is a hormonal problem related to low levels of progesterone or estrogen, or an imbalance in the ratio between the two hormones. It is true that these hormones do drop drastically as a woman completes her monthly cycle.

Other theories propose sufferers may also have some disruption of the neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters send messages or impulses through the nervous system and regulate hormones. It has been shown that endorphin levels (a neurotransmitter) drop 25 percent in women who suffer PMS. Endorphins inhibit pain and have a role in memory, learning and sexual activity, and regulate body temperature.

Regardless of what theory you and your physician or care-provider choose to believe, you're still left with all those uncomfortable symptoms and wondering how best to manage them. Traditional care providers have, in general, been stumped on how to provide solutions. Diet and supplementation are your best choices.

First line defense is a supplement of Evening Primrose Oil or EPO. EPO is high in fatty acids that are missing in today's diet. EPO has the ability to help correct hormone imbalance that leads to mood swings and breast tenderness. In at least one study, supplementation with evening primrose oil relieved breast pain associated with PMS and assuaged irritability, depression and bloating in 90 percent of the women studied. This supplement has also been proven to be beneficial for those suffering from various kinds of chronic ailments from arthritis to MS.

It is important when purchasing supplements that you buy high-quality ones. They usually don't cost more and will be made in a way so that the body will be able to utilize the active components that give relief.

The diet should include plenty of fruits and vegetables, month around. A diet change a few days or a week before may produce some relief, but more than likely will have limited success. Limit the amounts of fatty meats, refined highly processed foods, and sugars. Alcohol can also cause an exacerbation of symptoms -- as does caffeine. Soy products that contain naturally occurring plant estrogens are helpful.

Trace mineral supplementation is important, especially a supplement that is high in magnesium, calcium and potassium. These minerals help keep water in balance which helps relive joint pain associated with swelling, muscle pain, breast tenderness and cramping.

So the next time you want to reach for a gun, reach for the primrose oil instead. Just kidding!

Till next time, Rebecca.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online October 24, 2000

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