the joys of PMS
December 20, 2013 2:40 AM   Subscribe

As I've gotten older, my PMS has gotten worse and worse. It's not emotional, though, just physical discomfort. Anyone have any ideas on how to ease the week or so before my period? Details within. Warning: This got gross.

Physical issues I experience before my period:
- constipation for up to a week before. My diet does not change, I experience no cravings, so it's not a result of eating too much chocolate or whatever. I try to eat more green veggies and bananas but the only cure for my constipation is when my period arrives.
- vaginal itching.
- general feeling of heaviness or bloating. My stomach feels quite taut and uncomfortable.
- muscular soreness, especially in my legs and around my knees.

It's just wall-to-wall fun here and it starts about 10 days before my period. Everything is 100% resolved once it arrives though. I've been to a doctor about other period issues but not this. I'm not on any form of BC or other kinds of medication. I don't get emotional symptoms, and I don't take any supplements at the moment either.

(Having wikipedia-d it, I have realised that physical symptoms alone do not equal PMS, but I didn't know how else to refer to it in this question.)
posted by Ziggy500 to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry I should add that I'm 31.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:41 AM on December 20, 2013

Ugh. You have my sympathies.

IANAD but I have had painful and annoying experiences with what I like to call, "The Hidden Secrets of my Lady Parts," involving scarred fallopian tubes, cysts and ovarian cancer. All caught eventually, all treated successfully

Most if not all of my symptoms were similar to yours and got worse before I got my period.

Again, IANAD but I am now an alarmist, so take this with an appropriate alarmist-level grain of salt.

Go see a doctor. Get an ultrasound and find out what you've got going on in there.
posted by kinetic at 3:18 AM on December 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think this whole thread is going to be TMI so let's just assume it right from the get go. Ok, I used to have terribly painful periods for the first two days (and some of your symptoms too.) This information may not be helpful to you, but on two occasions, the symptoms went away. The first time was when I went on a raw food diet for 5 weeks. (I lived with militant raw food vegans for a couple of months, I wasn't allowed to eat anything else in the house, but it was just before my wedding so I went with it.) Aside from losing 5kgs, my PMS symptoms completely vanished. This lead me to believe some of it is diet related. Now I never actually figured out what was causing it (was it dairy, was it meat, was it caffeine, who knows, I wasn't having any of those.)

My doctor told me it may have been that simply having more water in my system meant the blood in my uterus didn't clot, causing it to pass easier and not give me painful cramps. Sounds plausible. Having said that, a raw food diet is too hardcore for me to sustain so it was back to delicious, delicious charred meat and carbs for me.

And this is the other unhelpful anecdote which caused my period pain to disappear - giving birth. If this is something you may be doing one day, read on. When I was pregnant with my first child my female doctor congratulated me on the fact that i wouldn't have painful periods if I had a natural (labour) birth. Me being ever the sceptic, she explained to me that after her 3 kids, her period pain vanished, apparently it has something to do with the cervix widening to give birth and never quite going back to where it was before, thus giving easier access for the blood to leave or... something.

I didn't quite understand but I'll be damned if she wasn't right (and I never even completed full labour, eventually after 10 hours I had an emergency c section.) When my periods came back, it's like they weren't even there. And they've never been painful since. I'm cured.

So, I'm not suggesting you have a baby unless it's on the cards, but consider drastically increasing your water intake for one, and try cutting out various things like dairy, meat etc at different times and see if these are contributing factors. You have my sympathy.
posted by Jubey at 3:22 AM on December 20, 2013

I'd stop with the bananas! Bananas are known to bind one up and are therefore a part of the BRAT diet in treatment of diarrhea. It is possible they increase your discomfort (constipation, general feeling of heaviness and bloating).

Try a lubricant, moisturizer or gel for the vaginal dryness. There are even some with added estrogen. (Lowered estrogen levels prior to menstruation are the cause of vaginal dryness that leads to itchiness). For strong itchiness even try an icepack.

Try an anti-inflammatory gel to relieve pain and soreness in joints and muscles. There are some for athletes. Also Voltaren gel is good, minimal and very targeted dosing.
Also try a warm compress and/or an icepack (alternating might bring relief).

