Just one of those annoying things most of us women have to deal with on a monthly basis is PMS (premenstrual symptoms), aka stomach cramps, mood swings, and painful boobs – and those are just some of the symptoms! In fact, there are actually hundreds of side effects leading up to and during your period, and you probably had no idea your hormones were to blame – we’re talking loneliness, diarrhea, food cravings, lower back pain, and even insomnia. How crazy is that?! The good news is, knowing all the side effects of your period means you’ll be able to join the dots between the effect and the cause, and you’ll be able to address the matter a lot more efficiently. Plus, when it’s an emotion-related symptom, it’s kinda comforting to know that there’s a scientific reason behind your feelings.
So, to get the full down-low on our periods, we got in touch with the experts at Flo, the world’s biggest women’s health platform and app, that allows you to track your period, get to know when you’re ovulating, and understand your cycle better. They shared with us some of the PMS symptoms that you’ve probably never heard anyone talk about before. Here’s everything you need to know.
Why you experience PMS
If you’re a frequent victim of painful PMS, you’ve probably wondered why you feel like you’re going to die each month (ok this may be a tad dramatic), especially when some of your girlfriends are literally worry-free. Flo explained that PMS is caused by “changing hormone levels during the luteal phase (when your uterus lining is at its thickest, right before your period), and levels of serotonin.” During the luteal phase, levels of “progesterone increase in the body, while the level of estrogen, begins to decrease. The shift from estrogen to progesterone may cause some of the symptoms of PMS.” And the reason it affects your mood, Flo told us, is because it “affects the level of serotonin, the mood chemical in the brain. Some women who experience PMS also have lower levels of serotonin in their brains prior to their periods.”
Paranoia and Forgetfulness
We’ve got to admit, when we received the list of PMS symptoms from Flo, we found it both comforting and worrying that some of these mental and emotional side effects made the cut. But Flo confirmed that “difficulty in concentrating, forgetfulness, paranoia” as well as “decreased coordination” are all caused by hormonal misbalances, which are triggered during your monthly cycle.
Why it happens: Your hormones are affecting your neural tissues, so as your levels of progesterone and estrogen fluctuate, the “progesterone (while in bad balance with other hormones) retains fluids in tissues” making it harder for you to concentrate, remember information, and it can even lead to feelings of paranoia.
How to relieve symptoms: Whenever you begin to worry or feel stressed, take a little time out and do something that will boost your mood, more importantly, boost your serotonin levels. We like to find a quiet place to meditate or go for a walk. To combat forgetfulness and paranoia, Flo suggests you “write down your plans on a piece of paper and promise yourself to revisit it in a week’s time – just so you can re-address the issue with a clearer mind.” If you experience these symptoms severely, you can also take Magnesium supplements, and Flo also suggest you “limit your intake of liquids and salts.”
You’re sitting there, happily relaxing and then suddenly, you feel as if you’re in the middle of the desert and it’s 100 degrees. Well, unless you live in Dubai and you happen to step outside, this sweat-inducing hot flash could be a symptom of PMS – so blame that sweat on your cycle!
Why it happens: Flo explains that due to “fluctuations in the levels of progesterone and estrogen during the cycle, the hormones which influence the hypothalamus (your brain’s thermostat), you’ll have a “slightly higher body temperature (up to 99.5 °F/37.5 °C)”. Flo continues that following this rise in temperature there will be “a decrease in the level of estrogen, which gives a signal to regulate the body temperature. If the imbalance between estrogen and progesterone is significant, the hypothalamus settings go haywire, resulting in hot flashes and sweating.” This causes your body to basically go into crisis mode – queue the sweating.
How to help: Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot you can do to prevent sweating, however, Flo advises you to “avoid hot and stuffy places” and to try not to “wear synthetic fabrics.” Equally, just before your period, you may want to lay off sweat-inducing foods such as garlic and chilly, and stock up on the fruit and vegetables. Sweating at night during your period is also common, so try sleeping with as little as possible on you.
Nausea And Vomiting
One of the most disruptive symptoms of PMS is nausea and vomiting, and yet so often we just put it down to something we ate or assume we’ve picked up a virus. So next time you feel a little icky, take a minute to consider where you are in your cycle, as it could be linked to your hormones.
Why it happens: Flo told us that “changes in your hormone levels sometimes result in the overproduction of gastric juice,” which contain nausea-inducing hydrochloric acid. Flo added that it could also be triggered by the levels of “prostaglandins, which causes cramping not only in the uterus but also in the stomach.”
How to relieve symptoms: To alleviate feelings of nausea, Flo recommends an antacid (in gel or tablet form) as well as ginger or mint tea to soothe your stomach. Flo insists a hot water bottle can “lessen pain in the lower abdomen by enhancing uterine blood circulation” however “if natural methods are not enough, you can try over-the-counter or prescription pain medicine.”
Blurred Vision And Headaches
Another symptom within the long list of PMS side effects that really had us shook was headaches, migraines, and blurred vision. It turns out hormonal changes actually have a significant impact on your vision throughout your life; which explains why so many women need glasses for distance in their early teens (when they first start their period), and when they enter menopause – as your estrogen levels change.
Why it happens: Again, due to the fluctuation of estrogen and progesterone, your brain tissues become affected and the tissue becomes inflamed. This will trigger a headache and when the imbalance is seriously bad, it can trigger blurry vision.
How to relieve symptoms: We know that blurred vision can be quite scary, so it’s really important to try and stay calm and take a controlled deep breath. As headaches and vision are linked, address your headache first with over the counter painkillers. If you experience this frequently, you should consult your eye doctor.