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Biology 103
2002 Second Paper
On Serendip

PMS- the Premenstrual Syndrome

Roseanne Moriyama

"What is wrong with you? Why are you acting this way?"
"Are you ok? Why are you crying all of a sudden?"
"What? Rosie, I think you ate enough already. You're still hungry?"

Have you ever had comments like these said where you couldn't really answer them? This actually happens to me once a month; these sudden outbursts of anger, depression, and ofcourse, the munchies. Some cases it could be more severe than others but the same symptoms definitely appear at a certain time of every month, and this is what society now calls 'PMS.' I always wanted to know what PMS, or the premenstrual syndrome, was defined as exactly. I was curious because I was the one affected so much by it- or so what the magazines 'Cosmo' and 'Glamor' taught me. I often hurt and offended the people I care for most, although my actions were uncontrollable, and felt extremely guilty about what I've done. After what was said and done and the emotion distress I caused myself, I felt that something had to be done. Therefore I was curious to know if there was any way I could lesson the degree of my PMS through research and study for this web paper.

The Premenstrual Syndrome is defined by 'a series of physical and emotional symptoms that occur in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, which is the two week time frame between ovulation and menstruation.'(1) It is a disorder characterized by hormonal changes that trigger symptoms in women; an estimate of 40 million women suffer from PMS and over 150 symptoms have been attributed to PMS. The symptoms vary for each individual lasting for about 10 days. Symptoms have been characteristically both physical and emotional including 'physical symptoms as headache, migraine, fluid retention, fatigue, constipation, painful joints, backache, abdominal cramping, heart palpitations and weight gain. Emotional and behavioral changes may include anxiety, depression, irritability, panic attacks, tension, lack of co-ordination, decreased work or social performance and altered libido.' (2)
The original description of PMS has been grouped the same ever since 1931 by an American neurologist. However, the cause of PMS is still unknown. The general consensus is that migraine and depression stem from neurochemical changes within the brain. Also, female hormones play an important role- the 'combination of hormonal imbalance (that is the deficiency in progesterone and excess in estrogen) in fluid retention since it holds fluid causing women to gain up to 5 pounds premenstrually.' (3)

According to theorists and doctors, in order to manage PMS, it is recommended to a) eat 6 small meals a day at 3 hour intervals high in complex carbohydrates and low in simple sugars. This helps balance the sugar energy high and lows. b) drink less or no caffeine, alcohol, salts, fat, and simple sugars to reduce bloating, fatigue, depression and tension. c) drink daily supplemental vitamins and minerals to reduce irritability, fluid retention, joint aches, breast tenderness, anxiety, depression and fatigue. d) exercise 3 times a week for 20-30 minutes to reduce stress and tension. These are daily recommendations by doctors to reduce the degree of PMS without the help of medication.

However, when in certain cases women need medication for severe PMS (5 out of the 40 million), they have 3 options 'a) taking tricyclics (Elavil, Triavil, Sinequan) b) taking tranquilizers (Valium, Ativan, Xanax) and c) taking serotonin.' (2) However, after a few cycles of the above medication, the patient became forgetful, sleepy, and less communicative. Another form of treatment was giving a dose of 100mg of danazol twice daily. Danazol prevents the rise and fall of estrogen levels. Although improvement occurred with danazol treatment (a 80% success rate), menstrual change and nausea were frequent side effects. After several cycles, some patients' hormones were so well controlled that they were able to discontinue this medication.

Although there is yet much to learn about PMS, after this research I could say that the change in nutritional and lifestyle changes are best to lessen the degree of PMS. I thought it was best to avoid medical treatment- but only if your PMS is not that severe. We do live in a society where we demand 'quick fixes' and expect that a pill would cure your every dissatisfaction, however there is no instant cure for PMS. They are far too complex involving too many diverse symptoms and factors to be treated for one single medication. Again, in conclusion to this research paper I would reiterate the importance of daily nutritional and lifestyle changes for a lesser degree of PMS.


1) Understanding PMS, a comprehensive PMS website

2) Medical Treatment of PMS- Premenstrual Syndrome, many experiments and results of drugs for PMS

3) What is Premenstrual Syndrome?, a concise description of what PMS is exactly

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