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Calcium Will Ease the Pains of PMS

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

It’s almost that time of the month. Your skinny jeans don’t fit, you’re crying about the dishes in the sink, and chocolate is all you want for dinner. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) affects at least 85% of all women in some way. Some don’t have the same symptoms as others, but many women will have at least one as part of their cycle. You might get acne, tender breasts, fatigue, bloating, cravings, muscle pain, trouble with memory, irritability, mood swings, and anxiety all at once. In many ways, these symptoms interfere with everyday life by making even the most simple and mundane tasks more difficult. The fatigue can feel paralyzing, and the mood swings can make you feel like a monster. Even the most casual conversations can turn into fights or tear-jerkers.

For women who are predisposed to it, PMS is impossible to avoid. Sometimes, contraceptives can ease the symptoms, but other times they actually become much worse. There are also a few easy remedies you can try to ease symptoms, such as exercise and diet adjustment. By exercising, you release much of the tension and stress built up in your body, which will make each problem seem a lot less intense. Avoiding junk food and alcohol can also make symptoms fade away faster, but this only works for some women. However, there is one easy treatment for PMS that has been repeatedly proven to work in a clinical setting. An increased intake of calcium will help ease the symptoms of PMS. In the study, women who increased their intake by 1200-1600 mg every day had significantly less symptoms than before they began the supplementation.

Always consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet, but increasing the amount of calcium you eat while you are experiencing PMS is easy. You don’t even need to pay for the supplements if you try adding more calcium-rich foods to your diet. Milk, yogurt, beans, tofu, kale, spinach, and orange juice are all excellent sources of calcium. When that time of the month rolls around and you feel too bloated to function and too emotional to face your friends, stock up on calcium rich foods to get over your PMS before it gets the best of you.

 – Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.

What Causes Breakthrough Bleeding?

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Vaginal bleeding outside the schedule of your normal menstrual cycle is always disconcerting. Many women feel a rush of panic when they notice blood on their underwear during a random trip to the bathroom, and rightfully so. Bleeding is usually a sign that something is wrong with us internally. If you’re not on birth control, you should see your physician immediately to make sure nothing is wrong and also to receive a pregnancy test. If you’re bleeding randomly and you are on oral birth control medication, this is probably breakthrough bleeding or spotting. Though it’s frightening, it’s actually not something you should be overly concerned about. It’s common, and it’s a harmless side effect of contraception. Of course, it will still be a surprise when you notice it, so learning the cause might help you feel less worried when you do notice a bit of abnormal bleeding while taking contraception.  As always, with breakthrough bleeding, abstinence or an alternate form of contraception is in order.

Studies show that breakthrough bleeding on contraceptives is caused by the hormones they produce, such as lower dose progestins, which are forms of synthethic progesterone. Since the 1960s , the estrogen dose in oral contraceptive has decreased from more than 150 mcg of ethinyl estradiol to 35 mcg or less. The reduction in dose of the hormone has reduced the incidence of venous thrombosis and clots but also increased the incidence of breakthrough bleeding because of the lower dosage.  Without enough hormone to stabilize the lining of the uterus, the lining prematurely sheds causing breakthrough bleeding (metrorrhagia).  Progesterone-only implants and vaginal rings particularly have an increase in the prevalence of breathrough bleeding, specifically with the active component of etonorgestrel.  To solve this problem, many women find it helpful to go on a different type of contraceptive with a different ratio of hormones to see if their body might react differently.

If you do notice large amounts of blood outside of your normal menstrual cycle, you need to contact your  gynecologist. Though it might be normal spotting caused by your birth control, there is also a chance that it could be a sign of something more serious, or even pregnancy. If you find out it is in fact caused by your contraception, speak with your gynecologist who may switch brands, doses or types of hormonal contraception. In addition to making you worry, spotting and breakthrough bleeding is extremely inconvenient, so the sooner you solve the problem the better off you’ll be.

You can read more about abnormal bleeding and contraception in my women’s health book, INSIDE INFORMATION FOR WOMEN, now in paperback.

 – Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.


What to Do about Bloating during Menstruation

Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Especially for women trying to lose weight through diet and exercise, fluid retention during each menstrual cycle can be especially disheartening. More commonly known as “bloating”, fluid retention will make your favorite jeans too tight and will make the numbers on the scale creep up more than you’d expect. Luckily, bloating is no indication of your actual weight, and it’s quite literally excess water in your body that has been stored between layers of tissue. During your period, your body holds on to this water because of hormonal changes and minor swelling of the tissue.  It is extremely common during menstruation, but it can be even more inconvenient than the usual cramps and back pain.

The only way to ensure that your bloating won’t get in the way of any major events is to plan those events around your period. You won’t want to try squeezing your bloated belly into your wedding dress or honeymoon bikini on the big day, but you’ll probably have planned your wedding around your period anyway. However, if you need to deal with bloating for one reason or another, there are some home remedies you could try to ease the discomfort.

First, make sure you eat a healthy and balanced diet during menstruation. Cut back on salt and sodium, as these will make your body retain even more water. Eat more vegetables and less fat and sweets to keep the fluids in your body moving properly through you. Next, exercise through your menstrual cycle. Not only will this ease any cramps you might have, but it will also help you sweat out the excess water trapped in your tissues. Although it seems counterintuitive, make sure you drink plenty of water. Proper hydration will keep the rest of your system working properly, so that when your period is finally over, the bloating will subside quickly and without incident.

Bloating is the modern woman’s worst nightmare. Months of exercise and healthy eating seem to go down the drain as menstruation begins and your designer jeans won’t even make it to your waist.  Luckily, the home remedies listed will help relieve the fluid retention somewhat. Until the relief kicks in, there’s no shame in sweatpants.

 – Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.