Unpopular opinion, but, personally, I love a good Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). A little preview to my monthly menstruation is a welcome gift. That being said, what do the symptoms actually mean and how can we effectively and naturally deal with them? Fun fact: PMSing generally happens seven to 14 days before your period begins, and stops when the bleeding starts. This is known as the luteal phase of your cycle, when your hormones pull a U.S. of A on your uterus and engage in a peaceful transfer of power. Progesterone increases in the body while estrogen decreases, triggering a whole host of potential symptoms that range in quantity and severity from person to person. Truly the cornerstone of our democracy, as they say. If you’ve ever wondered what the symptoms of PMS actually are (slightly different from Premenstrual dysphoric disorder [PMDD], which is a more severe condition wherein the symptoms keep you from being able to function normally)  and how you can deal with them, we’ve got you covered. Here’s your guide to all things PMS. Pass the heating pad.


Cramps


Perhaps the most famous of all the symptoms, period cramps are the real deal. Depending on your biology, the severity of period cramps can be anything from mild to debilitating. According to Planned Parenthood, ultra severe cramps can be an indication of the following: Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (an infection in your reproductive organs), Endometriosis (a condition where the lining of your uterus grows outside of your uterus), Adenomyosis (when the tissue that lines your uterus grows into the muscle wall of your uterus), Fibroids (non-cancerous tumors that grow inside your uterus, in the walls of your uterus, or on the outside of your uterus). But why is there a sadistic little demon inside your belly using a million tiny shards of glass to carve the entirety of the Declaration of Independence into your uterus? Cramps happen when your uterus contracts in order to shed the lining, giving you what you call your period. Though lame, the cramps are actually the reason why you’re able to expel all that blood and unused tissue! Have you thanked your cramps today?


Acne


Oof, this one really sucks. Something like sixty-three-percent of acne-prone women experience PMS flare-ups of zits. Along with that transfer of hormonal power we talked about earlier, the male hormone testosterone also factors in during PMS. As your period approaches and your estrogen and progesterone are in flux, testosterone levels are comparatively elevated because the levels stay at a constant level all month. Also, mid-cycle progesterone actually increases the production of sebum, which acts as a skin lubricant but can also clog up your pores and end in breakouts. Combine that increased sebum with the testosterone and your pimples are off to the races.


Depression/Mood swings


The hormonal changes can actually have an effect on the serotonin levels in your brain. Serotonin is cool because it regulates things like your mood and your sensitivity to pain—unfortunately for folks susceptible to PMS, drops in serotonin can lead to fluctuations in mood and even depression leading up to your period. It’s true that some women with severe PMS actually have undiagnosed depression, which can contribute to the PMS symptoms. The most common PMS symptoms associated with your mood are anxiety, nervousness, mood swings, irritability, depression, forgetfulness, confusion, insomnia, and hostility. Basically, you’ll be the life of the party and the belle of the ball!


Gastrointestinal issues/Bloating


The zipper-busting is real. It’s thought that bloating occurs during PMS because the cycling of the hormones affects the function of the kidneys, which balance water and salt in the body. Although, maybe I can’t fit into my pants because of all the chocolate and red meat I’m eating. See below.


Cravings


One of the greatest indicators of my approaching period is my absolutely ravenous, insatiable appetite. Sometimes I’ll just see how many burgers I can fit in my mouth at one time. The answer is about an eighth of one. That’s okay. Anyway. Interestingly enough, your increased cravings around your period could also be linked to the serotonin levels in your brain. When they’re low, you crave sweets with more intensity (This Period Brought To You By: Girl Scouts Thin Mints and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups). Make sure you’re getting a protein-rich diet and eating enough to keep your blood sugar levels in check. Six smaller meals paced out throughout the day can help control cravings and keep you feeling good.

 

by Emma Glassman-Hughes

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