20 August 2006

Exercise really helps

I have really discovered that exercise is really helping me combat PMS.

I have started jogging again and going to the beach too - even though it's still officially winter here, it's really quite warm and nice during the day.

I usually go for a walk along the beach walks either early in the morning or late in the day most weekends and sometimes during the week. Because the beach isn't so close to me, I have to take a short bus ride there, but the effort is worth it because I feel good afterwards.

I also started going for a jog (combined with walking) a few days ago and even though I have only done it twice now, today I seemed to be able to jog longer and further and I just felt really good afterwards - I think it was because I have been exercising lately, so my fitness levels just improved really quickly.

It was amazing, how much better I felt after the jog today - my face was pink and I was just full of energy. It was also good that it was late evening when I went, although I didn't mean to go that late because I jog in a park and although there are people around, I will try to go earlier in the day next time, before it gets dark.

I feel so vital and healthy. If I continue this way, exercising like this, I shall not only beat PMS, but I will lose weight and get healthy.

The good thing is, because I am pretty much a fit person (although not to my optimum levels) anyway, this regular exercising will just help me so much.

I cannot recommend it more!

05 May 2006

Helping to Reduce Symptoms - New Diet and Lifestyle Changes

I have started to change my diet and incorporate more exercise in my routine, instead of just sitting at a computer all day.

I have modified my diet, to include more vegetables, more protein and less sugar, so that I can try to balance my sugar levels, which can cause me havoc in the week prior to menstruation. I am especially having more low fat protein every day - from having stir fried vegetables with some type of meat, to pasta with feta cheese and eggs, to vegetables and beans in a tomato based sauce with rice.

I make sure I have some type of low fat protein in my breakfast - from eggs, to yoghurt, to cheese - just to make sure that I am starting the day well. Of course I have some carbohydrates, either in the form of bread and juice or stir friend vegetables.

Plus I bought some supplements to take:
  • St John's Wort - for the anxiety, mood swings, nervous tension and irritability I feel in the week before my periods. I bought a liquid supplement, so I can adjust the amount I need, depending on the level of negative feelings I have. I usually can take a small amount, just a few drops, much less than the recommended dose, to gain the benefits
  • Evening Primrose Oil - for the bloating effect that seems to take hold from about two weeks prior to PMS

I have also added more exercise into my day - from working out on my fitball to going for power walks. I haven't done as much as I should, but I am doing some. My stomach area is a little sore today from doing some intense stomach crunches on my fitball (or gymball) yesterday. But it's that good pain, which makes you realise you know you have worked it out.

I am also continuing with the vitamin B supplement - it contains all the B vitamins (B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B12), plus the co-factors (biotin, choline, folic acid and inositol) as well as vitamin C.

    Biotin, choline, folic acid and inositol are vitamin B co-factors - they help the B vitamins to work more effectively and should always be included in a vitamins B supplement (and also in a multi-vitamin). The supplement I take has good levels of all the vitamins and I only need to take one a day and I like it as it is natural without any preservatives or other additives.

    By doing all this, I have found that the symptoms of PMS I am experiencing has decreased, especially the blood sugar fluctuations, anxiety and bloating. I am not so likely to feel as emotional and have more mental clarity. I also have more energy and don't feel so overwhelmed by the PMS symptoms I usually get. Now, the symptoms just get a little bad the day or two prior to menstruation.

    12 March 2006

    Understanding PMS - Blood Sugar level Problems Subsided

    I have just realised why my blood sugar problems have became worse recently.

    I took a B-complex vitamin and a high vitamin C with bioflavonoids on Thursday and one of each again on Friday. It was on Thursday that I had the worst of the blood sugar problems and even though I ate a lot on Friday, I still didn't feel that well. Whereas on Saturday, I decided not to take any vitamins to see if that made a difference to my symptoms - and man did it make a huge difference. I didn't have the blood sugar problems at all. Very strange.

    In the past, when I have taken evening primrose oil or tyrosine or even the herbs angnes vitex and dong quai in the few days before (anywhere up to a week before) my periods, I noticed that instead of making me feel better, they actually made me feel worse - in particular, my feelings of anxiety, nervous tension, mental confusion, insomnia, irritability and irrational thoughts, many of which were not present before I took the vitamins / supplement / herbs, suddenly presented themselves with intensity. And not only did those symptoms present themselves, but actually got worse a few hours after I took the supplements!

    This was really odd. Even still, I couldn't quite believe the negative effects the supplements were having on me, as they helped me in the past and are well known to be beneficial supplement that help relieve PMS. So I tried them again and again, at different times of the month as I thought that maybe so close to menstruation, my hormones were not at the right levels to accept any supplementation. I didn't know why this was so, but that is how it appeared to be.

    When I tried to supplements at the start of the month, just after I completed menstruation, they appeared to help me and not produce the devastating symptoms before, but I was still experiencing side effects.

