The real cause of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is not yet fully known, though many likely factors can be responsible for its symptoms. These factors may involve:
Hormone changes – Your hormone levels (progesterone and estrogen) fluctuate during your menstrual cycle. These hormonal changes are considered to be the biggest reasons for your PMS symptoms. The improvement of your PMS symptoms during pregnancy and after your menopause when your levels of hormone are stable validates this theory.
Chemical changes – As with your hormone levels, there are specific brain chemicals like serotonin that rises up and down during your menstrual cycle. Since serotonin is a chemical that causes you to feel happy and also one that regulates your mood, women with low serotonin levels are especially prone to PMS symptoms. Certain symptoms may also come about when serotonin levels are low. These symptoms can include:
- Difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
- Food cravings
Exercise and weight – If you perform no or very little exercise and if you have a body mass index of 30 or more (which means you are considered obese), then you are very likely to develop PMS.
Stress – As you get more and more stressed, your likelihood of getting PMS becomes high and if you already have PMS, its symptoms then only becomes worse. Stress is not a direct cause for PMS but it can surely aggravate its symptoms.
Diet – Consuming a lot of certain foods while eating little of others can also be a contributive factor for PMS. Eating a lot of salty foods, for example, can cause fluids to accumulate in your body and cause bloating. Caffeinated drinks and alcohol can interfere with your energy levels and your mood. Low levels of minerals and vitamins can likewise cause your PMS symptoms to worsen.
Like PMS, the cause of PMDD or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder is also unknown although it is theorized that PMDD (as with PMS) can come about due to the interaction of hormones (like progesterone and estrogen) coming from the ovaries at various stages in the menstrual cycle with neurotransmitters located in the brain. The ovarian levels of hormone of women with PMDD may be normal but the response of the brain to the fluctuation of these hormones is abnormal.
Studies done indicate that PMDD and PMS are not caused by specific personality types or personality traits. Like PMS stress is not considered to be one reason of PMDD. Stress is rather likely to be the result of PMDD or PMS symptoms. Nutritional deficiencies like lack of vitamins in the body have not been observed to cause PMDD or PMS symptoms either.
Dr. Jack Handlin is an experienced acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist and oriental reproductive medicine specialist at Tree of Life Acupuncture & Chinese Herbal Medicine in Bellevue, WA.