PMS emotional symptoms may include any or all of the following: aggression or irritability, depression or tearfulness, anxiety or nervousness, or just mood swings in general, happy one moment, sad the next. The PMS treatments most commonly prescribed by physicians when these symptoms interfere with relationships or one's general sense of well being are anti-depressants.
The brand names are probably familiar; Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa and Prozac, just to name a few. These are all anti-depressants that belong to a group known as Selective Serotonin Re-Uptake Inhibitors or SSRI for short and are commonly prescribed PMS treatments. Although the cause of PMS is unclear, the function of serotonin in the body is relatively well known. It is a neurotransmitter, meaning that it helps to transmit signals among nerve endings in the brain and body. It helps to regulate moods, sleep cycles, appetite and metabolism.
An SSRI prevents serotonin from breaking down so quickly, allowing it to be more effective in the nervous system. Studies have shown that serotonin levels are lower than normal in women who suffer from premenstrual dysphoric disorder or PMDD. And, since serotonin is known to regulate moods and an SSRI can usually control clinical depression and PMDD, doctors often prescribe the drugs for women who suffer form moderate PMS symptoms, as well.
Some PMS treatments focus on relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing exercises. One study found that women who suffer from chronic hyperventilation had symptoms similar to those of PMS. Another study concluded that of all the conditions for which relaxation techniques were commonly recommended, it was most effective in relieving PMS.
Behavioral modifications such as relaxation techniques can relieve chronic stress. Chronic stress increases levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, circulating in the blood stream. Some researchers believe that cortisol can be toxic to the hypothalamus, actually causing it to shrink. It is known that depressed people have a smaller hypothalamus than people who have never been depressed. The hypothalamus has numerous serotonin receptors, but a smaller hypothalamus means fewer serotonin receptors.
Chronic stress can lead to anxiety and depression, inhibits proper immune system function, can lead to high blood pressure and heart disease and increases PMS emotional symptoms. Everything is connected.
An SSRI may be one of the most effective PMS treatments, but the side effects are numerous and objectionable to many women. The most commonly experienced side effects are drowsiness, headache, sexual dysfunction, increased sweating and dilation of the pupils, which can interfere with normal vision. Depending on your age, an SSRI can increase night sweats, a symptom related to menopause. For many women, this writer included, relieving PMS emotional symptoms is not worth adding a whole new list of other problems.
Luckily, nature has provided us with a natural anti-depressant. The "Earth Mother's pharmacy" can relieve most of our ailments, if we only know where to look. Increasing dietary intake of substances that the body uses to create serotonin or serotonin precursors can increase serotonin levels in the blood stream and the brain, thus improving mood and relieving PMS emotional symptoms.
The safest and most effective serotonin precursor is 5-HTP. Found in some dietary supplements, studies have shown that 5-HTP can relieve symptoms of depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances and migraine headaches. It can reduce the effects of chronic stress, help the body relax and relieve PMS emotional symptoms. Natural PMS treatments abound, some are nothing more than vitamin supplements. To learn more about them and how to choose the best ones, please visit the Menopause and PMS guide.