    I think now, with the advantage of hindsight, that because I may have been experiencing another medical condition, that could have been the impetus for my inability to get normal relief from the usual PMS supplements. I had a slight thyroid problem, but which presented very acutely initially - I think as sub-acute thyroiditis, but the doctors couldn't diagnose me properly, even though I could feel my thyroid was swollen, as I felt the swelling at the back of my throat, like I had swallowed something that was stuck there - it caused a whole host of problems. Apparently I have two little lumps on my thyroid, which may or may not be causing me problems - which were viewed on an ultrasound when this whole thyroid problem started. I insisted on the ultrasound as I was having pains in the left side of the middle of my throat (which is exactly where the lumps are) and I felt like I couldn't swallow properly at the time and had a pain on the left side when I swallowed. I need to have these lumps monitored to ensure they stay the same size, don't grow and don't cause any problems. I am hoping they will shrink one day and go away! They're only small (only a few centimetres - less than an inch each), so it shouldn't be an issue for them to go away! The thyroid problem happened in 2003.

    As I have bee under a lot of stress lately, it feels like my thyroid issues have resurfaced a little, as it feels like the left side of my throat is somewhat swollen, which always happens when I am really stressed.

    The function of the thyroid is to regulate metabolism. The thyroid uses iodine and tyrosine to make the thyroid hormones. When I took tyrosine in 2003 (when my thyroid wasn't functioning particularly normally), it gave me symptoms of high anxiety and nervous tension - symptoms of hyperthyroidism, which was really odd, because when I took tyrosine years before (for PMS), it actually relaxed me (which is what it is supposed to do).

    The thyroid is closely tied to the hypothalamus (which is the master gland and controls all the hormone glands in the body). If one gland is not working properly, all the rest may have issues. Interestingly, a thyroid that is not working properly can have symptoms similar to PMS, so some cases of PMS can be really be caused by thyroid problems and vice versa. Doctors are aware of this and will usually test all the hormones to work out what is causing the problems. The tests may not reveal everything that is going on, especially if these hormone studies are done when you have a problem, they could show to be within the normal range (even though they may be at the higher or lower end of the scale), the doctors will tell you everything is fine. But, if no hormone studies have been done when you were well, there is nothing to compare them with. That's why my doctor maybe realised with me, even though my test results showed as normal, maybe for me it wasn't totally normal and that's why he made the comment that my test results should not be given the most credence, that it should be my symptoms that should be given higher priority.

    I still believe that I had a thyroid problem, albeit a relatively mild one (even though it did not feel very mild to me at the time) and although it has healed up for the most part, my thyroid is still something I should always be aware about and try to ensure it stays healed!

    So maybe what happened in the past and what happened recently are related to my thyroid playing up. It seems to follow a very clear pattern.

    The last time I had this problem, it was actually very severe and problematic and took me a long time to recover from it. I am definitely not having the same thyroid symptoms as before, so that is positive for me, but I as I am experiencing a lot of stress right now, it makes me more aware of my thyroid and makes it feel a little swollen, but not painful.

    I think some yoga and exercise may be what I need right now, to calm my mind and bring some distressing to my body, which in turn will make me feel better and experience less PMS.

    11 March 2006

    PMS Defined

    What is PMS?

    PMS is defined as a set of symptoms that can occur for anywhere up to 2 weeks before a women menstruates. Yes, two weeks of hell for some women. There are five sub-groups of PMS symptoms, as described below:

    1. PMS-P (PMS Pain)
    Symptoms - cramps, reduced pain threshold, aches and pains, light or noise intolerance, joint pain.

    2. PMS-A (PMS Anxiety)
    Symptoms - anxiety, mood swings, nervous tension, irritability, irrational thoughts, jealousy, low self-esteem, inability to cope, insecurity, agitation, crying spells

    3. PMS-C (PMS Craving)
    Symptoms - sweet cravings, food cravings, headache, dizziness or fainting, increased appetite, fatigue, heart pounding (exaggerated insulin response to carbohydrates), lethargy, excessive thirst, nausea, low blood sugar

    4. PMS-D (PMS Depression)
    Symptoms - depression, forgetfulness, crying, mental confusion, insomnia, anger, erratic behaviour, clumsiness, crying spells

    5. PMS-H (PMS Hyper hydration)
    Symptoms - water retention, breast tenderness and/or enlargement, weight gain (more than 1.4kg), swelling of extremities, abdominal bloating, skin problems,

    In addition to all these lovely symptoms above, PMS can aggravate pre-existing health conditions, like candida, herpes, allergies and make them a lot harder to manage.

    Not all women will experience all the symptoms above every month and even some women that do experience most the symptoms will not experience them exactly the same every month.

    A very small percentage of women (between 2-9% of women who experience PMS) may have PMDD, where they experience symptoms so severe, they become destructive. PMDD symptoms have some similarity to moderate-major depression and occur in the two weeks before menstruation and subside when bleeding occurs. In addition to the emotional (or mental) symptoms, there are physical symptoms which also occur in the two weeks prior to menstruation and which subside as soon as menstruation starts (or soon after).

