Winning the War on PMS
Look at Your Lifestyle continued...
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).
"This condition was only recently included in the
DSM-IV, the manual of psychiatric disorders," says Shifrin. "This is a
"In this syndrome the patient's primary complaint is severe
depression, anxiety, irritability, and mood swings, while PMS is characterized
by more physical symptoms," says Jean Endicott, PhD, director of the
Premenstrual Evaluation Unit at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, in New
York City. "The second diagnostic criteria for PMDD is the presence of severe
symptoms leading to psychosocial impairment."
She estimates 3% to 8% of women with regular menstrual cycles
have clinically significant symptoms that meet the criteria for PMDD, while
about 60% have PMS.