Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a poorly defined condition used to describe symptoms, which occur after ovulation and before a woman’s period. They are usually most intense in the week just before a woman’s period when the levels of estrogen and progesterone are the lowest.
- abdominal bloating
- mood swings
- weight gain
- food cravings
- breast swelling
Many women experience some of these symptoms.
Some illnesses may become worse during the two weeks before a woman’s period. This is known as ‘menstrual magnification.’ Illnesses where this occurs include:
- migraine headaches
- seizure disorders
- irritable bowel syndrome
- chronic fatigue syndrome
These conditions should be ruled out before a diagnosis of PMS is made. If PMS-like symptoms occur outside of the two-weeks before your period, you doctor should check for other illnesses.
Changes in a woman’s diet and lifestyle may help relieve the symptoms of PMS. Here are some things that research has shown may improve PMS symptoms:
- aerobic exercise
- a complex carbohydrate diet that involves whole grains like brown flour and rice
- vitamin supplements of calcium, magnesium and/or vitamin E
Other changes in a woman’s diet may help, such as eating more fruits and vegetables or eating less:
Some women have found herbs such as evening primrose oil or chasteberry helpful.
For women with serious symptoms, particularly mood changes, a group of antidepressant drugs known as SSRIs may be useful.
Birth-control pills are sometimes prescribed to treat PMS to increase hormone levels. This is for women with primarily physical symptoms. There is little evidence to support this approach.