Pms Symptoms

Many women are too familiar with the discomfort that accompanies their menstrual cycle before bleeding begins. Indicators of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) range from uncomfortable bloating to severe cramping and debilitating migraine headaches.

Premenstrual syndrome effects are generally felt during the second half of the menstrual cycle: about 14 days after the first day of the last period. They usually do not occur for about a week after a menstrual period ends (the first half of the cycle). If you have these symptoms in the beginning of your menstrual cycle, you can assume they are not premenstrual syndrome symptoms. By definition PMS refers to the time in the middle of the cycle.

Doctors acknowledge over 150 premenstrual syndrome symptoms. Some of the most common are:

  • backaches or menstrual cramps
  • bloating and weight gain
  • breast tenderness and swelling
  • fatigue
  • headache or menstrual migraine
  • irritability and depression
  • loss of libido
  • mood swings.

Pimples and acne may appear or worsen during this time. Doctors are not sure if this is due to hormone levels, water retention or other causes. Prescribed remedies include antibiotics and hormone therapy, such as birth control pills. Traditional Chinese medicine takes the stance that skin problems come from toxins in the liver and other organs.

Slight disturbances in thinking and emotional balance, such as inability to concentrate, difficulty making decisions, feelings of guilt or alienation, and unpredictable (and sometimes drastic) mood swings are also recognized as common PMS symptoms.

What are the Causes of PMS?

The belief is that fluctuations in the hormones estrogen and progesterone are key factors. Estrogen is known to cause water retention, which is probably the underlying cause of weight gain, bloating and breast tenderness. In addition, women with PMS seem to metabolize progesterone in a different manner than women who do not experience PMS symptoms. This leads to decreased production of an anti-anxiety neurosteroid called allopregnanolone. These hormonal and metabolic changes that occur in a woman’s body to regulate the function of the uterus, lead to the symptoms associated with PMS.

Many believe that diet may worsen a woman’s symptoms. Caffeine has been shown to increase estrogen levels, and many women report adverse effects from drinking coffee. Some reports claim that eating soy products may help to balance hormone levels. Craving chocolate? A hankering for sweets and high-fat foods during the premenstrual period is common, but eating these foods can increase bloating, water retention and even irritability. Unhealthy cravings can sometimes be managed by substituting healthy foods that are naturally sweet, such as fresh fruits instead of foods high in processed sugar.


Collins, J. MD. (n.d.) PMS