"Still, I think our bodies are trying to tell us something," says Jackson, "and that we have not been listening."
Her theory is that women suffering from the "hormonal imbalance" of PMS are telling a kind of truth about the world we live in. "They are expressing," says Jackson, "in a tangible, physical sense, the degree to which women are still devalued and misunderstood in this culture."
She concludes: "My own prescription for this "social disease" would be to send the whole culture to an Attitude Clinic and to leave the premenstrual patient alone."
Do You Have PMS ?
To begin with, however, it is important that a woman's experience of her premenstrual time be taken seriously by her family, friends and physician. Most women with PMS are enormously relieved to find out that PMS is actually a physical condition and that it can be successfully treated.
For a woman, finding out that she has PMS can be a revelation. Through charting her symptoms, she becomes more aware of her body and her emotions at various points in the menstrual cycle and how these correlate with events in her life.
Charting, or keeping track of how you feel both physically and emotionally in relationship to your menstrual cycle, is the key to the diagnosis of PMS. There are no blood tests for this condition.
The first thing you should do if you suspect you have PMS is to write down your symptoms every day, rating how severe they are. (for example, on a scale from one to 10) You should do this daily for at least two to three months, noting also the time of your period every month, and major stresses encountered during that month. If all your symptoms are clustered in the two weeks before your period, and seriously affected your life, then you probably have PMS.
On the other hand, if your symptoms stay the same throughout your whole cycle, you may be suffering from another medical or psychological problem and should go to your doctor for a complete assessment.
In treating PMS, the first step is charting and identifying PMS as the problem. The next step is to gain control of your symptoms to your satisfaction, and finally to address the issues that have come up in your family and work life as a result of PMS.
Gaining control of troublesome symptoms requires a multi-faceted approach involving nutrition, vitamins, stress reduction, counselling and support. In severe incapacitating PMS, drugs may occasionally be useful but only as a last resort.
Nutrition And Vitamins
Dr. Carolyn Dean, in her article, on the management of PMS (Canadian Family Physician Apr/86), suggests a stepwise approach to PMS. Starting with diet, a woman proceeds along until she finds the right combination that works for her. Each step can be tried for one month or more before the next step is added on. Although these treatments have not been proven in controlled studies, they offer the advantage of being safe methods that a woman can try on her own.
Dr. Dean also stresses that chronic yeast infection can either cause or worsen PMS. According to Dr. Dean, the yeast infection must be treated before other treatments for PMS are attempted. (See chapter on yeast infections).
The first step involves changing your eating patterns. First, sugar, salt, caffeine and alcohol should be reduced or cut out in the two weeks before your period. Secondly, eating small frequent meals seems to help a good deal. This means eating three meals, and three nutritious snacks and not going longer than three hours without eating.
In general, changing slowly to a healthier diet emphasizing grains and beans, fish, chicken, and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables should be the overall goal. Highly processes food and junk food should be avoided as well as excessive dairy products, fat and red meat.
The second step involves adding the use of vitamin-B6, which improves the overall mood of women with PMS. This can safely be used in doses of between 50 and 200mg either daily throughout the cycle or only for the last two weeks of the cycle. It is advisable to take B6 in a mega-B-50 complex containing all the other B vitamins in equal amounts.
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