Crazy PMS
June 15, 2005 4:05 PM   Subscribe

I've never had PMS problems before outside of the occasional mild lower backache. I'm not on the pill because while my period is not on-the-dot regular, it does come every month for a fairly normal length of time and rate of flow. It has been easy to deal with. But for the past five or six months I've been getting Montezuma's Revenge bad at the onset of my period. What gives?

At the beginning of my period for something like a 24-hour flu hits me. Nausea, diarrhea, sometimes vomiting, chills, sweats, and, worst of all, gas bloating so bad I can't do much else but lie somewhere cold and pray for it to pass. It can last from a few hours to half a day. Additionally, my lower backaches have gotten signifcantly worse. After the first experience I started taking Pepto-Bismol and Gas-Ex when the thing starts coming on, but this only provides enough relief to allow me to move from one room to the other and make it to a toilet.

This is inconvenient and disgusting, and I can't exactly take a day off every month to deal with angry intestines. Has anyone had this problem before? What could have brought it on? There's been no diet changes, no lifestyle changes. I've tried drinking more water, eating more fiber, eating less fiber, getting more sleep, taking multivitamins . . . Haven't tried actual, regular exercise, but even increases in my activity level don't seem to help.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (17 answers total)
I would visit a doctor immediately. A lot of the more typical symptoms associated with PMS are often attributed to more serious ailments (doctor's are often misled as well). The fact that it's gotten worse, recently - and quite drastically so, is more alarming. Please visit a doctor ASAP.
posted by purephase at 4:26 PM on June 15, 2005

It *might* be a hormone change. The same hormones that signal your (involuntary muscle) uterus to contract also act on your (involuntary muscle) intestines. They're not highly specific, and they're nearly neighbors. So if this is something you're just noticing, and the backaches are worse, that would be my guess.

My head is saying "sympathetic nervous system and autonomic nervous system", but I don't have my Anatomy and Physiology book nearby and my brain is apparently on vacation. Not that the book mentions this specific problem.

This has happened to me, btw. It's become worse as I've aged, but it's always happened on the third day of my period. And it's worse if I weigh more and eat more salt. But that may just be me. But it was a gradual onset and I have Fibromyalgia, so it's to be expected.
posted by Elsbet at 4:35 PM on June 15, 2005

You don't say how old you are, but this happened to me with increasing regularity as I entered perimenopause. One year I missed 10 days of work because of menorrheal dysfunction (my own term). Oh, and I would have a migraine to top it off. Sometimes massive doses of Naproxin (4-6 Aleve at a time) would head off the worst of it, but usually I just had to bear it. Try a heating pad for the backache.
posted by dbmcd at 4:49 PM on June 15, 2005

As others have said, more information would help, but much of what you're describing could be explained by endometriosis.
posted by jeffmshaw at 5:07 PM on June 15, 2005

And yes, by all means, see a doctor ASAP.
posted by jeffmshaw at 5:07 PM on June 15, 2005

Oh, I feel ya. I managed to jar something several years back, and suddenly everything changed, along with what I called "shit, throw up, and wish for death" attacks. My doc recommended taking up to eight advil for the pain (I've never needed more than 5), and easing that made everything else much better.

But that's only a temporary help, and these things could be symptoms of anything, including some really serious stuff. So I hope the Advil recommendation helps in the short term, buy boy howdy, get to a doctor, and don't take "keep your chin up, it's part of being female" for an answer.
posted by frykitty at 5:48 PM on June 15, 2005 [1 favorite]

Ask your mom if she's ever had the same thing happen to her; it could just be a nasty hereditary surprise. My mom and I both get a 24-hour cold as a PMS present nearly every month, though not nearly as bad as what you're describing. It's as if the hormone changes that trigger the start of my period screw with my immune system and I catch whatever's going around that month. (This is in addition to all the other "normal" colds I get, like the one I'm suffering through right now.)
posted by Asparagirl at 5:51 PM on June 15, 2005

always worth seeing a doc, and the way you describe things it sounds severe enough to warrant medical attention, but age is another factor to consider. My period got significantly heavier and more painful around 30. As I understand it, women tend to go through about four significant hormone changes: puberty, late teenage (18/19), adult (late 20s/early 30s) and then menopause (late 40s/early 50s). Cycle, sexual appetites, neurological issues, mood issues, and many other things are affected by hormone balance.
posted by mdn at 5:53 PM on June 15, 2005

Almost this exact thing happened to me: diarrhea, awful pain that felt like a combo of terrible cramps and terrible gas. The pain was so bad that I was going into shock with chills and sweating. I went to the doctor and found out I was pregnant with an ectopic pregnancy.

After 5 or 6 months of your symptoms, I doubt you are pregnant. But I would suggest a doctor anyway.
posted by rhapsodie at 6:09 PM on June 15, 2005

What you're describing used to happen to me on the second day of each period; I missed at least one day of school every month. I've since learned that I can usually prevent it by:
  1. keeping my weight down
  2. staying hydrated
  3. watching my fat and salt intake
  4. taking hefty doses of Advil on a regular schedule, beginning the first night of my period and continuing through the second night, and
  5. avoiding all alcohol around the time my period is about to start.
The last one has been by far the most important for me; if I slip up, I'm just about guaranteed to spend a morning crawling repeatedly from bed to toilet and wanting to die.

