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Mood swings and PMS: an excuse or a real problem?

by Sonia Chartier, on 24 February 2016, Women's Health
mood swings

This is how it happens: You’re in a perfectly good mood when, all of a sudden, you fly into a rage because someone put some of the utensils in the dishwasher upside-down.

Does your family hide from you for a week every month because they’re terrorized by your epic mood swings?

If you too feel that you’re a victim of your own mood swings, now’s the time to fix the problem…

The list of potential premenstrual syndrome symptoms is daunting, and mood swings often top that list. To be sure that this emotional roller coaster ride is due to PMS, keep in mind that two conditions need to be met: the symptoms appear only during the two weeks before your period, and they return just about every month.

It’s safe to say that you’re experiencing mood swings when your usual patience gives way to irritability and you react disproportionately to everyday situations. You feel as if you’ve lost control of your emotions, which is a terrible feeling in itself. PMS has a genetic link, so if you had to put up with your mother’s mood swings, don’t be surprised if you experience a few of your own.

While the causes of PMS aren’t fully understood, we do know that in the two weeks prior to your period, blood levels of estrogen and progesterone change considerably. And this change affects serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter also known as the happiness hormone, so it should come as no surprise that fluctuations in serotonin levels can affect your mood.

Stay in control

Eat right. Food’s impact on PMS in general and on mood swings in particular can be huge, so it’s really up to you to take the bull by the horns. When experiencing PMS, you might often feel as though you could eat a horse, and junk food usually springs to mind as an appealing solution. Just keep in mind that the joy junk food provides is short-lived and quickly turns to feelings of guilt and an upset stomach. Instead:

  • Avoid coffee and alcohol—their stimulating effect doesn’t last.
  • Just say no to sugar! Blood glucose can affect your mood. Aim for stability by eating well balanced meals and healthy snacks.
  • Eat foods rich in magnesium, which also affects mood—you’ll find it in dark green leafy vegetables, tree nuts and seeds.
  • Make sure to get your daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fatty fish, flax seed and nuts. The Dietitians of Canada website recommends that women 19 or over consume 1.1 g per day; the site also provides a detailed list of foods to focus on. Omega-3 fatty acids are also available in supplement form.

In addition to a healthy diet, regular exercise (at least three times a week) is essential. Exercise promotes the production of serotonin, so think of it as your happiness factory.

Stress can make mood swings worse, so find ways to manage it and practice deep breathing. It’ll help you keep your cool when the forks in the dishwasher come out dirty.

A few tools

Because PMS mood swings are rooted in excessive hormone fluctuations, it makes sense to choose a product that evens out the hormones involved. That’s exactly what Vitex agnus castus does. By regulating your cycle, it eases a wide range of PMS symptoms, including unpredictable moods.

While waiting for Vitex to achieve full effect (2–3 months), consider taking rhodiola to help you feel more zen. Its action will get you through those stressful days and keep you from wanting to smash dishes.

These tips will hopefully make your poorly arranged spoons and encrusted forks seem like less of a catastrophe and, above all, keep you from feeling completely hopeless about your own mood swings.

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