Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a group of physical and emotional symptoms that many women experience in the days or weeks leading up to their menstrual period. It’s a widespread phenomenon, affecting an estimated 80% of menstruating women to some degree.

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
PMS is a condition that affects a woman’s mood during the menstruation period. Shutterstock Images.

PMS symptoms can range from mild and manageable to severe and disruptive to daily life. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and available management strategies can empower women to navigate this monthly cycle with confidence. [1]

The Mystery Behind PMS: Exploring Potential Causes

The exact cause of Premenstrual Syndrome remains a scientific mystery. However, the most widely accepted theory points towards hormonal fluctuations throughout the menstrual cycle. Estrogen and progesterone, the primary female sex hormones, rise and fall during the cycle, impacting various bodily functions.

In the days leading up to menstruation, there’s a significant drop in progesterone levels. This decline is believed to play a role in the cascade of PMS symptoms. [2]

The hormonal changes might also influence neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers in the brain. A decrease in serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood regulation, may contribute to mood swings, irritability, and anxiety commonly experienced during PMS.

Beyond hormonal fluctuations, other factors might contribute to PMS:

  • Sensitivity to Hormones: Some women may be more sensitive to the hormonal changes that occur during the menstrual cycle, making them more susceptible to Premenstrual Syndrome Symptoms.
  • Dietary Factors: Diets high in processed foods, caffeine, and salt can worsen PMS symptoms. Conversely, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may offer some relief.
  • Lack of Exercise: Regular physical activity can improve mood, reduce stress, and potentially lessen the severity of PMS symptoms.

A Look at PMS Symptoms

pms symptoms

PMS Symptoms. Shutterstock Image

The experience of PMS varies greatly from woman to woman. According to the National Institute of Health, symptoms can appear anywhere from a week to two weeks before menstruation and usually disappear within a few days of the period starting. PMS symptoms can be broadly categorized into physical and emotional: [3]

Physical Symptoms:

  • Bloating: Hormonal changes can cause fluid retention, leading to a feeling of puffiness or bloating, particularly in the abdomen and breasts.
  • Breast Tenderness: Increased sensitivity and tenderness in the breasts are common PMS symptoms, often subsiding with the onset of menstruation.
  • Headaches: Headaches, particularly migraines, can occur due to hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle.
  • Fatigue and Low Energy: Premenstrual Syndrome can leave women feeling excessively tired and lacking in energy.
  • Cramps: Painful cramps in the lower abdomen are a classic symptom of PMS, though not everyone experiences them.

Emotional Symptoms:

  • Irritability and Mood Swings: Rapid mood swings, increased irritability, and feeling on edge are common PMS symptoms.
  • Anxiety and Depression: PMS can exacerbate feelings of anxiety and contribute to low mood or depressive episodes. [4]
  • Trouble Sleeping: Sleep disturbances, including difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, are frequent PMS complaints.
  • Food Cravings and Changes in Appetite: PMS can trigger strong cravings for specific foods, particularly sugary or salty options. Conversely, some women experience a decrease in appetite during this time.

It’s important to remember that PMS is a spectrum. While some women may experience only mild inconveniences, others might struggle with severe symptoms that significantly impact their daily lives.

Effective Treatments and Strategies for Managing PMS

effective treatments and strategies for managing pms

Effective Treatments and Strategies for Managing PMS – Shutterstock Image

Fortunately, there are several effective ways to manage Premenstrual Syndrome Symptoms and navigate this phase of the menstrual cycle with more comfort. The focus is often on non-invasive, lifestyle modifications that can improve overall well-being:

Dietary Changes:

  • Embrace a Balanced Diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains provides essential nutrients that can help regulate hormones and improve overall health.
  • Limit Processed Foods, Caffeine, and Salt: Processed foods, excessive caffeine intake, and a diet high in salt can worsen PMS symptoms. Opting for healthier alternatives can make a difference. [5]

Exercise is Key:

  • Engage in Regular Physical Activity: Regular exercise, including both aerobic activities and strength training, has been shown to significantly improve mood, reduce stress, and potentially lessen the severity of PMS symptoms. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.

Stress Management Techniques:

  • Prioritize Relaxation: Stress can exacerbate PMS symptoms. Relaxation techniques like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises can help combat stress and promote feelings of calmness. [6]

Sleep – Your Body’s Rejuvenation:

  • Prioritize Good Sleep Hygiene: Getting enough quality sleep is crucial for overall health and can improve mood regulation. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep per night and practice good sleep hygiene habits like establishing a regular sleep schedule and creating a relaxing bedtime routine. This can involve winding down before bed with calming activities like reading or taking a warm bath, avoiding stimulating screens for at least an hour before sleep, and ensuring a cool, dark, and quiet sleep environment.

Over-the-Counter Relief:

  • Pain Relievers for Physical Discomfort: Over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help manage headaches, cramps, and other aches associated with PMS. It’s important to follow dosage instructions carefully and consult a healthcare professional if the pain is severe or persistent. [7]

Seeking Professional Help:
For some women, PMS symptoms can be severe and significantly disrupt daily life. In such cases, seeking professional help from a doctor or gynecologist is recommended. They can explore underlying conditions that might be contributing to PMS and discuss potential treatment options, including hormonal therapy or prescription medications.


PMS is a common experience for menstruating women. While the exact cause remains elusive, understanding the potential triggers and available management strategies can empower women to navigate this phase of their cycle with greater ease. By incorporating lifestyle modifications like a healthy diet, regular exercise, stress management techniques, and good sleep hygiene, many women can find significant relief from PMS symptoms.
If symptoms are severe and disruptive, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Remember, a healthy lifestyle combined with open communication with a healthcare professional can be the key to a smoother and more manageable menstrual cycle.

Was this article helpful?

7 Sources

We review published medical research in respected scientific journals to arrive at our conclusions about a product or health topic. This ensures the highest standard of scientific accuracy.

[1] "Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) | Office on Women's Health." 16 Mar. 2024,
[2] Robinson LL, Ismail KM. Clinical epidemiology of premenstrual disorder: informing optimized patient outcomes. Int J Womens Health. 2015 Sep 25;7:811-8. doi: 10.2147/IJWH.S48426. PMID: 26451123; PMCID: PMC4590317.
[3] "Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) - Symptoms & causes - Mayo Clinic." Mayo Clinic, 25 Feb. 2022,
[4] Handy AB, Greenfield SF, Yonkers KA, Payne LA. Psychiatric Symptoms Across the Menstrual Cycle in Adult Women: A Comprehensive Review. Harv Rev Psychiatry. 2022 Mar-Apr 01;30(2):100-117. doi: 10.1097/HRP.0000000000000329. PMID: 35267252; PMCID: PMC8906247.
[5] Siminiuc R, ?urcanu D. Impact of nutritional diet therapy on premenstrual syndrome. Front Nutr. 2023 Feb 1;10:1079417. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2023.1079417. PMID: 36819682; PMCID: PMC9928757.
[6] Gollenberg AL, Hediger ML, Mumford SL, Whitcomb BW, Hovey KM, Wactawski-Wende J, Schisterman EF. Perceived stress and severity of perimenstrual symptoms: the BioCycle Study. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2010 May;19(5):959-67. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2009.1717. PMID: 20384452; PMCID: PMC2875955.
[7] "Painkillers and NSAIDs." Versus Arthritis, 18 Mar. 2024,


Sam Kramer is a Registered Dietitian, Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist, Six Sigma Green Belt Certified, and Certified Sports Nutritionis