Below are some of the most common theories
about why we experience PMS - keep in mind that more than
one theory may apply to any individual.
Hormonal Excesses or Imbalances
The most popular theory regarding PMS is that the ratio of
to progesterone is not in its proper balance
and therefore can affect the target tissues. This may be caused
either by the overproduction of estrogen or by a deficiency
of progesterone. Excess estrogen causes symptoms such as irritability,
anxiety, bloating, weight gain, breast tenderness, mild depression,
and increased cramping. The opposite ratio-excess progesterone-may
also occur. Excess progesterone acts as a depressant and can
result in symptoms such as mild depression, decreased libido,
fatigue, sedation, and water retention.
Estrogen and Brain Chemistry
Neurotransmitters are chemical agents released by nerve cells
that convey "messages" between brain cells and are
linked to our brain function and moods. Examples of neurotransmitters
include serotonin, dopamine, and adrenaline. Variations in
the amount of transmitters released of these neurotransmitters
can alter our mental state; for example fluctuations in dopamine
and serotonin levels influence mood and appetite. For women,
variations in estrogen levels may affect the synthesis of
these neurotransmitters and thus how our brain functions.
Dopamine is particularly important as it is responsible for
creating relaxation and mental alertness. It also lowers a
hormone called prolactin,
important during our second half of the cycle, influencing
adrenal glands and kidneys and reducing water retention. The
theory suggests the following: too much estrogen can lead
to a related elevation of adrenaline (which can cause hyperactivity)
coupled with a drop in dopamine (which is necessary for relaxation).
This results in increased anxiety, irritability, tension,
and mood swings.
This is the theory for menstrual cramps. Prostaglandins
(PG) are hormone-like substances that are found in virtually
all cells of the body. They function as mediators for a variety
of physiological functions, including immunity from disease,
inflammation of smooth muscles and dilation of blood vessels.
Menstrual cramps are believed to be caused by an increased
secretion of prostaglandins, primarily from the uterus. This
can increase inflammation of the tissues as well as the strength
of the contraction of smooth muscle. (the uterus is made up
of smooth muscle)
Nutrition & Diet
Whether or not you suffer from PMS may be greatly influenced
by your diet. Women with PMS generally consume more refined
sugar, refined carbohydrates, sodium and dairy products, and
fewer foods containing B vitamins, iron, zinc, and manganese.
Nutritional factors may also play a significant role in the
production and metabolism of hormones. As an example, estrogen
is not only produced in the ovaries but can also be released
in the intestinal tract. Estrogen is also conjugated in the
liver. To maintain normal estrogen levels, it is important
that food does not take too long to travel through the intestinal
tract; this is one of the reasons a high in fiber intake is
often recommended for women experiencing PMS. Diets high in
protein and animal fats should also be moderate to control
PMS. Both can result in the recycling of estrogen, thus adding
too much to the body.
Prolonged levels of stress have been shown to exacerbate PMS
by affecting sex hormone production -- primarily by chemical
fluctuations in the brain. The higher brain centers that coordinate
our physical and emotional existence, no doubt affect the
hypothalamic function. The hypothalamus as explained in Menstrual
cycle explained plays an important role orchestrating
our sex hormones. Acute stress is believed to inhibit proper
functioning of the hypothalamus and explains the temporary
loss of menstruation that may follow great emotional turmoil.
In addition, prolonged feelings of stress stimulate other
hormones, including those in the adrenal and thyroid glands,
also known to interfere with sex hormones. Stress can be mitigated
by both exercise and meditation which are proven to improve
circulation as well as increase endorphin and neurotransmitter
levels. "Fulfilling" social interactions and/or
environment that is supportive can also reduce stress. As
suggested, all of these can help dissipate stress and therefore
make us less susceptible to mood fluctuations.