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What is PMS and what causes it?

What is PMS and what causes it?

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a term that many of us are very familiar with… and unfortunately most of us suffer with at some point in our lives. 

PMS refers to the group of largely unpleasant symptoms - both emotional and physical, that occur anywhere from a few days to two weeks before your monthly period.  It’s common for the symptoms to subside once menstruation starts and it affects women of all ages with varying intensity.  All women experience slightly different unpleasantries, in different combinations with others.

The exact causes of PMS are in fact unknown, however there have been a few suggested causes, as well as proven lifestyle factors that can influence and alleviate the intensity of the unpleasant symptoms.

The most common suggested cause of PMS is attributed to hormonal changes that naturally occur during the menstrual cycle, where levels of oestrogen and progesterone fluctuate, leaving those more sensitive to the hormones susceptible to an array of unpleasant PMS symptoms. 

Another suggested cause is changes in the brain’s chemical levels.  Serotonin levels fluctuate during the menstrual cycle.  Serotonin regulates mood and contributes to feelings of happiness, with low levels resulting in sleeplessness, exhaustion and cravings, so it would make sense that women with already low levels of serotonin would be more sensitive to PMS symptoms.

Other factors like being overweight, unhealthy, having a stressful lifestyle and consuming excessive coffee, alcohol, inadequate nutrition and smoking are considered factors that may contribute to PMS and its symptoms.

Some theories behind PMS causes have also included a vitamin B6 deficiency, abnormal glucose metabolism and electrolyte imbalances.

Many consider PMS an annoying, unpleasant but (largely) bearable monthly phenomenon - however there is a small minority who experience severe PMS symptoms… which is known as Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). 

So severe in fact, that the symptoms interfere with and negatively impact everyday life, putting a strain on relationships:  anxiety, depression, uncontrollable anger, as well as a host of other typical PMS physical symptoms - only more severe.

Women with this condition may not even realise the severity when compared with “normal PMS” - and may subsequently overlook seeking medical opinion and assistance with supplements or advice that may dramatically improve and alleviate their symptoms.

If in doubt as to where you stand in terms of your own PMS symptoms, it’s recommended you visit your doctor - it’s definitely worth the extra attention and medical examination.