Premenstrual Syndrome in the 20th Century and How to Live with It

Once considered a largely psychological problem, Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, is now recognized as a series of physical and psychological symptoms associated with the normal hormonal; fluctuations of the menstrual cycle. Premenstrual symptoms occur to some extent in nearly every woman at one time or another. When extreme the symptoms can be debilitating, women suffer from PMS can sometimes minimize the symptoms of PMS if they follow a careful regimen of diet, routine exercise and in some cases medication.
PMS occurs in the week to ten days before the menstrual period begins. More than 150 symptoms have been identified. The most common are bloating, headaches, muscle aches, abdominal cramping, breast swelling and tenderness, lethargy, mood swings, acne, diarrhea, and food cravings. On the other hand some women have reported feeling increased levels of energy and heightened sexual libido.

“Oh, it’s probably just my hormones. What woman hasn’t invoked that explanation for otherwise
inexplicable feelings of depression, anxiety or melaise? Throughout history, doctors too have
blamed hormones for women’s “emotional instability.” In the 19th century, physicians attributed
mental illness in women to abnormalities in their reproductive systems. So ingrained was this
belief that pelvic surgery was a common treatment for a wide range of emotional ills. In fact, the
term hysteria is derived from the Greek word hysteria, which means womb. Ironically, whole
we’ve come a long way from that kind of thinking, recent evidence suggests that female hormones
do play an integral role in the brain’s chemical messenger ystem, which suggests that they
influence behavior. A flurry of new research into the link between hormones and mental health
has set off a heated debate among psychiatrists and feminists, many whom fear that the hormone
theory will once again stigmatize woman.” (Kase 54)
The caused of PMS have been the subject of extensive research. The research has found that the estrogen upsurge of the premenstrual cycle increases water and salt retention, causing the discomforts due to swelling and slight weight gain. This condition can also be the culprit for the swing of emotional mood swings. Mood swings can range from just feeling a little down to severe anger and hatred for no apparent reason. Gastrointestinal disturbances such as diarrhea may be a result of the bloating in combination with the change in steroid hormone levels. Steroid hormone level changes can cause the blood vessels to change and give some women headaches and even migraines. This can make the women breasts feel heavy and tender. For other there is debilitating depression, anxiety and impaired concentration. This can make coping with everyday life nearly impossible. Approxiamatly to 10% of the population of all women of all women suffer from the latter symptoms of a more severe form of PMS, know as premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD. Both PMS and PMDD tend to afflict women in their 20’s and 30’s, sometimes after pregnancy or going off the Pill. It is unclear why, but it has been shown that women with t a history of depression are more likely to develop PMDD. (Lang 207)



“PMS can often be alleviated by making changes in diet, exercise. More
severe PMS or PMDD can be helped with medication, low doses of antidepressants such as Prozac, Paxil, or Zoloft (also known as selective serotonon reuptake inhibitors) effectively treat the psychological symptoms with fewer side effects than older antidepressants. Xanax, an anxiety drug, also eases anxiety and depression when taken for seven or eight days before menses. And the Pill can reduce symptoms in some PMS suffers, though it exacerbates depression in others.” ( Giardina 117)
Alternative remedies such as sensible nutrition prior to menstruation may be all that is necessary for some women to minimize PMS symptoms. Adhering to a low salt diet while increasing fluid intake and eating potassium-rich foods is often effective in preventing bloating. It is suggested that women may also experience relief by restricting alcohol and caffeine intake. The use of vitamin supplements has been widely studied. Results have been inconclusive but some correlation has been found. For example, some research suggests that Vitamin B supplements may alleviate bloating, depression and acne, but this remains controversial. Some women with breast tenderness benefit from high doses of Vitamin