A guide: how to beat PMT

PMT (premenstrual tension), also known as PMS (premenstrual syndrome), is the name given to the various physical and psychological effects a woman can notice in the 2 weeks leading up to her monthly period.

Symptoms of PMT

Symptoms can include, to varying degrees, mood swings, irritability, loss of libido, breast tenderness and fluid retention.

Causes of PMT

Nobody knows the exact causes of these conditions, and thus there is no exact "cure", but knowing how to recognise and beat PMT in daily practice can greatly enhance the quality of many women's lives.

Generally, it is assumed that the causes lie somewhere within the fluctuations of hormones which occur at this time in the menstrual cycle. It is clear, however, that they are strongly aggravated by stress, poor diets and lack of exercise. It is possible that low levels of serotonin can also increase the severity of PMT.

Treatment of PMT

With the causes of aggravated PMT in mind, the best way to stop the condition having a large impact on your life is to make sure you live a healthy lifestyle according to these factors.

Salty foods can contribute to bloaty feelings and fluid retention - and alcohol, caffeine and other drugs can exacerbate mood swings. Meanwhile, fruit, vegetables, and foods with plenty of calcium - such as cheese and milk - have been shown to improve the physical symptoms of PMT.

It has been proven that women with a body mass index of above 30 are considerably more likely to suffer extreme symptoms of PMT. Getting a couple of hours' exercise every week - walking, cycling, swimming or aerobics at home - can have a marked effect on the symptoms of PMT.

Stress, depression and anxiety are of course individual matters and not so easy to generalise - but evidence shows that keeping your stress under control can ease PMT. Speak with your doctor and ask to arrange psychological therapy if you feel overwhelmed.

As always, consult your GP if you experience anything out of the ordinary.

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