Using the Pill for Menstrual Cramps
What is it?
PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome. It is a set of symptoms
that are experienced by many women during the days just prior to
their period. These symptoms are triggered by the hormonal
changes that the body is undergoing at that time.
Women with PMS may experience all or some of the following symptoms:
- Bloating and water retention
- Breast tenderness
- A craving for sugar
Treating the Symptoms
For the treatment of premenstrual syndrome, women have a rather
wide spectrum of options, ranging from simple changes in diet and
exercise all the way up to having her ovaries surgically removed.
However, ovary removal is a very extreme option, and it will leave
the woman infertile.
For most women, PMS is a one-two punch of water retention and
moodiness that usually begins about two weeks before
menstruation. Water retention usually appears in the form of weight
gain and a feeling of bloating, but it is also responsible for breast
tenderness. Ironically, increasing fluid intake alleviates this
symptom. These should be clear liquids such as water, NOT Coke.
Avoiding caffeine and alcohol are also believed to help alleviate
the bloating symptoms, because these upset the body's natural
fluid balance. Avoiding salt is more questionable, since your body
has mechanisms to keep you in balance with respect to salt and
fluid. If you restrict salt intake, your body will retain more of the salt
that it does get.
Hormonal changes of the pre-menstrual phase effect blood sugar
metabolism. These changes can contribute to moodiness. Worse
yet, women crave sugars to alleviate the symptoms. Studies have
shown that women with more severe premenstrual symptoms also
eat a diet higher in simple sugars. A better route to take would be
to reduce those simple sugars but replace them with more
complex carbohydrates eaten in a number of smaller meals
throughout the day. Carbohydrates are sugars strung together in a
complex structure. They will address this craving and its related
symptoms. But they will release their energy and calories to the
body in a slower, more steady fashion than would simple sugars,
which just dump into the bloodstream all at once. Thus,
carbohydrates are not associated with the roller coaster
fluctuations in blood sugar and resulting mood swings.
Carbohydrate intake is also associated with increased serotonin
levels in the brain. This is the brain chemical increased by many
anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs, like Prozac or Zoloft. The
presence of serotonin in the brain tends to act against depression.
These dietary changes may be given a further kick with regular
exercise. Something as simple as brisk lunch hour walks for a mile
or two a few days a week is enough to ward off symptoms of PMS,
not to mention a host of other health problems. In general, regular
exercise is associated with less depression and less mood
Diet and exercise changes may be further enhanced with the help
of mineral supplements. Some doctors recommend taking 1000
mg of calcium every day, plus 400 IU of magnesium. While these
have been clinically proven to alleviate symptoms, their
mechanism is unknown. Previously, it had been believed that
substances like vitamins B6 and E may help out also, but there has
been no scientific evidence to support this. Of course, taking a
multivitamin every day is a good idea anyway.