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The Carletonian

The Carletonian


    <emenstrual Syndrome: Remedies and Reflections

    Menstruation: That Time of the Month, Red Tide, Aunt Flo, On the Rag, Cousin Red, Riding the Cotton Pony, The Curse.

    Menstrual myths, misconceptions, and taboos have been universal for thousands of years and persist even today. The contemporary female continues to struggle with menstrual misconceptions: How should I handle menstruation? Is premenstrual syndrome real? And finally, is it preferable to deny any effect, carry on, and pay no attention to symptoms of menstrual distress or to embrace dear Aunt Flo?

    Let’s start by addressing the question on everyone’s mind: What really is PMS and is it a legitimate concern? Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) involves a variety of physical, mental, and behavioral symptoms tied to a woman’s menstrual cycle. Up to 80 percent of menstruating women experience symptoms of PMS; however, in most of these women, PMS is nothing more than an annoyance. On the other hand, for about 5 percent of women, the symptoms are debilitating enough to interfere with daily life.

    Some researchers suspect that the mood changes and emotional shifts are related to the levels of reproductive hormones (e.g., progesterone and estrogen) in a woman’s body. Increased tension, anxiety, and irritability of PMS may be due to a low-estrogen-to-progesterone ratio. In other words, levels of progesterone, a hormone believed to have a tranquilizing effect, may be lower than estrogen levels, resulting in anxiety.

    Another theory arises from shifting levels of neurotransmitters (i.e., chemicals that are used to relay, amplify and modulate signals between a neuron and another cell). Changing levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine are thought to play a significant role in the anxiety and irritability that may arise before menstruation.

    There are some things you can do to make the two weeks prior to your period a little easier. The following changes are healthy recommendations for college-aged women with premenstrual symptoms.

    Cut back on caffeine. Caffeine is a natural stimulant and can contribute to mood swings, feelings of anxiety, nervousness, and edginess. Reducing the amount of caffeine you eat and drink (e.g., soda, coffee drinks, and chocolate) may help you feel less tense and can ease irritability and breast soreness.

    Watch what you eat. Fluctuating blood sugar levels can cause your energy level to swing up and down, making it harder to cope with PMS symptoms. Maintaining a steady blood sugar level by eating frequent small meals and avoiding sweets like cookies, candy, and chocolate can make coping with PMS symptoms easier.

    Stay active. Exercise is very important for women with premenstrual symptoms (or syndrome). Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, the body’s natural opiates, which work as “natural pain relievers”, whose effects may decrease painful cramping and boost your mood.

    Remove sodium from your diet. If bloating and water retention are major problems for you, try reducing your salt intake. Cutting down on sodium will help to control bloating by lowering the amount of fluid your body retains.

    Increase dietary calcium. Research studies have shown that getting 1,300 mg of calcium a day can help with premenstrual symptoms, as calcium is believed to affect levels of hormones and neurotransmitters. This means that you should eat or drink four servings of high calcium foods (e.g., milk, fortified orange juice, or soy milk) each day. If you are lactose intolerant, or have a difficult time including enough calcium in your diet, a calcium supplement may help.

    Finally, studies show that a negative attitude about one’s body and menstrual cycle is a major factor in PMS. Some women have found relief from PMS by just changing how they value and honor their femininity. Start taking note of the positive changes that you may experience during your cycle, including increased sexual desire, feelings of affection, or increased creativity. By talking about the menstrual cycle more openly, with positive images and language, women can redefine menstruation as a positive and affirmative aspect of their lives.

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