    To be diagnosed with PMDD you must experience 5 or more of the following symptoms:

    Psychological Symptoms
    • anxiety and tension
    • mood swings
    • irritability
    • fatigue
    • depression
    • changes in appetite
    • sleep difficulties
    • feeling overwhelmed and out of control
    Physical Symptoms
    • Bloating and breast tenderness

    When PMDD is being diagnosed, the focus is usually on the psychological, behavioural, and emotional symptoms than the physical ones. The thing that should be noted, is that in PMDD the symptoms experienced are much worse than in normal PMS.

    Anyone that suspects they may have PMDD needs to contact a medical professional to get all the support, advice and treatment required to manage it. Women with PMDD should also realise that it can be alleviated through nutritional means in conjunction with conventional treatment.

    1. "The Physicians Handbook of Clinical Nutrition" - Henry Osiecki

    2. Vital Health Zone - www.vitalhealthzone.com
    3. "You Can Beat PMS" - Colette Harris and Theresa Cheung

    PMS Hell - PMS Sugar Imbalances

    Ahh PMS, that word is known to bring dread to many a man - and us women who suffer it, don't think much of it either.

    My PMS hell is terrible sometimes, to the point where I cannot handle the sugar imbalances I experience. They are so bad, that I have to eat something sweet or with carbohydrates every few hours, otherwise I start feeling light-headed, dizzy, anxious, have this weird taste in mouth, like I haven't eaten, I feel totally hungry all the time and no matter how much I eat, I feel like I haven't eaten enough, especially if I eat something that has protein in it. If I exercise, it makes the sugar problem even worse. Although if I eat some chocolate (or other high sugar food), I feel much better, but even still, I need to eat lots and often.

    I think it has something to do with my hormones being out of balance, but as I have not had any tests done when I am in the middle of this hell, always when I am feeling normal again, the tests are always normal, so the doctors think I am a hypochondriac! Great.
    • I have been tested for diabetes - nope, don't have it.
    • I have been tested for hypoglycaemia - nope, don't have it either.
    • I have been tested for abnormal hormones - all normal
    • I take vitamins, I take minerals, I take supplements.
    The only thing I can relate it to, is constantly eating irregular meals with foods that may be too high in sugar and not enough protein, which in normal circumstances may not be healthy, but in PMS, causes such havoc.

    These symptoms I experience are getting rarer and rarer, because I now know what is wrong with me and can correct it with the right (and regular) foods.
    The thing is, because these symptoms present as both physical (dizzy, light-headed, unable to concentrate or think clearly) and psychological (anxiety, panic), initially I didn't realise they were connected to the same thing - PMS causing (or exacerbating) imbalances in my sugar levels. And because I experience high levels of anxiety and stress when I do have PMS anyway, these symptoms were completely exaggerated, to the point where I thought I was going crazy, but of course I wasn't, it was just the effects of the PMS I was suffering.
    I insisted on going to several specialists, to get checked over properly, as I read so much and thought it had to be something sinister that was causing this serious problem. All of them, again told me it was "all inside your head", that it was just "stress" and that they "couldn't help me". What kind of attitude was that? It left me more emotional and more confused until I just thought, "Oh well, this is it. Must be some terrible disease no-one has realised yet".

    Still, I researched more. I wasn't ready to give up yet. Finally I came upon some material about PMS causing blood sugar imbalances, just in the two weeks during PMS. It reminded me of many times when I had the PMS sugar imbalances, the last thing I ever did was to eat, so of course it got worse, but I remembered that when I did, I felt better. So this information struck a chord with me. I researched some more.

    I discovered that there are so many layers to PMS and to health in general. I discovered the "Zone" diet and amazingly enough, it helped me. I didn't follow it religiously as I still needed more simple carbohydrates than it recommended, but because I ate more healthily, I ate more protein and I ate more regularly, it helped.
    At the start, it was hell

    All the nutritional stuff I was doing was making me feel even worse, even exercise seemed to lower my blood sugar levels further and make me feel awful. I discovered that I couldn't eat a low carbohydrate diet because it made me feel like I had PMS sugar imbalances (and all the other problems of PMS) all month. 

    I modified the diet to suit me and I started to feel better. Much, much, much better. And all month long. The weight started to drop off me - I had been putting on all this weight in my middle zone (which is unusual for a pear shaped woman like me) - and with my new diet, I felt so much better and in control of my life again.

    When I told my doctor, he was curious to know what I was doing and he seemed really perplexed by it. He said, "Maybe for you, we shouldn't just look at the blood test results, we should look at how your symptoms and recovery present themselves". That was a great vindication for me, as he really didn't think it was anything other than stress, but at least now I know what it was - simply (ha!) sugar imbalances during PMS!

    All that time I researched the Internet, magazines and libraries, I found a whole gamut of information about health and nutrition. As I couldn't see this information anywhere in one place on the Internet, I decided to build the web site and put all this information in there.