FROM "CHANGE YOUR BRAIN CHANGE YOUR BODY" by Daniel Amen. M.D.
PREMENSTRUAL SYNDROME (PMS)
Lisa Nowak, the astronaut in the scandalous love triangle that made the news some time ago, put on a diaper and drove nine hundred miles to confront the girlfriend of her love interest. She was later accused of attempted kidnapping. During pretrial motions, I appeared on Fox News to talk about what could have caused a highly successful woman to do such a crazy thing. I was on a panel with five women. She had just filed an insanity plea—not guilty by reason of insanity-—-when the moderator asked me, "If you were the consulting psychiatrist for her defense team, what would you want to know?" I told him I would want to know where she was in her menstrual cycle when she committed the crime. All five women on the panel were aghast and one said, "Oh my God, I can't beheve he just said that!" I explained that we've scanned many women at different times of their cycle, and that during the worst time of their cycles for women with PMS, their brains change. The way our society reacts to saying that a woman may fluctuate with her hormones is, in my mind, stupid because it is just so obvious.
PMS is real. From a hormonal perspective, the days prior to your period coincide with the days when your estrogen and progesterone levels hit rock bottom. Brain scans show that during the last two weeks of the cycle, the anterior cingulate gyrus starts to fire up. That's the part of your brain that helps you shift attention, be flexible, and go with the flow. This is due to a deficiency of serotonin, a natural antidepressant, feel-good chemical. We've seen that as estrogen levels fall, serotonin does too. Also, during the worst time of the cycle, the prefrontal cortex tends to go low, which is why women may struggle with focus and impulse control.
Common signs of PMS
This crash causes emotional difficulties, intensifies feelings of depression, and can affect sleep. By now, you know that this can be a precursor to poor eating habits, which pack on unwanted pounds. It also robs your skin of the nighttime rejuvenation it needs. Other symptoms include bloating, breast tenderness, irritabflity, anger, worry, focusing on negative thoughts, poor concentration and impulsivity.
Get it balanced
Replacing a small amount of progesterone during the second half of your cycle may neutralize symptoms. Medications that boost serotonin, such as Prozac and Zoloft, have been shown to be helpful to calm the anterior cingulate symptoms of worry, depression, and anxiety. In my practice, I've noticed that 5-HTP reduces symptoms of PMS.
Perimenopause is the ten to fifteen years leading up to menopause. It is the time when your hormone fluctuations gradually start to change from your regular cycle and you don't know where your hormones will be on any given day. Most women don't think about perimenopause until estrogen levels have fallen to a point where they get hit with hot flashes and night sweats, the most common symptoms. But by the time you are having hot flashes, you've probably been going through perimenopause for up to ten years. And you may already be saddled with the effects of estrogen dominance.
Common signs of perimenopause
Hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain, depression, anxiety, mixability, and poor memory.
Get it balanced
It is a good idea to get your hormone levels checked when you are about thirty-five years old so you have a baseline. Then get them checked every two to three years. Synthetic or bio-identical hormone replacement therapy may be helpful in the form of creams, pills, and vaginal inserts. The best way to treat hot flashes
is with a combination of estradiol and estriol. Natural treatments include supplements, such as B vitamins, fish oil, primrose oil, and flaxseed oil. Plus, adopt brain-healthy habits. Get plenty of exercise, adequate sleep, drink lots of water, eat whole foods, and meditate.
DR. AMEN HAS MUCH TO SAY AND TEACH IN THIS CHAPTER ON HORMONES IN HIS BOOK. A VERY FINE BOOK TO HAVE; I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT.
PERSONAL STORY ABOUT PMS.
IT WAS BACK IN 1986; MY WIFE AND I HAD BOUGHT A 5-PLEX BUILDING [IT WAS AN OLD HOTEL AT ONE TIME]; WE WERE LIVING IN THE MAIN GROUND LEVEL APARTMENT. TO THE EAST OF US WAS A YOUNG COUPLE RENTING THAT APARTMENT. WE STARTED TO NOTICE THAT ONCE A MONTH FOR ABOUT A WEEK, THE YOUNG LADY WOULD CHANGE DRASTICALLY IN PERSONALITY, BECOME VERY DISTANT IN MIND, WOULD NOT SAY "HI" TO YOU, AND JUST REAL GET ANGRY LOOKING. THEN ONE MONTH WE HEARD HER THROUGH THE WALLS JUST TEARING A HUGE STRIP OFF HER HUSBAND. THEN AFTER A WEEK SHE WOULD BE HER NORMAL FRIENDLY PLEASANT SELF AGAIN. THIS HAPPENED OVER THE NEXT 3 MONTHS ONCE MORE. THEN ANOTHER TWO MONTHS WENT BY [SAME CHANGE IN PERSONALITY EACH MONTH]. THE THIRD MONTH [THIS IS THEN 9 MONTHS FROM THE FIRST TIME WE NOTICED THIS CHANGE IN HER EACH MONTH], I WAS UP ON THE DECK OF THE SECOND FLOOR WHEN I HEARD THIS SHOUTING FROM HER. THEY HAD A WALK OUT DECK. I LOOKED DOWN TO SEE WHAT WAS REALLY A FUNNY SIGHT [IF NOT SO SERIOUS]. HER HUSBAND WAS ABOUT 6' 3" .... A POLICEMAN ABOUT THE SAME HEIGHT WAS STANDING IN-FRONT OF HER HUSBAND, SHE WAS ABOUT 5' 3" ... SHE WAS TRYING TO GET AT HER HUSBAND, SCREAMING AT HIM, THROWING HER ARMS AROUND THE POLICEMAN TRYING TO, WELL I GUESS, SMACK HER HUSBAND.
PMS WAS JUST BECOMING KNOWN AS A REAL HORMONE CHANGE IN SOME WOMEN, JUST BEGINNING TO BE WRITTEN ABOUT, AND I HAD READ SOME ARTICLES ON IT. I SAID TO MY WIFE, "YOU KNOW I REALLY THINK THAT YOUNG LADY IS SUFFERING FROM PMS EACH MONTH, AND AS WE'VE SEEN ABOUT EVERY THIRD MONTH SHE REALLY GOES WILD."
SHORTLY AFTER THAT INCIDENT, I WAS AS A FRIEND TO THEM, NOT JUST THE LANDLORD, ABLE TO SIT DOWN WITH THE TWO OF THEM, AND TELL THEM ABOUT WHAT WAS BECOMING NEWS IN THE MEDICAL WORLD, THE "PMS PROBLEM" AND THEY SHOULD LOOK INTO IT.
THEY DID, OR SHE DID, AND INDEED SHE WAS ABLE TO GET MEDICAL HELP, AND SOLVE HER MONTHLY PROBLEM.
SO PMS IS TRUE. THE HORMONE CHANGE FOR SOME WOMEN CAN GO OFF THE CHARTS AND PRODUCE ALL KINDS OF PHYSICAL/EMOTIONAL/MENTAL PROBLEMS FOR SOME WOMEN. IT REALLY IS NOTHING TO BE LAUGHED AT WHEN SOMEONE MENTIONS PMS.