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.