The term PMS (per-menstrual syndrome) describes a group of physical, mental and emotional symptoms. Experienced by women symptoms of PMS start one to two weeks before the onset of menstruation, and go away when the period starts, or soon afterwards.

It’s common for women to experience some extent of premenstrual symptoms. In 40% of the female population symptoms are significant enough to be classified as PMS, yet it is not clear why some women are affected and other not. It is believed to occur as a result of the changes in levels of oestrogen that occur in the last phase of the menstrual cycle.

Indicators

Symptoms start one to two weeks before the onset of menstruation, and go away when the period starts, or soon afterwards. These include:

  • Fatigue, can be caused by disturbed sleep patterns
  • Food cravings (especially for chocolate, sweet and salty foods)
  • Appetite changes
  • Bloating and fluid retention
  • Breast tenderness and pain
  • Headaches, backaches, muscle aches and joint pain
  • Mood swings, irritability, hostility, tension, anger
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Poor concentration
  • Acne, oily skin and/or oily hair
  • Digestive disturbances, such as diarrhoea or constipation

Remedies and tips

A number of dietary factors influence appear to influence PMS symptoms and it is advised to avoid the following in the final phase of menstruation:

  • High dietary intake of salt, which is especially linked to fluid retention.
  • Excessive consumption of sugar, alcohol and/or caffeine, linked to disturbed moods and energy issues.
  • High fat diets, especially those high in saturated fat.

Regular exercise has been observed to offer a degree of protection from PMS as is associated with less susceptibility to both emotional and physical symptoms.

Severe PMS symptoms may be an indication of an underlying problem so seek professional advice if your premenstrual symptoms are severe enough to interfere with your daily activities, disturb your personal relationships or effect other emotional problems.