It seems like only yesterday that we were in a perfect mood and full of energy, and now, suddenly, it’s as if we were run over by a fast train. Not only are we sluggish and can only think of another bar of chocolate, but our self-confidence has plummeted, we look ugly to ourselves when we look in the mirror and it’s as if our tongue is tied into knots and we cannot formulate our thoughts correctly.
WHAT IS PREMENSTRUAL SYNDROME?
The abbreviation PMS has already become so well known that in jokes it has become synonymous with irritable women. However, women who go through PMS are by no means up for a laugh. Premenstrual syndrome is a term that encompasses a series of symptoms that appear ten days before menstruation and which can significantly impair the quality of life.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has released diagnostic criteria for PMS: they include at least one of six affective and one of four somatic symptoms five days before the beginning of menstruation during three menstrual cycles, which disappear four days after the onset of menstruation. Emotional and behavioural symptoms include changes in behaviour, mood swings, depression, irritability, nervousness, bouts of crying, feelings of fear, anxiety, confusion, withdrawal from social activities, poor concentration, fever, insomnia and changes in appetite; physical symptoms are chest pain, bloating, weight gain, headaches, swelling of the arms and legs, aches and stabbing pain.
As many as 85 per cent of women in the reproductive period – from the first menstruation to menopause – feel some of the premenstrual symptoms. The only time the symptoms are dormant is during pregnancy. It may also happen that women do not associate some of them with changes in the menstrual cycle because they are incompatible at first glance, but seem to be the beginning of a disease, such as digestive disorders, decreased energy, fatigue, lethargy, nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, swellings, breast tenderness, acne, increased appetite…
There are many symptoms of PMS, and some seem to be only reserved for us. While our friends, for example, may have swollen feet and palms, we may suffer from skin disorders or our appetite may be affected. And then these symptoms plague us from month to month, sometimes more, sometimes less. Science has explained a lot today, but it has not yet completely removed the veil of secrecy from premenstrual syndrome. It is very common among high school students and has a negative impact on school activities, regardless of climate, race or social environment.
What we do know about it is that it is associated with hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle, but research has shown that the ratio of hormones in women who have more pronounced symptoms is the same as in those who do not feel them. The first part of the menstrual cycle, when we are full of self-confidence, when we are agile, fast and focused, is characterised by the increase in FSH and oestrogen hormones. After ovulation, which occurs around the 14th day of the cycle, oestrogen drops sharply and luteinising hormone increases, immediately followed by progesterone. One of the explanations offered by the science is that some women are simply more sensitive to the changes of oestrogen and progesterone.
Progesterone performs the reproductive function: it produces the corpus luteum and prepares the body for pregnancy if fertilisation occurs – and if it does not – it stimulates the endometrium, the lining of the uterus, which occurs when menstruation begins. In addition to this, progesterone relaxes smooth muscles, the action of which to us feels like a digestive disorder, constipation or bloating; it also promotes the secretion of sebum, which explains the appearance of oily skin, hair and acne. It is also responsible for the feeling of tension and pain in the chest, as it stimulates the mammary glands. Hormones are also responsible for fluid retention in the body in the period before the onset of menstruation, but also for the occurrence of peripheral vasodilation (dilation of blood vessels) during the luteal phase.
If PMS is uncomfortable, then the premenstrual dysphoric disorder – PMDD is all this ten times magnified. PMDD affects about eight per cent of women, and may be associated with an increase in the levels of stress hormone, especially cortisol. The intensity of its symptoms does not only impair the quality of life, but can also encourage the urge to commit suicide, so it requires serious treatment. Common treatments for PMS and PMDD are birth control pills, which should never be taken on your own but always in consultation with a gynaecologist.
PREMENSTRUAL SYNDROME AND HAPPINESS HORMONES
Another scientific observation is that PMS causes a lack of serotonin, which also explains our instinctive need to reach for chocolate, which promotes the secretion of this hormone of happiness. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible not only for our mood but also for the functioning of the whole body. Along with other hormones of happiness – dopamine, oxytocin and endorphins, serotonin increases when we exercise, spend time in nature and with loved ones, when we laugh, enjoy massage, listen to our favourite music… you could briefly say – when you please yourself.
Conversely, if we bombard our body with tobacco smoke, alcohol, caffeine, if we do not move much, do not spend enough time in natural light, do not sleep enough and especially if we eat poorly, the hormones of happiness will not have a chance to be activated, while all the negative effects of progesterone will only intensify. A research study in which female students participated proved that 80.2 per cent of respondents experienced different levels of PMS which were significantly associated with lifestyle: physical inactivity, excessive caffeinated beverages, fast and unhealthy food and smoking.
Excellent treatment in the fight against PMS symptoms is available to everyone: we should reach more often for fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, flax or chia seeds, as well as increase the intake of foods rich in calcium, zinc and magnesium, B6 and E vitamins, which will especially relieve the feeling of bloating and pain in the lower abdomen and chest. Physical activity is very important, even if it includes only a daily walk, while coffee and alcohol should be avoided as much as possible. As emotional stress affects the whole body, especially the health of the heart and blood vessels, it also worsens the symptoms of PMS. That is why we need to make extra effort to control our own mental state with light meditations or activities that we find soothing.
MEDICINAL HERBS, AN EXCELLENT ALLY
What can help us most, not only when it comes to premenstrual symptoms, but also to our overall reproductive health, are medicinal herbs. In particular, two plants are known as great friends of women – lady’s mantle and yarrow. Standing side by side with them are marigold, herb robert, shepherd’s purse, raspberry leaf – all of them can be found in the most useful form in Femisan A. Femisan A drops and capsules are a completely natural way to alleviate menstrual problems and to deal with unpleasant symptoms of PMS, but also to have a regular cycle, cyst-free ovaries, a healthy uterus without fibroids, to fight a hormonal disorder and get rid of pain in the lower abdomen and chest.
With the selected herbs, the abbreviation PMS may swiftly change its meaning – we could say that PMS is our necessary evil – all the changes that happen to us during 28 days play a role in our reproductive health. But with the help of Femisan A, we can transform our premenstrual syndrome into our premenstrual strength. It is up to us to give it a different interpretation and continue to enjoy life unhindered.