PMS/Pre-menstrual Tension

Men sometimes think women use it as an excuse for everything but it can make women feel emotional, irrational and depressed.

Often women know they are behaving strangely/irrationally but cannot stop themselves. This can lead to frustration and anger.

Positively however, people who work in the creative field have noted that their most original work has come during their PMS time.

But
what is PMS?
No one knows exactly how PMS works, although it is triggered by the changing hormone levels within a menstrual cycle. The key question while experiencing PMS like symptoms such as water retention or irritability is WHEN DO the symptoms occur.

PMS is defined as symptoms that occur after ovulation and disappear as soon as your period arrives. The easiest way of identifying if your symptoms are PMS related is by keeping a diary. If the symptoms disappear as soon as your menstrual flow starts, its PMS.

A lovely description of PMS
Dr Christiane Northrup, in her book Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom, looks at PMS in a different way.

The body is fundamentally geared up for us to procreate, to keep the species alive!

After we finish our periods, our body is preparing for ovulation, our time to get pregnant and so the body does everything it can to make that happen.

It makes us feel happier during this time, our liabido naturally rises, our problems do not seem to bother us as much during this time. Why?

Because our body knows that we are more likely to attract a mate and have sex if we are feeling happy, positive and social!

After ovulation has passed and we are not pregnant, women often find they feel more introverted at this time, less social, suddenly things which did not bother them at other times of the month, feel very annoying or emotional.

The focus of our bodies has now switched, it wants us to look at what is wrong in our lives, to make changes, to improve so we can do better at attracting a mate and being healthy to sustain a pregnancy the following month.

PMS is better thought of as an aggressive messaging service, our body’s way of trying get our attention to make changes and get rid of things that don't sustain or suit us anymore.

Once we start to listen, the PMS will go away, only returning when there is something we need to action or change.

PMS is the best time to get in contact with our inner wisdom, this is more easily accessed through journal writing, since we can download our thoughts, clearing the initial chatter, then flowing into something more insightful. It is a wonderfully productive time.

By changing our attitude to PMS and seeing it as an aggressive messaging service, it is a real positive, it is a direct access to our inner wisdom to give us the nudge we need to make positive changes. All we need to do is listen.

How do we do this?
Take a piece of paper and write down all the things that are pissing you off and making you feel angry, frustrated, and emotional. Just let everything out, don't hold back however uncomfortable things may be. Use it as an outlet for your emotions.

Later on, when you feel calm, go back and re-read what you have written. Although it may seem strong or too angry/frustrated look at the overall message, what were you feeling? Are there things written there which you need to address and change.

By changing our attitudes and thinking of PMS as an aggressive messaging service for those emotional/angry/frustrating moments we can feel an element of control which we normally don't feel with PMS, which may make the process easier to handle.

There is a high incidence of women with severe PMS and growing up in a difficult family environment or suppressing their needs and desires to meet other people's needs and expectations. New Research by Dr. Carrie Sadler showed that PMS increases with the stress a woman has in her life.

Other factors
Changes to lifestyle, diet and stress relieving techniques are wonderful at helping people tackle their PMS.

Types and their associated symptoms
There are up to 150 signs and symptoms of PMS, it has been sub-categorised into 4 types, although some days we may feel that we have them all!

Type A
  • Anxiety, nervousness, mood swings, irritability.
  • Shown to be helped by: Magnesium and Vitamin B6
  • Supporting the adrenal-kidney and liver functions
Type B
  • Weight gain, water retention, swollen legs, breast tenderness, bloating
  • Shown to be helped by: Magnesium and Vitamin B6 and E
  • Creating more lymph movement with dry skin brushing, hot and cold showering, Epsom Salt baths
Type C
  • Food/Sugar Cravings, headaches, change in appetite, fatigue
  • Shown to be helped by: Magnesium and Vitamin B6 and chromium
  • Keeping blood sugar more stable with regular meals containing protein, breakfast here is vital, ideally between 7-9am
  • Supporting the liver functions of the body
  • Reducing salt and using more natural sugar such as honey rather than refined sugars and fats
Type D
  • Depression, forgetfulness, crying, confusion, insomnia
  • Shown to be helped by: Magnesium and Vitamin B6 and C
  • Eating more foods rich in essential fatty acids, helps the central nervous system, endocrine system and brain activity.
Symptoms may vary from month to month and even within one cycle.

Factors that seem to contribute to PMS
  • Poor diet - Low levels of fruits, vegetables, essential fatty acids
  • High diary levels
  • High caffeine levels
  • High levels of sugar/processed foods
  • Poor uptake/absorption of nutrients (see digestion)
  • High oestrogen levels
  • Poor oestrogen elimination
  • Excess weight can increase the levels of oestrogen in the body and since body fat produces oestrogen
  • Deficiencies in B vitamins
  • Low levels of progesterone
  • Low levels of certain vitamins and minerals
  • Lower levels of sunlight
  • Low exercise levels
  • Not knowing how to relax, busy heads
By addressing these factors PMS symptoms have decreased or totally disappeared.

Why does reflexology help?
Reflexology allows the body to de-stress and relax, stimulating the body's own healing systems to work more effective and efficiently to help the body return back to its natural state of balance.

It is wonderful at targeting specific areas of the body highly implicated with PMS such as the liver, kidney areas as well as helping to balance the nervous and hormonal systems.

It helps women to let go of emotions and mental stress.

Relevant Reflexology Research
(1) Pre-menstrual syndrome 
60 women participated over 16 consecutive menstruation periods.
  • Women were assessed for periods 1-6
  • Treatments provided for periods 7-10 receiving 10 each
  • Follow-up for periods 11-16
  • During the 16 periods a diary was kept, monitoring sick days, symptoms and use of painkillers
  • All women in the study were between 18-40 with PMS
Results showed that 3-4 reflexology sessions per menstruation period over 4 periods can reduce the number of PMS days and the PMS symptoms. Medication levels required fell substantially.(FDZ - Danish reflexology association 2000)

Mental Well being
A reflexologist and a counsellor worked with a total of 74 people (49 received reflexology and 25 received counselling).

Physical improvements underpinned feelings of enhanced mental/emotional well-being for many participants. The researchers observed that the release of tension through being able to talk led to greater relaxation, was found to alleviate headaches and improve sleep.

With the exception of 2 participants in the reflexology sample, there was a reported increase in relaxation levels and a decrease in anxiety levels.

The participants developed an increased awareness of tension in the body and an increased ability to change that state, e.g. they consciously altered their breathing and their posture.

Many participants reported improved emotional status. Fear, worry and despair reported at the beginning of the study had changed into more positive and fulfilling emotions.

Perhaps the most interesting finding of the study was that the participants tended to make greater progress when reflexology and counselling were offered together, and the report recommended greater integration of the therapies.
Reflexology and Counselling: an evaluation of a complementary health care project at Worthing Mind. September 1997.

Recommended Reading
Women's Bodies Women's Wisdom - Christiane Northrup MD
Heal your life - Louise Hay

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