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What is Premenstrual Syndrome?

Premenstrual syndrome (also called PMS) is the name given to a whole host of unpleasant symptoms that many women experience at some point during their menstrual cycle. It is sometimes coincident with ovulation and thus begins some seven to fourteen days prior to a woman's menstrual period. Symptoms associated with menstruation itself, such as cramps and irritability, are not included under the definition of premenstrual syndrome.

At some point in their reproductive lives, 75% of women will experience premenstrual syndrome. Symptoms include mood swings from euphoria to depression, irritability and causeless anxiety. Physical symptoms such as fluid retention can also be experienced. Premenstrual syndrome is not universally recognized — many doctors believe it is psychosomatic and refuse to treat it. If you are under the care of such a doctor, perhaps switching to a more sympathetic doctor might not be amiss.

Some cases of premenstrual syndrome can be managed with lifestyle changes. Reducing consumption of caffeine, salt and high-sugar foods may decrease symptoms. Eating more starchy foods and adding calcium carbonate and vitamin B6 to ones diet can have positive effects on premenstrual syndrome symptoms.

If you are effected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), you may find PMS symptoms particularly severe in the wintertime. Light therapy for your SAD symptoms may alleviate or lessen the severity of your premenstrual syndrome as well. Light therapy involves being exposed to bright, full-spectrum light for at least several hours during the day in the wintertime.

Herbal remedies include evening primrose oil and chasteberry (or chastetree berry). These can be found at your local health food store. If premenstrual syndrome symptoms are severe, your doctor may prescribe a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor such as Prozac or Zoloft. These drugs are antidepressants and work by increasing the amount of serotonin in the brain.

You may find that premenstrual syndrome, which typically peaks in your twenties or thirties, varies in the degree to which it interferes with your life. When symptoms are mild, manage them with lifestyle changes; if symptoms become progressively worse, try the herbal remedies. Make sure your doctor has effectively ruled out depression or an anxiety disorder before treating your premenstrual syndrome.

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