Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a common female condition that can cause a range of symptoms from physical pain to emotional fluctuations. It is thought to affect over 90% of women approximately 7-14 days before menstruation.
While PMS symptoms can be mild for some, a reported 20-40% of women experience severe monthly PMS symptoms. For other women, symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome may start mild and get worse with age.
Read on to understand more about why PMS can get worse with age and what you can do about it.
Although over 100 symptoms have been attributed to PMS, the most common symptoms generally include breast tenderness, irritability, lower back pain, mood swings, headaches, insomnia, fatigue, food cravings, bloating, and water retention. There are many commonalities between PMS symptoms and Pregnancy Symptoms.
What Causes PMS?
Exactly what causes PMS is yet to be determined, however, several scientific studies suggest a connection between the cyclical fluctuations of hormones as well as chemical changes in the brain during pre-menstruation.
An increase in estrogen and progesterone, for example, is believed to trigger symptoms like mood swings and a heightened sense of stress or anxiety. Alternatively, a drop in the production of serotonin in the brain can cause food cravings, headaches, and sleep disruptions.
When PMS Becomes PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder)
Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a more chronic form of PMS that affects up to 8% of women and normally requires treatment. It can begin at any age during the reproductive years but generally starts in the late 20s, with symptoms appearing up to two weeks before menstruation.
The exact cause of PMDD remains unknown, however, researchers believe it could be a rare reaction to the natural hormonal changes during a woman’s monthly cycle.
While characteristically similar to those of PMS, PMDD symptoms are a lot more severe. Menstruation cycles follow a regular monthly pattern, but mood swings are more intense, feelings of anxiety and depression can deepen, and headaches, dizziness & heart palpitations can increase.
Nausea, vomiting, chronic abdominal cramps, and lower back pain can also occur, and skin problems may also worsen with PMDD.
If any of the above symptoms are disrupting your life to the point that is difficult to function, speak with your doctor about possible treatments options. When left untreated, PMDD can gravely affect your long-term mental health.
PMS Symptoms During Perimenopause
For some women, PMS symptoms may worsen during the late 30s or early 40s when they enter a phase called perimenopause as they transition into menopause. For other women, PMS symptoms can lessen as they enter this phase. Studies show that women who have experienced PMS symptoms since puberty can be more susceptible to worsening PMS during this transition.
During perimenopause, hormone levels can fluctuate unpredictably as periods sometimes occur closer together and sometimes months apart. This unpredictability can cause PMS symptoms to become more intense, resulting in more exaggerated mood swings, a deeper sense of anxiety, more headaches, and muscles aches, as well as a sense of brain fog.
Underlying Conditions That Can Worsen PMS Symptoms
Many women who are nowhere near menopausal age can also experience worse PMS symptoms as they age, and these may be due to an underlying condition.
Thyroid conditions can have similar symptoms to PMS, for example, and when experienced in tandem with the hormonal fluctuations of the monthly cycle, PMS symptoms can feel a lot more intense.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can sometimes be misdiagnosed as PMS, however, it is a completely separate condition. Speaking with a doctor can help to separate the symptoms and prescribe treatment for PCOS, which should reduce the PMS-like symptoms.
Conditions That Worsen When PMS Starts
Women suffering from depression, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), bladder pain, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) may find their usual symptoms worsening with the onset of PMS.
What To Do When PMS Gets Worse with Age
Even though PMS can get worse with age for certain women, there are natural ways to reduce the severity of symptoms.
If you smoke, stop. Apart from the impacts on your general health, recent studies have shown that women who smoke experience more severe PMS symptoms.
Following a healthy and nutritional diet during everyday life will have a positive impact on reducing PMS symptoms when they arise. In addition, even though PMS food cravings can lead to unhealthy food choices, maintaining a healthy diet throughout the monthly cycle will help manage symptoms during PMS flare-ups.
For example, vegetables and fruits, as well as whole-grain foods, protein, and foods that are rich in calcium, are well known to help ease PMS symptoms.
Eliminate Trigger Foods
While it is perfectly normal to crave “comfort foods” like carbohydrates, chocolate, and ice cream, these foods can worsen PMS symptoms rather than ease them. Additionally, alcohol and caffeine can act as triggers that enhance symptoms associated with PMS.
In a recent study, 93% of women who took a natural herbal supplement called Chasteberry over three consecutive months reported a significant improvement in PMS symptoms. Pelvic discomfort, irritability, premenstrual acne, and food cravings all improved notably.
Chasteberry, an ancient Mediterranean berry, has been traditionally used to treat a myriad of conditions associated with the female reproductive system for centuries but is thought to be particularly effective in easing symptoms connected with PMS.
While there is still lots to learn about how this herbal berry, studies show that a regular chasteberry supplement, like the Chasteberry/Vitex Supplement from Intimate Rose, can help to reduce high levels of the hormone prolactin. This, in turn, allows the reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone to rebalance. Learn more about the applications of Chasteberry for PMS.
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories work well to reduce the bloating and swelling that comes with PMS, especially relief from lower back pain and abdominal cramping. Anti-inflammatories can also reduce swelling in the extremities due to water retention.
Regular aerobic exercise during everyday life is believed to prevent severe PMS symptoms. And even though most women don’t feel like it, some light exercise such as walking, swimming, cycling, or yoga can also help to ease PMS symptoms when they occur.
Relaxation & Meditation
Making time to rest, relax, and meditate can significantly help the mind to manage the temporary symptoms associated with PMS.
PMS can get worse with age, depending on underlying conditions, when your PMS symptoms began, and lifestyle. However, with a deeper understanding of why your PMS is worsening, it is possible to do something about it.
Healthy lifestyle changes, regular exercise, giving up smoking, eating the right foods, and choosing the correct natural supplements can significantly help. A consultation with your doctor will also aid in determining the root cause and alternative treatment options.
Mayo Clinic - Premenstrual syndrome (PMS): Definition
Johns Hopkins Medicine - Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) - https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/premenstrual-dysphoric-disorder-pmdd
National Center For Biotechnology Information - Global epidemiological study of variation of premenstrual symptoms with age and sociodemographic factors - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21903713/
National Center For Biotechnology Information - Systematic Review of Premenstrual, Postmenstrual and Infertility Disorders of Vitex Agnus Castus -https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5308513/