Updated 23 February 2011

15 quick PMS facts

One in every three women suffers from PMS. Here's what you can do to make things a lot better for yourself and for those around you.


Anyone who has experienced premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or who has been on the firing line from someone who has it will know that it is no walk in the park. About 30% of all women suffer from PMS.

But what are the symptoms and the causes? And what can you do about it?

5 symptoms and causes of PMS

  • The symptoms of PMS can include the following: anxiety, mood swings, depression, tearfulness, irritability, fatigue, breast tenderness, swelling and pain, weight gain, water retention, insomnia dizziness, headaches, migraine cramps, backache and cravings for certain foods.
  • These symptoms can start up to 10 days before the onset of menstruation and they get worse as menstruation approaches.
  • PMS occurs most commonly in women over the age of 30.
  • The exact causes of PMS have not yet been determined, although there are many theories, including hormonal imbalances, an imbalance in serotonin production, and fatty acid metabolism disorders.
  • Nutrient deficiencies are also thought to be behind PMS.

10 things you can do

  • Go to your doctor to check whether you are suffering from hormone (progesterone or oestrogen) deficiencies. A hormone supplement can be taken to correct this.
  • A mild diuretic can be prescribed to reduce water retention and swelling.
  • Control your stress levels. Exercise, yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises and psychotherapy can all help.
  • Get sufficient, regular sleep. It helps to go to bed at the same time every evening, to avoid heavy meals late at night, or to take part in stressful interactions just before you settle in for the night.
  • A balanced diet is essential: this should contain plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, wholewheat cereals and grains, lean meat, fish, low-fat milk and dairy products and margarine or oils rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E.
  • Regular exercise is essential.
  • Take B-complex supplements, which contain vitamin B6, and a calcium supplement if dairy products don't often feature on your menu. Also take evening primrose oil supplements or a supplement that contains both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
  • Reduce your caffeine intake (coffee, tea, cola and energy drinks containing caffeine and sweetened cold drinks).
  • Try to stop smoking if you are a smoker.
  • Resist cravings, as eating large amounts of salty or sweet foods will make you feel even worse.

(Based on an article written by Dr I.V. van Heerden, updated by Robyn von Geusau, Health24, January 2013)

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