Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) affects a high percentage of women of childbearing age, with many women feeling mood changes in the days before menstruation. And while menstrual symptoms like irritability, anger, and mood swings are a monthly bother for most women, severe PMS can be emotionally debilitating for some.
Fortunately, treating PMS with medication and lifestyle changes can help women control mood changes and other emotional difficulties.
PMS can cause wild, uncontrollable mood swings in some women, who may go from crying spells to angry outbursts and anxiety attacks, then back to a stable emotional state — all in one day.
The most common emotional PMS symptoms are:
Feeling nervous and anxious
Alternating sadness and rage
Treating PMS Symptoms, From Mild to Severe
For many women, lifestyle changes can be a successful part of PMS treatment. For women with severe PMS, medication may be needed. The following PMS treatment options can help stabilize mood swings and improve a woman’s emotional health in the weeks before menstruation:
Exercise. Physical activity can lift moods and improve depression. It’s believed that endorphins — feel-good brain chemicals that are released during exercise — may help counteract some of the hormone changes that may trigger severe PMS. “Exercising can also boost energy and help with cramps and bloating, which may help you feel better,” says Livoti. Aerobic exercise such as walking, running, bicycling, or swimming is recommended.
Small, frequent meals. Eating small meals throughout the day rather than two or three big meals may also help ease PMS symptoms. A large meal, particularly one high in carbohydrates, can cause blood sugar swings, which could worsen PMS. “Low blood sugar may contribute to crying spells and irritability that are often seen in women with severe PMS,” says Livoti. Try to eat six small meals a day to keep your blood sugar levels steady.
Calcium supplements. In a 2009 double-blind clinical trial of college women with PMS, those who supplemented their diet with 500 milligrams of calcium twice daily had significantly less depression and fatigue than those who didn’t. In fact, “a number of studies have shown that getting plenty of calcium can help ease mood changes related to severe PMS, although we don’t know exactly why,” says Livoti.
Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and sweets. Staying away from coffee and other caffeinated drinks for two weeks before your period may make a difference in your mood because caffeine can increase anxiety, nervousness, and insomnia. Cutting down on alcohol may also be helpful because alcohol acts as a depressant. And steering clear of candy, soda, and other sugary foods, especially in the week before your period, may help ease severe PMS symptoms by preventing mood swings associated with blood sugar fluctuations.
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