The basics of PMS

It is something that, for millions of women, is as regular as clockwork. Every month, a week or two before their period, they hit a downer. Their mood changes; they're breathless, irritable and bloated; they have headaches, are weepy and have back pain. They're miserable and they make the people around them miserable. Let’s face it: premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or its more aggressive partner, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), is no joke.

Here's a quick "what's what" about the condition, or click here for a more detailed report.

The cause

Uncertain but thought to be hormonally related. What is for certain is that from Day 14 of your menstrual cycle right up until Day 28 your body is awash with hormones. Some women sail through this time, others end up just weathering the storm, while others find themselves firmly dumped on the rocks of emotions and other symptoms.

The symptoms

There are a whole heap of them but the main ones are:

Emotional & Behavioural Symptoms

Physical Signs and Symptoms

  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Aggression
  • Mood Swings
  • Tension or anxiety
  • Depressed mood
  • Crying spells
  • Mood swings and irritability or anger
  • Appetite changes and food cravings
  • Trouble falling asleep (insomnia)
  • Social withdrawal
  • Poor concentration
  • Menstrual Pain
  • Cramping
  • Lower back or small pelvis pain
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain from fluid retention
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Breast tenderness
  • Acne flare-ups
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Change in appetite
  • Swelling of extremities


Although the list of potential signs and symptoms is long, most women with premenstrual syndrome experience only some of these symptoms.

The help

You can go a long way towards helping yourself through diet and exercise.

A good multivitamin will cover the basics and then there are a heap of other supplements which can be added. Think Vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and essential fatty acids (omegas 3 and 6) to beat PMS the natural way.

A diet high in simple sugars and carbohydrates is a no-no, as are caffeine and high-sugar energy drinks.

Seek out fresh fruits and vegetables, drinks loads of water and rooibos tea, and make sure you get in some aerobic exercise to ease your symptoms. Endorphins, those happy-making hormones, are released during exercise – and this includes sex.

Also brush up on the facts by reading our experts' articles on dysmenorrhoea, premenstrual syndrome and menstruation.

* If you have questions, visit GynaeDoc's forum

- (Robyn von Geusau, Health24, February 2010)

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