Winning the War on PMS
Look at Your Lifestyle continued...
Different women may benefit from different programs, says
Steven Rosenzweig, MD. But in his experience, it is generally helpful to take a
stepwise approach and begin with the quality of diet, exercise, and rest.
"Your diet should balance carbohydrates, proteins, and fat at
each meal. Emphasize whole grains, natural oils rather than margarine and
saturated fats, and vegetable sources of protein. If you follow this sort of
diet, many of the mood swings and energy issues associated with PMS can be
solved," says Rosenzweig, director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University
Hospital in Philadelphia.
It's extremely important to follow a lifestyle with a natural
rhythm of rest and activity. Get an appropriate amount of sleep, and pursue
some form of daily exercise followed by the relaxation response. "This will
improve the quality of sleep at night and often reduces the total sleep
requirement," he says.
And as Rosenzweig cannot resist mentioning, this sort of diet
and exercise program has health-promoting effects that extend far beyond
control of PMS.
He recommends a good multivitamin, the full range of B vitamins
(not just B-6), and often extra magnesium.
"Women with a predisposition to PMS symptoms often tend to have
low magnesium stores. But the single most effective supplements, in my opinion,
are evening primrose oil and flaxseed oil," he says. While women's needs vary,
a usual starting dose would be about 1,000 mg of each per day.
In addition, you can find specially formulated dietary
supplements designed to combat PMS. Judith Wurtman, PhD, developed PMS Escape,
a powdered drink mix containing a mixture of carbohydrates and vitamins.
"We know the changes in mood and appetite that characterize PMS
are related to changes in the amount of serotonin in the brain, says Wurtman, a
researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and director of the
TRIAD Weight Management Center at McLean Hospital in Boston. "PMS Escape helps
raise serotonin levels in the brain for about four to five hours. It works
faster than food, and you only use it on the days you have symptoms."
Suppose you try diet and lifestyle changes but nothing seems to
help? First, take a closer look at your personal pattern of symptoms. If you
have classic PMS, you'll notice that you start to feel better as soon as your
period begins. If you fit that definition, this means your symptoms are clearly
cycle-related. In that case, Goldstein says, cycle suppression using birth
control pills will alleviate many if not all of your symptoms.
What About Sarafem?
If you watch TV an average amount, you've already seen the ads
for Sarafem, those pink and lavender capsules designed to ease premenstrual
depression and mood swings. Sarafem is actually a low dose of the
antidepressant Prozac, repackaged with a new look and name. It's not supposed
to be used for garden-variety PMS. Sarafem is prescribed only for premenstrual
dysphoric disorder (PMDD).