Next time you see your OB/Gyn ask about those symptoms.
posted by travelwithcats at 3:24 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have similar pre-period symptoms. Days before my period starts, I start to feel dramatically different (very heavy, bloated, uncomfortable). I have ovarian cysts and my gynecologist suggested that they might be making my symptoms worse. About 6 months ago, I went on the birth control pill and my symptoms have gotten slightly better and now start about 5 days before my period, rather than 7-10. The change was good enough for me, but I was told that removing the cysts might help with the problem if the symptoms were unbearable. So, seconding the advice to see your doctor.
posted by gursky at 3:25 AM on December 20, 2013

Pre-giving birth, I had terrible pain with my period. Stay home from school or work pain. The only things that helped noticably were eliminating sugar and processed foods for 3-5 days beforehand, and sometimes regular strenuous exercise. But the diet change was the most helpful. And yeah, post birth I've been period pain free for 8 years. Whoooooo!
posted by cocoagirl at 4:22 AM on December 20, 2013

My own digestive system has always gotten funky around my period too; actually it's always been a little prone to bloating. I started taking a daily acidophilous or probiotic supplement a couple years ago and that's made a definite difference; I still have my occasional days of constipation or bloat, but they've lessened a good deal. I've even seen some probiotics that are especially formulated for women, and get those when I can (they're also supposed to regulate vaginal flora; I actually keep yeast infections at bay by avoiding glycerine lube, but the probiotic also helps, I figure).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:34 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

I get similar symptoms, but only in the last 2-3 days of the luteal phase. I find that water, water, more water, and some more water works well. Like, a ridiculous amount of water (4-5L/day). I also up my protein intake significantly (from maybe 1 serving of beans/fish per day to 4-5 servings of beef/pork). The combination of these two things seems to ease the bloating and aching muscles. My non-medical-training theory is that the endometrium is basically water+tissue, the growth of which requires that those resources are diverted to the uterus from elsewhere (so you need more water and protein for your body to maintain its current levels elsewhere). IANAD, so this could just be nonsense.

I also use a hot water bottle at night, which may or may not help with the bloating, but at the very least is relaxing/soothing.

Definitely bring it up with your doctor at your next appointment too, just in case it's an indication of a problem beyond normal menstruation (cysts, endometriosis, etc).
posted by melissasaurus at 4:53 AM on December 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

My symptoms are noticeably worse post-baby. I find that flax seed meal helps a lot with the digestive issues - just a spoonful in the morning (mixed with oatmeal or whatever) during that uncomfortable week.
posted by judith at 5:03 AM on December 20, 2013

right around my 30th birthday my pms went from awful to really fucking awful (i've never had kids). i have ibs-c and my dr says that no one is really sure why (as all answers about lady parts start) but that it's been noticed that ibs flairs often coincide with the menstrual cycle. mine is worse just before my period and then it gets resolved with period diarrhea.
posted by nadawi at 6:24 AM on December 20, 2013

My own PMS tends toward other people saying "Did you notice your dog is avoiding you because you're so irritable?" but I do also have the digestive issues - once I started taking probiotics (daily, not just during the PMS time) this resolved for me. I've been a vegetarian for a long time now and have never noticed this resolving with more or less of anything in particular (fiber, etc.) in my diet.

I take Premsyn PMS twice a day for 7-8 days and I have noticed the bloating/heaviness issue went away for me with that. It contains a small dose of diuretic and that is probably what helped. Beware these multiple symptom PMS pills - they usually contain acetaminophen (warnings, etc. here).
posted by AllieTessKipp at 6:45 AM on December 20, 2013

Menstruation causes all kinds of inflammatory responses, if you take ibuprofen 200mg every six hours a day or two before your period typically causes problems quite a few people have minimal symptoms, especially if this is related to endometriosis.

My theory is this is the same mechanism behind massive changes in diets anecdotally outlined above.
posted by hobo gitano de queretaro at 7:00 AM on December 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

My pms symptoms changed right around 30 as well... I found that drinking lots and lots of water helps a lot with everything (constipation, bloating, and counter-intuitively, the water retention pains I get in my hip joints/thighs). Cutting back on salty foods can help too.
posted by Fig at 7:11 AM on December 20, 2013

GI wise: flaxseed meal, lots of water, soups, and raisins really help me. Also, doing active things, such as running (even if I hate running) or pilates: anything that gets that core moving.