But with that all said, considering that you've had no diet or lifestyle changes I'll have to strongly echo the "see a doctor" sentiment!
posted by purplemonkie at 6:22 PM on June 15, 2005

My similar symptoms come and go each month -- some months I want to *die*, others are fine. I've found that if I'm regularly getting to the gym (4-5 times a week) and eating less fat, red meat, and carbohydrates, the symptoms are much better. But I have to be pretty good all month long (obviously, I survive the occasional slip-up).

You should certainly talk to your doctor, but you may also just need a general healthy-lifestyle upgrade to combat aging/changing hormones.
posted by occhiblu at 6:36 PM on June 15, 2005

Also, I've found Premsyn PMS to be the only effective OTC drug to get rid of pre-menstrual intestinal cramps. Even when I'm being good with diet and exercise, I generally need to take it for the first two days of my period so that I'm not running to the bathroom every hour.
posted by occhiblu at 6:38 PM on June 15, 2005

I vote for hormonal.

I myself had cramping diarrhea the whole time I was pregnant and/or nursing. Cleared up the minute I weaned the last sprog.

But with that sudden onset, a doc visit is indeed in order.
posted by konolia at 6:41 PM on June 15, 2005

I'll put in another vote for endometriosis (or possibly fibroid tumours). If it was an etopic pregnancy, you'd be dead by now. You should go to a doctor, but take some time to educate yourself first. My experience (in Canada) has been pretty good, but there are a lot of women who have had real difficulty getting diagnosed.

My case sounds almost exactly like yours, both pre- and post-pain, and I have a tentative diagnosis of endometriosis (with exploritory surgery scheduled). Here is a website I've found very helpful (you have to sign up, but it's free.) Ask your first-level family members (mother, sister, first cousins) if they have it before you go to the doctor. Look at the "how to get the most out of your first doctor's visit" guide, which is on the website I linked and also here on the site jeffmshaw linked to.

I don't find that Ibuprofen does a damn thing for the pain. However, I just recently discovered that a mix of chamomile, mother's wart, and ginger tea (with honey for sweetener) has an amazing affect. I discovered it towards the end of the worst of the pain, so I can't say for sure, but there was a distinct, immediate sense of relief as I drank the tea. I got loose chamomile and mother's wart from a health supplements store and used fresh ginger. 1 teaspoon of each to a quart or so of boiling water and let it steep for 10 minutes. I was quite shocked that it worked... I'm not normally one who believes in the healing power of herbs. I urge you to try it.

When the pain is at it's worst, I find that I can fend off most of the nausea, chills, and sweats by going to bed, putting a heating pad on my stomach, and doing deep breathing. I focus on the pain, but in a positive way: that is, I locate it in my body and think about it becoming smaller and smaller in area while I relax my muscles as best as I can. I don't think the heat helps in a physical way, but it helps me focus my relaxation on my abdomen. Last week (it was really hot!) I used a pillow instead to good effect.

Sorry this is so rambling, and makes a lot of assumptions about you. It's just that your description could practically be my description, almost right down to the time frame (I have about three months on you). I hope what I've written is helpful. I'm still in the early stages of trying other things (giving up wheat, caffeine, dairy, and sugar--sigh. Oh, and alcohol), so I can't really say how those are working yet. If you think you have it and you want to get in touch for moral support / pain management strategies / bitching / or working on my attempt to create endometriosis humour (You know you have endometriosis when....), you can email me at "can-endo at tenletters dot com".
posted by carmen at 8:10 PM on June 15, 2005

Another vote for either endometriosis or fibroids. I have the combo platter of both, and I have super awesome symptoms that are similar to yours. It's extra fun since I travel for work weekly and get to ride planes with all manner of havoc going on in my abdominal region.

My suggestions? Advil for the pain. Try giving up wheat or dairy, as carmen says. Do each for two full weeks at a time - eliminate one, wait two weeks, see if symptoms improve, but for you, you may want to do each for a month. I'm heading over to an acupuncturist when I get home from my latest trip to see if he can help me with any of this. If you want, email me at bedhead AT bedheadpress DOT com and I'll let you know how the acupuncture went.
posted by bedhead at 11:37 PM on June 15, 2005

I have the same problem, to a lesser degree, and have early stage fibroids.
I'll agree with everyone else, best to see a doctor.
posted by Kellydamnit at 7:24 AM on June 16, 2005

I'll also first say "go see a doctor" but I'll also share that I recently had a miscarriage at 11 weeks, and for the two weeks of bleeding involved in the miscarriage I had exactly the symptoms you describe. Then, the day the bleeding stopped the symptoms stopped as well. Because of my personal experience I wouldn't discount hormonal as a cause.
posted by anastasiav at 8:06 PM on June 16, 2005

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