Mythbusting Menstruation: Part 2

PMS, the syndrome that has spawned a thousand acronyms!

The internet will give you many “definitions” of PMS. Many are not particularly flattering to women, and show a certain culture of disdain and dismissal, but some actually describe common premenstrual symptoms. For example, ‘Pissy Mood Syndrome’ or ‘Psychotic Mood Shift’ show the anger and irritability, while ‘Plainly, Men Suck’ demonstrates the resentment some women feel that men don’t have to deal with all this. ‘Pardon My Sobbing’ shows how some women suffer depression, ‘Puffy Mid-Section’ refers to abdominal bloating, ‘Pass My Sweatpants’ illustrates the feelings of being overwhelmed, tired and wanting to just curl up on the couch. ‘Pimples May Surface’ – acne. ‘Perpetual Munching Spree’ – sugar cravings. I could go on, but I think you get the point….premenstrual syndrome can be pretty intense and given that about 85% of women experience at least some symptoms, it’s something you should be aware of! Other symptoms may include sore or swollen breasts, insomnia, constipation or diarrhoea, headache or migraine, flare ups of skin conditions (acne, psoriasis, eczema), increased or decreased appetite, joint or muscle pain, trouble concentrating, lack of motivation or clarity, or feeling weepy, anxious or depressed.

So what’s the deal, why does this all happen? As with the whole cycle, it’s to do with hormones. The thing to remember about hormones is that it’s less to do with the exact amount of any given hormone, and more to do with the ratio of one hormone to another, and the balance of them all. As we said before, no hormone plays alone. Each of these hormones interacts with each other and all the other hormones and hormone receptors in the body – cortisol, the stress hormone, and melatonin, the sleep hormone and every single one. Now remember back to the luteal phase we talked about last time, and how the corpus luteum forms from the follicle which released the egg. If the egg is fertilised, the corpus luteum is sustained by HCG and thus continues progesterone production (which sustains oestrogen levels). If the egg is not fertilised, the corpus luteum degenerates, causing a drop in progesterone and oestrogen. It is this drop in hormones which cause PMS. Just as the high levels of oestrogen around ovulation contribute to feelings of relaxation and wellbeing, now the drop causes the symptoms mentioned above.

We’re not entirely sure why some women get PMS when others don’t, and what influences the severity. With that said, here are a few ideas to gently suggest or surprise her with next time she’s suffering:

• Diet – help her eat plenty of good quality proteins and lots of green leafy veg. Fibre will help hormone and digestive regulation.
• Exercise – tread carefully here, guys! If she says “ugh I feel so bloated, look at my belly!”, I wouldn’t respond with “maybe you should go for a run”. Maybe try suggesting this before PMS kicks in? Then the seed is planted and you can raise it again during PMS with “how about we go for a walk together?” or something like that.
• Hydration – offer her a cool glass of water or a nice herbal tea, or a fresh green smoothie.
• Minimise alcohol. Help the body concentrate on processing hormones rather than toxins.
• If she has sugar cravings, provide healthier options (again, tread warily). Make sure you have her favourite sugar-free chocolate on hand, and some dried fruit and nuts.
• Massage. Always a winner.
• If her symptoms are severe, encourage her to talk to her health practitioner. There are many herbs and supplements which can really help balance these hormones and smooth out the ride a little.

Thanks for reading, guys, and check in next time when we talk about why women have testosterone.

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