Health Conditions

The PMS Spectrum

Overemotional and snapping in frustration for no reason is the complete definition of PMS. That is, it’s the definition constructed by people who don’t experience PMS, Typically hearing this definition garners the expected response of snapping in frustration, which doesn’t help our case, but it’s with good reason.

As a woman it’s frustrating when up to a week or two of your month can be consumed by feeling less than 100 percent just to be followed by another week of not feeling your best. Then there’s the frustration of why some women experience horrible PMS symptoms while others barely experience a twinge, it’s no big deal.

To help alleviate some of the pain (metaphorical and literal) that comes with PMS we dove in to the research to pull out explanations along with some advice on how to make the best of PMS. Here’s what we found:

What symptoms can I attribute to PMS?

Well, basically, all of them. With your body preparing to release an egg to be fertilized (ovulation), hormone levels change causing the chemistry of your body to follow, which brings about a multitude of symptoms. Some of these symptoms include light-headedness, headaches, muscle tension and pain, increased hunger, mood swings, bloating, episodes of insomnia. Sounds awesome.

Thankfully, many of these symptoms can be warded off with lifestyle changes and treatments to reduce the effects caused by the main root of PMS symptoms, which is hormonal imbalance. However, some persisting or severe symptoms could be a sign of another medical issue in which you should consult a physician.

Why do I feel so terrible?

 It’s interesting how some women hardly feel the effects of PMS, or only suffer from a couple symptoms, while other women experience symptoms that interrupt daily life and routines. The main element that determines if your body responds to hormonal changes with PMS is if there is an imbalance. So in other words, PMS symptoms occur when hormones such as estrogen and progesterone have higher- or lower-than-normal levels. Chemical changes in the brain, such as serotonin levels (a neurotransmitter that influences mood), could also be a contributing factor.

These hormone imbalances can be attributed to a variety of causes such as high-sugar and a refined carbohydrate diet, low levels of vitamins and minerals, high caffeine consumption, stress (read more on the effects of stress on the body here), hormones in animal products as well as other environmental factors.

Why are some PMS is worse for some women more than others?

According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists at least 85 percent of menstruating women have at least one PMS symptom as part of their monthly cycle. PMS also occurs more frequently for women who are between their late twenties and early forties, have at least one child and have a family history of depression, according to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health.

Other lifestyle factors such as stress, pre-existing health conditions and diet have a huge effect on someone’s individual response to PMS.

How do I stop this from happening month after month?

 Combating PMS can be a multi-pronged effort. For some simply making a few changes in diet and lifestyle are enough to squash symptoms. Other women who experience more severe symptoms may choose to a combination of lifestyle changes and medical treatments such as hormone therapy.

One of the best ways to beat PMS is to tweak (or completely overhaul depending on what it looks like) parts of your diet. This includes cutting out sugar and processed foods as a main food group, increasing fiber in your diet with fruits and vegetables, stabilizing your blood sugar by eating meals with solid sources of protein throughout the day (don’t skip meals!). Who would’ve thought you could actually be healthier and feel better by eating more? It’s all about what you’re eating more of. And look in to taking multivitamins and other supplements, such as omega-3s, to round out a healthy diet.

Increasing your movement with exercise is also a great way to keep your body’s hormones in check in addition to minimizing stress. Essentially, you’re killing two PMS birds with one stone on that one.

All in all, PMS is one of the elusive bodily responses that is different for everyone, and can vary from month to month. The best way to combat PMS is getting in tune with your body and evaluating where changes can be made.

 Side note: This article is merely an overview with insight on what constitutes and encompasses PMS. For medical solutions and treatment advice, consult a physician.

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Elle Michels

Elle Michels

Based in Washington, D.C., Elle Michels is a contributing writer to