Premenstrual syndrome ??? PMS ??? is a problem that affects most women of reproductive age to some extent. For some women, the symptoms are mild, starting just a few days before their period. But for others they can be severe and start as early as ovulation.
Ovulation usually occurs around 14 days before the start of your period. With the average cycle being 28 days long, this means that some women are suffering from PMS 50% of the time!
Every woman experiences PMS in a slightly different way but the most common symptoms include:
- Breast tenderness or pain
- Mood swings
- Food cravings
- Skin break outs
- Reduced sex drive
With both physical and emotional symptoms, PMS affects not only women but also their families and friends. So what causes PMS? And what can be done to help?
What Causes PMS?
It is unclear exactly what causes PMS but we do know that it is related to the fluctuating levels of hormones during a woman's menstrual cycle. It is thought that these changing hormone levels also have a knock on effect on the levels of chemicals called neurotransmitters.
Neurotransmitters are found in the brain and are responsible for regulating our mood and emotions. It is the imbalance of these that causes the classic emotional symptoms of PMS; moodiness, irritability and depression.
It also seems that women who are overweight, stressed, lacking physical exercise or who have a poor diet are more likely to suffer from PMS.
Treatment for PMS
Conventional treatment for PMS includes hormonal contraceptives which stop ovulation and regulate hormone levels, or anti-depressants to treat symptoms such as depression and anxiety. However, these can both have side effects and do nothing to address the root cause of the problem.
This is why many women are now looking for natural ways to relieve PMS symptoms including lifestyle changes, supplements and therapies such as acupuncture.
Natural Ways to Relieve PMS
One of the best ways to manage PMS symptoms naturally is by making some simple changes to your diet. Eating little and often and avoiding salty foods is a good way to reduce fluid retention and bloating.
Eat plenty of complex carbohydrates such as wholemeal bread and brown rice which provide a steady supply of energy and can help to regulate your mood. Complex carbs also help to keep your appetite and weight under control. Avoid refined sugars which cause energy crashes and weight gain.
Include plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet to ensure a good supply of vitamins and minerals, and try to increase your intake of omega 3 fatty acids. These can be found in oily fish such as mackerel and salmon, nuts and seeds, especially flax seeds.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol which can interfere with your energy levels and mood. Stopping smoking is another way to improve your PMS symptoms naturally.
Taking regular exercise can help to keep your weight down and reduce stress levels. If you are lacking energy, try some gentle exercise like yoga or tai chi. Relaxation techniques such as meditation can help to reduce stress and improve your mood, too.
Acupuncture for PMS
Research suggests that acupuncture is an effective treatment for the symptoms of PMS. This study found that acupuncture offered a 77.8% reduction in PMS symptoms compared with just 5.9% in the placebo group.
There are a number of different ways in which acupuncture may help to reduce PMS symptoms. It affects the central nervous system and stimulates the release of chemicals called endorphins. These are the body's natural painkillers and can help to relieve the discomfort associated with PMS as well as giving a feeling of general well-being.
Acupuncture also reduces inflammation, meaning that symptoms such as breast pain, headaches and cramps can be reduced.
Acupuncture can also regulate the levels of both your hormones and neurotransmitters. It is an extremely relaxing treatment which can help to reduce stress and anxiety and improve your overall mood.
Acupuncture works by helping to restore a state of balance throughout both the body and mind. Because of this, it can be considered a truly holistic therapy which can treat PMS on a much deeper level than conventional medicine alone.