An introduction to mood swings and PMS
Mood swings may be a part of life for anyone, but it can also be one of the emotional symptoms associated with PMS.
The difference between mood swings and low mood are small. Women with low mood tend to feel sad throughout the day, whereas those experiencing mood swings feel happy one minute and sad the next.
The symptom can be frustrating and difficult to cope with as often, your moody periods can seem unexplained. You feel more irritable than normal or have a tendency to overreact ordinary situations. In addition, mood swings, like low mood make you less able to cope with stress, and may lead to an increased level of anxiety as part of PMS.
Why does PMS cause mood swings?
Although it is not clear what exactly causes PMS we do know that there are clear links between fluctuating female hormones and mood.
In the two weeks leading up to your period, oestrogen and progesterone levels change dramatically. This has an influence on the level of serotonin, a chemical found in the brain. Serotonin has been ‘nicknamed’ the happy chemical, and as levels change or swing around, so do your moods.
Although being under stress does not itself cause PMS mood swings, feeling under pressure is not going to improve the situation. Try to avoid situations which you know you find difficult to cope with and which worsen your mood.
What can I do about it?
In general, what you eat affects your mood and if your body is healthy, so too is your mind.
- Start by reducing your intake of caffeine and alcohol. These stimulants may give you a temporary lift but once the effects of this have worn off, they can leave you feeling worse than before
- Cut back on sugar. This is because fluctuating blood sugar levels can affect your mood directly. Having more stable sugar levels means that your mood is less likely to be unpredictable
- Take magnesium. There is a link between magnesium and your mood. Low levels can cause you to feel a low in mood, as well as preventing you from sleeping well. Increasing your intake of magnesium in food, or taking a supplement will do the trick in stabilising your mood
- Regular, but not excessive exercise may also be of benefit. Exercise boosts the production of serotonin in the brain, helping to improve your mood.
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Are there herbal remedies to help me?
There are a number of herbs which may be help:
- As the root of your mood swings is PMS, start by addressing this core issue. The herb Agnus castus has traditionally been used to help balance the female hormones and help improve a variety of PMS symptoms from irritability, to period cramps and breast pain during this time of the month.
- St. John’s Wort (or Hypericum perforatum) is perhaps the most popular herb for easing periods of low mood. It can be found in licensed herbal remedies such as Hyperiforce St John’s Wort tablets.
If you are taking prescribed medication or hormonal treatments such as the contraceptive pill, both of these herbs may not be suitable for you. For further information, contact our helpline or speak to your pharmacist or doctor.
What about medicines from my doctor?
Most doctors will be reluctant to prescribe medication for PMS mood swings, as symptoms are usually mild, and treatment involving antidepressants may not be appropriate as they are associated with side effects which outweigh their benefits.
However, as PMS is at the root of your problem, your doctor may suggest the use of hormonal treatment such as some forms of the contraceptive pill to stabilise your hormones, which in turn, should improve mood swings as well as other emotional symptoms of PMS.
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