Want to cry one minute, bite someone’s head off the next and then eat all the pies? Has your face turned into a dot-to-dot, your hair gone greasy and your belly’s puffed right up?
We’ve all been there. This is Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) – but she seems to have come back with a vengeance.
Extreme PMS is usually the first sign that something big is going on inside. As we move into the perimenopause, our levels of the hormone progesterone can start fluctuating rather wildly, even though we’re still having periods.
It’s believed these fluctuations are what leads many women to experience an intensified version of their average premenstrual symptoms.
As well as staying hydrated (we talk about that a lot here but it is really, really important), there are some practical steps you can take to help yourself.
From banishing the bloat to keeping your temper under control, here are our top tips for managing extreme PMS.
EAT LITTLE AND OFTEN
If you’re pigging out on cream cakes one minute then not eating for hours, you’re going to experience a ‘crash’, where those levels bomb and you feel utterly rubbish. This usually leads to the eating of more cream cake for a short-lived boost.
Eating smaller portions at more frequent intervals will help to keep your blood-sugar levels lovely and stable, and may help you reduce bloating.
Make sure you eat plenty of wholegrains, veggies and lean protein to keep your blood sugar steady and you fuller for longer.
A bit of fresh air and light exercise really can be all that’s needed to make a difference when dealing with PMS.
Lifting your heartrate releases endorphins – your brain’s own-brand pick-me-up – which not only improves your mood but helps with a whole host of other perimenopausal symptoms, including low mood and weight gain.
Exercise can also be helpful if your PMS has just dragged you into an unnecessary argument. Taking yourself out of a tense situation for a brisk walk will give you the space to calm down and reassess.
ENJOY A (DARK) CHOCOLATE TREAT
Who doesn’t crave the stuff in the run up to their period? The only problem is that refined, processed sugars like the stuff in most milk chocolate varieties can make bloating and fatigue worse.
However you can still enjoy a chocolate hit, as long as it’s good quality, dark chocolate. Not only is it packed with antioxidants and loaded with minerals, but it may actually increase serotonin levels in the brain, giving you that much-needed boost as you battle PMS.
A clinical trial suggested that calcium may improve PMS symptoms like sadness, irritability and anxiety. Increasing the amount of B6 in your diet by eating fish, poultry or fortified cereals may help too.
Some women swear by herbal remedies Evening Primrose Oil for easing PMS, and others rave about St John’s Wort and ginkgo biloba. Before taking any of these, it’s really important to consult your GP so you understand the potential side-effects and if they’ll interfere with any medication you’re currently taking.
LIMIT YOUR SALT INTAKE
Okay, we know this is a tough one when all you probably want to do is sit on the sofa and demolish a sharing-size packet of crisps. But excess salt is only going to make you feel more like a balloon that’s about to burst.
Salt causes your body to retain water, especially around your abdomen so it’s best to avoid having too much of it around your time of the month.
SPEAK TO YOUR GP
If your PMS is getting in the way of you leading a normal life or causing big problems in your relationships with others, it may be worth sitting down with your doctor.
They may talk to you about antidepressants or hormone treatments like HRT if you’re struggling with mood swings.
HINTS AND TIPS FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO SUPPORT SOMEONE THEY THINK MAY BE ENTERING OR IN MENOPAUSE
If you’re on the receiving end of extreme PMS, it can be a rough ride. But it’s really important when someone you care about is feeling emotionally sensitive to show your support.
OUR ADVICE TO THEM
On top of a visit to the doctor for a check-up, we’ve recommended that they exercise regularly and eat little and often to keep cravings in check.
Reducing salt intake can also help with problems like bloating and avoiding foods high in processed sugars may improve mood swings.
RESIST THE URGE TO SNAP BACK
Extreme PMS can cause some pretty intense mood swings. It’s not always easy when you’re on the receiving end but try your best to stay calm when tensions flair. It will pass and contrary to how it feels right now, it’s not all your fault.
Neuro-receptors in their brain are being affected by fluctuating oestrogen levels which can result in a quick temper and sharp tongue.
ASK THEM WHAT WILL HELP
Ask them exactly what you could do to help. Can you do more round the house if you live together? Could you cancel on a couple of commitments to ease social pressure? Would they like you to run them a bath or even just make them a cup of tea – but only if that’s what they wants.
Ask, rather than assume. If you do the latter you may well find it has the opposite effect to the one you’d like.
DON’T TAKE IT PERSONALLY
We appreciate it may feel like a personal slight if they are being off with you or generally withdrawn. But it’s most likely nothing to do with you.
Bear in mind that they might be feeling sensitive or physically rotten due to their fluctuating hormones. Take a deep breath and either ask them if anything is wrong or if they need some space.
MAKE SURE YOU ARE MENTALLY WELL
You may find it easier to support them when she is dealing with menopausal mental health issues if your head is in a good place.
What do you need to bolster yourself so you can weather their hormonal storms? Decent rest, good food, exercise and the right people to talk to will all help. Take care of yourself and you will be able to find the patience and understanding to help them too.
SUGGEST A SUPPLEMENT
Reference the below link which summarises current research into the benefits of selected complementary therapies for the treatment of PMS.
If you’re worried about worsening PMS, you should see your GP who can discuss your symptoms in the context of the menopause.
If you'd like more information, we have put some further references below for you.