Popular culture loves to make jokes about PMS and how it makes women lose control. Who hasn’t heard a wisecrack about the woman who goes ballistic because there’s no ice cream, or because her husband said something in the wrong tone? The jokes exist because PMS is poorly understood. Despite how common it is, popular culture has worked many misconceptions into the collective minds of fertile women everywhere. Here are the myths, the facts you need to know:
MYTH: PMS is a myth.
FACT: Ninety percent of women who menstruate experience premenstrual signs of some sort. Of this vast majority, about half will experience the stereotypical signs such as breast tenderness, bloating, food cravings, irritability, and mood swings. It’s not a myth but is difficult to pinpoint because not ever woman experiences symptoms, and signs of PMS vary from cycle to cycle as well as from woman to woman. The only commonality is that symptoms begin roughly 14 days before menses and disappear when bleeding begins.
MYTH: PMS is a convenient excuse for women to be overly emotional.
FACT: Many women have had their legitimate feelings dismissed as “she’s just PMS-ing”. This is extremely frustrating and would cause further aggravation in anyone – not just a premenstrual woman. While symptoms of PMS include emotional changes like increase irritability, depression or anxiety, the physical discomforts that are also part of this syndrome are often more troubling to women. These physical symptoms include joint pain, breast tenderness and swelling, back and headaches, and abdominal cramping. PMS is not solely an emotional scapegoat.
MYTH: PMS is a disease.
FACT: PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome, which means it is not a disease but a collection of related signs and symptoms. Some women prefer to called it premenstrual signs, or premenstrual tension, but whatever you call it, it’s important to realize that PMS is nothing to be feared and there is no need to feel ostracized because you can predict when you’re about to menstruate. As it is not a disease, it is not necessary to treat PMS with drugs that alter hormone levels. Correct interpretation of the imbalances causing PMS can lead to natural solutions that restore hormonal balance.
MYTH: A woman needs refine carbohydrates when she is PMS-ing.
FACT: PMS could be a blood sugar problem. Estrogen influences your blood sugar levels and insulin needs. After ovulation, there is a natural rise in insulin and a dip in blood sugar which can account for changes in appetite and cravings. Women who take synthetic estrogen or progestins like the contraceptive pill frequently develop low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, become the artificial hormones exacerbate the natural rise in insulin. Regulation of blood sugar through low glycemic index foods can be very helpful in minimizing PMS.
Managing PMS Naturally: A Sourcebook for Natural Solutions by M. Sara Rosenthal. Prentice Hall Canada, 2001. Chapter 4, pages 82-3
The Everything Health Guide to PMS by Dagmara Scalise. Adams Media, 2007. Chapter 1, pages 2-3