Muscle soreness wise: have you tried compression sleeves for your calves?
posted by troytroy at 7:54 AM on December 20, 2013

This has been happening to me over the last 5 years or so now - I'm 33 now. I went to see the gynecologist about it about 3 years ago because it had progressed to the point where I was basically getting the flu + constipation for a week every month, and that was just untenable. She put me on birth control pills and that has basically taken care of everything. I still have fairly painful cramps (sometimes extending into my legs) and some bloating, but only for a couple days. More recently, I've started taking fish oil/omega-3 as a supplement, and it has really helped with the bloat and a little with the pain. There has been some research that indicates it can help with the somatic symptoms of PMS (including bloating).
posted by bluefly at 8:40 AM on December 20, 2013

Good research has shown that calcium supplementation can help with PMS symptoms.
posted by ourobouros at 9:05 AM on December 20, 2013

Exercise and diet changes have helped my PMS EXTRAORDINARILY. I have struggled with pretty pernicious PMDD and irregular periods with symptoms including bloating, constipation, crazy cravings, weight gain, headache, anxiety, acne, and then finally super painful cramps, the whole package for much of my adult life. I had to take aspirin for the pain and was bed ridden some months with a heating pad. I was prescribed birth control pills (yuck) and anti-depressants (yikes). Decided to say fuck that and exercise like a demon. Regular exercise (mostly cardio, specifically running) 4 or 5 days a week and consuming more greens/vegetables/fruits/lean meats/healthy fats resulted in my periods become regular and the symptoms reduced to either nonexistent to only slightly annoying.

This may not be an option for you, as I am lucky to not have joint issues or injuries that prevent me from exercise. But I will say the diet has helped. Avoiding fatty, fried, sugary foods even though you may crave them will help with the digestive problems. Drink plenty of water and try a pro-biotic.
posted by Young Kullervo at 9:08 AM on December 20, 2013

The general feeling of heaviness was exactly how I discovered I had fibroids … large fibroids. The fact that the symptoms seem to be worsening indicates to me that it's time to see the doctor. My life post-fibroids is night and day.
posted by nubianinthedesert at 9:35 AM on December 20, 2013

My experience has been that this does all have to do with inflammation. Taking Aleve, resisting the nearly irresistible urges to eat all the wrong things, and in the worst case taking the aptly named Miralax are immensely helpful. Magnesium also hugely helps me with everything that requires relaxation, from muscle cramps to insomnia to menstrual cramps. Supposedly it also helps with constipation but I've got so much else going on at the same time that I can't make that specific claim for myself.
posted by HotToddy at 11:01 AM on December 20, 2013

I had a lot of abdominal heaviness before I got my extremely helpful "diagnosis" of IBS, and that can get worse around your period. So, yay! But exercise, fiber, and water.
posted by sandwiches at 11:04 AM on December 20, 2013

Specifically, for the itchiness, i find applying some coconut oil to be really helpful. I usually put a few drops of tea tree oil in it, but you may not want or need to.
posted by annsunny at 1:24 PM on December 20, 2013

My PMS and menstrual cramping were drastically reduced when I started taking vitamin B12, and not a lot either, just a few doses a month and suddenly my period is almost symptom-free.
posted by nanook at 1:27 PM on December 20, 2013

I am your age, and this happens to me too, and has gotten worse the last few years. I have cystic ovaries and maybe some endo. I am a quite healthy eater, but all my PMS vanished on the Whole 30 diet. I then had loose um.... movements, but digestive enzymes fixed that up. The only solution offered by doctor is birth control.
posted by jrobin276 at 2:26 PM on December 20, 2013

Any doctor worth his salt will do a vaginal ultrasound to check on all your inner lady parts - ask for it and get it done. It's not painful and it does show everything inside, which is downright amazing since what the stuff inside a woman's pelvis is doing has remained pretty mysterious until they came up with the vag ultrasound. There are fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian/tubal cysts, and even cancer - and the ultrasound will almost always pick them up.

It used to be common for women in their mid 30s - mid 40s to get a D&C (dilation of the cervix and scraping out of the uterine contents - the dregs of 20+ years of periods) to ease the misery and check via laboratory for anything that didn't belong in there, but I think the vag ultrasound has made it easier to identify problems without the outpatient surgery element.

You can feel better, and you should - see your doctor.
posted by aryma at 6:43 PM on December 20, 2013

The symptoms you describe are all hormonally-mediated. I disagree with the above poster: you do not need an ultrasound. As women get "older," hormones shift. Your menstrual cycle is regulated by a bunch of hormones (estrogen, progesterone, LH, FSH, etc.) After you ovulate, if the egg is not fertilised, your body begins the process of progesterone withdrawal. Progesterone is a lovely hormone that relaxes and smooths things. As it drops, things tighten up (like leg muscles).

It may be that as you're getting older, your fertile period is decreasing a bit: so if you used to get PMS symptoms 10 days after you ovulated, you're now getting them sooner. I wouldn't worry about it.

Also, I would stay away from vaginal estrogens. They're generally used for post-menopausal women. Probiotics (by mouth) and increasing your hydration (and decreasing salt and diuretics) should help with the vag dryness as well as the cramps.
posted by stillmoving at 11:57 PM on December 20, 2013

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