Wednesday, July 23, 2014

PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) - Day 3: Living A Lifestyle of Wellness

Over the past two blogs, PMS - Separating Fact From Fiction and PMS - Charting The Way To Wellness, we have learned what PMS or PMDD  (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) is and what it isn't, and we discovered the importance of charting along with other diagnostic criteria in determining an accurate diagnosis of PMDD. Today, we are going to address treatment. The good news is that effective treatment involves living a lifestyle of wellness, something that our culture has more readily embraced on many different levels! Let's get started!

Once other issues or disorders have been ruled out or addressed, living a lifestyle of wellness includes the following 6 guidelines or recommendations.

1. Your PMDD Chart is your friend! This is so important! Your charting not only is a diagnostic tool, but it is your communication tool!  After three months, you will see a pattern emerge that communicates to you when your good days are - and when you not-so-good days are. You MUST pay attention to this. Why? Because you cannot wait until the PMDD sneaks up on you and then stop drinking coffee, or start exercising! You must live out your lifestyle of wellness all month long, AND you must amp it up before your PMDD symptoms begin and continue throughout the duration of symptoms! In short, you must get a jump on PMDD before it gets a hold on you! So, keep charting even after your pattern is clear and  make notes on it as to what works well and what doesn't! The PMDD chart is your wellness companion - it is your friend! Embrace it - it will serve you well!

2. A healthy eating plan with a list of foods to avoid:
Healthful foods!
  • Foods high in salt: These foods can worsen fluid retention, thus causing bloating and breast tenderness.
  • Sugar: Sugar causes the blood sugar to fluctuate too much.  It depletes the body's B-complex vitamins and minerals.
  • Alcohol: Alcohol interferes with formation of glucose, prolonging low blood sugar and intensifying irritability, anxiety, headaches, and dizziness.  It also disrupts the liver's ability to metabolize hormones, causing higher than normal estrogen.
  • Chocolate: Chocolate increases craving for sugar and caffeine.  It also causes breast tenderness and increases the demand for B-complex vitamins.
  • Caffeine: Caffeine may cause fibrocystic breast disease and causes breast tenderness. Caffeine is a stimulant that fuels nervousness, irritability, and shakiness. 
In addition to these, highly processed foods, fatty foods, and nicotine should be avoided. A balanced diet with plenty of fresh fruits, green leafy vegetables, and organic or gluten free products are healthy choices for PMDD patients and their loved ones!

3. Vitamin supplement: Through my research and personal journey, it has been my experience that vitamins and  minerals play an important role in the treatment of PMDD. However, it is vital to discuss vitamin supplementation with your doctor, especially given there may be co-occurring disorders or contraindications with other medications.  For many years, I took a vitamin designed specifically for PMDD with high dosages of A, B complex, B6, E, C, and D.  It also contained calcium, magnesium, and zinc.  Vitamin therapy was an integral part of my healing in addressing irritability, fatigue, mood swings, fluid retention, and food cravings. It may help you as well and there are many good products on the market. But again, consult with a professional.

4.  Stress Reduction: We all experience stress in our lives. It is a simple fact, but one in which the PMDD female must be especially concerned.  During the free PMDD period of our cycle, we probably deal with stress very much the way most people do. We are irritated, frustrated, or fatigued, but we manage to keep our emotions under control. Unfortunately, when we enter into our PMDD phase, we often respond irrationally or illogically to the same stresses that we were able to manage just days before. Therefore, not only do females with PMDD need to learn to manage the stress that they cannot avoid, but more  importantly, they must plan ahead to reduce the stress in their daily lives. As far as managing stress, incorporate those methods that work best for you. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and muscles exercises work well as do mental exercises such as meditating and praying. Implement these exercises on a daily basis so that you can integrate them easily into your being when you really need them!

Reduce stress and exercise!
5. Exercise: Exercising is one of the most important aspects of the PMDD lifestyle of wellness! I admit, it took me a while to appreciate this, but I strongly advocate a routine of exercise for all females (PMDD or not). When exercising, pent-up anger and anxiety are released and exercising just makes you feel good, both physically and emotionally! Pick something you enjoy - walking, jogging, bicycling, yoga, zumba, tennis, swimming - whatever! Get started today and on the days you most don't feel like exercising, those are the days you must exercise!

6. Rest: This may seem like a no-brainer, but many busy females - whether working at home or away from home - do not get enough good solid sleep!  Our lives are extremely demanding and full and we often put ourselves last! You must make this a priority. Without enough sleep, we are more anxious, irritable, and moody. And then when we enter into our PMDD cycle, fatigue increases and we become a time-bomb just waiting to go off! Please, be honest with yourself, and get the sleep you need!

Get the sleep you need!

There are two more recommendations for living a lifestyle of wellness that may not apply to all females. You and your physician should discuss these components to determine whether or not you are a candidate for them.

7. Medication: Because I suffered severely from PMDD, on the advice of  my doctor, I chose to take natural progesterone therapy. One of the most commonly held theories about the origin of PMDD is that a female suffers from PMDD because her body does not produce sufficient levels of progesterone during the premenstrual phase of her cycle. The purpose of the progesterone is to raise the body's progesterone level during that time.  It is important to note that natural progesterone is not a cure for PMDD. However, when it is administered properly, along with the other aspects of the PMDD living a lifestyle of wellness, my severe symptoms were nearly eliminated or sharply reduced. Over the years, I've talked with many females who have chosen other forms of treatment such as anti-depressants, birth control pills, and other medications developed specifically for PMDD. Other women have experienced tremendous relief through natural herbs and homeopathic remedies.  Because there may be co-occurring disorders or other issues, please consult with a qualified professional. At the same time, although we have come a long way in the treatment of PMDD, you know your body and what it is saying to you. Honor that and how you wish to approach this aspect of treatment.

8. Counseling: Counseling, therapy, or attending support groups is another area that may not affect all females with PMDD. This is very individual and somewhat personal aspect of the PMDD wellness program. A female must be willing to assess her level of PMDD  honestly and determine whether it has altered how she perceives herself. For females who have suffered chronically from PMDD, it is very common for it to lower their self-worth and esteem. It is also important to note that there may be underlying issues that the PMDD is masking and/or that the PMDD is exacerbating. Seeking out a therapist who can explore those tender issues and bring inner healing are vital to a more comprehensive recovery from PMDD.  Sufferers must also be open to whether the PMDD has affected, changed, or even harmed other family members or loved ones and her relationship with them. Sometimes there is much hurt that has been inflicted upon those closest to us, and we and they need the time, the opportunity, and the direction that a professional counselor can provide to address those hurts and to begin the healing process.

In closing, I'd like to share that after embracing wellness in my life from PMDD, one of my most rewarding experiences in helping other women was leading support groups for women suffering from PMDD. Facilitating a series of 8 weeks sessions for over three years, I was constantly in awe and amazement of the groups' camaraderie, their mutual support and understanding, and their desire for wellness all month long!

 Healing often shows up when you know you are not alone!
Believe...and continue living a lifestyle of wellness ~

For more on my personal journey..

The PMS Puzzle by Holli Kenley
* Please note that because this was published in 1993, some of the
medical findings and treatments have changed.

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