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It was like any other morning. I found my flat mate’s post it on my door, “It is your turn to take out the trash”, it said.
I was amazed at the diligence of that note every alternate week considering the kind of pig I was living with. Yes, it was like any other morning. I saw the living room in a mess with her empty breakfast bowls still sitting on the table, the sofa handles with holes from her cigarette butts and the fans running. I took a deep breath and went to the kitchen only to find another note stuck right below the refrigerator magnet, “Please replace the apple juice you drank, I am not responsible for keeping you hydrated!”. It was not really like any other day because I crumpled the note with all my might and threw it in the dustbin before taking the trash out.
Deep breath followed and I read the words on the refrigerator magnet. “PMS, be afraid. Be very afraid!”, it read.
So what ordinarily would have been overlooked made me ramble a two page “note” for my flat mate. Despite the fact that it was difficult to find a roommate in Mumbai, I started the note with the words “How is this for a note!?” in bigger fonts. I realized the reason why I refrained from using the edit button on my laptop. I was a week away from my periods and PMSing. I used the office printer to get the print out and stuck it on my roommate’s door as soon as I got back from office. The next morning, I just got another note, “Let’s talk”, it said. It was the PMS that made me say outloud “Bring it on!”, but thankfully it lead to me finding a great roommate who wasn’t a pig.
Women have drawn a lot of flak for the behavioral changes while on PMS from men and partners alike. Let me assure you that it is not a trend that has caught on. It exists and has a credible scientific explanation.
Two weeks before the periods, there is a gradual surge of progesterone secretion which is released into the bloodstream. Progesterone further breaks down into several different compounds in our body. Now two of these compounds, allopregnanolone and pregnenolone, mess with our brain and affect our neural functions. Animal studies further revealed that injection of progesterone in their body caused anxiety, thereby concluding it affects parts of the brain related to anxiety and mood.
PMS or Premenstrual syndrome increases between the age 30 to 40 years in women. There is another research in this field that indicates a hormonal imbalance, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, reactive hypoglycaemia, prostaglandin imbalance, endogenous opiate peptides or hormone ‘allergy’, menstrual toxins, and neurotransmitter imbalance, as cause for PMS (Source: Nicholas Panay, during a NAPS presentation at the University of Kent). But despite the common incidence and its effects on women, there is not much conclusive study in this field.
So apart from cramps, bloating and mood swings what else do we get? Some women aren’t as lucky. Severe PMS leads to premenstrual dysphoric disorder which have graver symptoms which include severe depression. There are also factors that can make women more susceptible to this, stress being the foremost contributor.
With so much to handle, I bet a ranting on a piece of paper and sticking it on the door won’t really help. What can one really do to handle PMS?
Increase your intake of fruits, vegetable and cut back on sugar. Also, cut back on salts and fat. Just like the chemicals in your body act up during PMS, the carbohydrates in whole grains may result in release of mood enhancing compounds in your body. During PMS, some women also experience cravings for a certain kind of snack. Typically, these cravings are for fat or salt containing foods. Substitute it with whole grain food to avoid gaining that unnecessary weight. Anyway a healthy diet doesn’t just help during a PMS but all year through!
Supported by studies, this comes as a sound advice. Women who smoke are twice as likely to be affected by severe PMS as opposed to those who don’t. However, the exact reasons behind this are not clear, but quitting the butt can actually lead to no or less PMS.
Get your heart pumping
Staying active helps a great deal to help with PMS. You wouldn’t want anything but to sit in your jammies with a tub of ice cream, but believe that really won’t help (perhaps the ice cream will). What you need is to stay active with exercise and aerobic activities such as dancing, jogging or swimming. Even if you are not able to combat PMS completely, you will certainly not feel bloated and be able to handle stress way better.
Reduce alcohol and caffeine
Contrary to what you may think these two things are poison during PMS. They take you on a rollercoaster ride of the worst kind. Ironically, some women experience more craving for caffeine in the form of tea, coffee, chocolate (yes, even chocolate isn’t right) and alcohol. We need to fight them. Instead, try some warm water that will make you feel nice.
Stress is the biggest contributor to sending you on a PMS swing. You need to relax. I understand that it is easier said than done, but consider deep breathing techniques, yoga or meditation. Stretch your muscles a bit to relax.
Due to the many deficiencies that you might experience before and during your periods, it is advisable to take some supplements. Taking calcium, omega-3s and linoleic acid most certainly helps. Take them after consulting your doctor.
Talk it out
Talking it out with fellow PMS survivor always helps. If you have an understanding partner than most of the stress is taken care of anyway. Try and talking it out no matter what fear you have of being called crazy. It will help to actually have peer groups and share information with each other on PMS.
PMS is not an excuse, certainly not the one we would like to live with. If most of you can’t understand it at least acknowledge the existence of it with some empathy. That will help!