Each women’s cycle is unique. Some women barely noticed when their period comes and goes. For others, however, their period can be a monthly ordeal with mood swings, weight gain, painful cramps, and heavy bleeding. The range of symptoms that correspond with monthly cycles is called premenstrual syndrome or PMS.
In the West, these symptoms are often thought to be a normal part of the menstruation. In Chinese medicine, however, PMS is considered to be the result of an underlying imbalance or deficiency.
A healthy period according to Chinese medicine:
Is regular - every 26 to 31 days
Is free of cramps, bloating, breast tenderness and headache
Has adequate flow (neither scanty nor excessively heavy) that lasts for 3-5 days
Has bright red blood flow free of clots (in Chinese medicine, clots are a sign of stagnation)
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is the name of a group of symptoms that may begin up to 14 days before your menstrual period. The symptoms usually stop once your period begins. Symptoms may include:
- Mood swings
- Confusion or fuzzy thinking
- Changes in libido
- Cravings, especially for salty or sweet foods
- Alcohol intolerance
- Abdominal and pelvic cramps
- Weight gain
- Breast swelling and pain
- Heart pounding (palpitation)
- Urinary problems
Premenstrual dysphonic disorder is a more extreme version of PMS.
What is the cause of PMS?
The most common explanation for PMS, from a Western point of view, is that it's an imbalance between your two main reproductive hormones, estrogen and progesterone, and/or a disruption in the feedback system that regulates your reproductive hormones. Researchers feel that that some women’s brain are more sensitive to these hormones and that PMS symptoms occur because your brain overreacts to progesterone and estrogen causing changes in the brain chemicals called neurotransmitters.
Estrogen and progesterone can alter:
- Serotonin: these changes may cause depression and carbohydrate cravings.
- GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid): this neurotransmitter is important for feeling calm.
- Endorphins: the good hormones that influence the experience of pain and pleasure.
- Norepinephrine: influences mood and plays a role in blood pressure and heart rate.