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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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March 2000

Q. I get pretty irritable, and angry before my periods. I also feel some depressed and crave sweets. It is really starting to bother my husband and colleagues at work. What can I do?

A. The symptoms you are describing are consistent with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). Millions of women suffer from this disorder of unknown cause. Typically, about one week before one's period, symptoms of irritability and anger begin along with other symptoms that may include depression, bloating, breast tenderness and headaches. Then upon beginning her menstrual period, the symptoms improve.

Fortunately, there are effective treatments available. Probably, the most effective is the use of medications such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, or Celexa. These drugs increase serotonin levels in the brain with seems to help keep one more even keel and reducing some of the other symptoms as well. Interestingly, studies show that it is effective for women to just take these drugs cyclically, between ovulating and their menstrual period, and not the whole month, i.e. taking the drug about 10 days per month.

Certainly a prudent diet with plenty of fiber, but avoiding salty foods can help, along with exercise. Also some data showed that calcium at 1,200 mg per day and magnesium 200 mg per day were both independently helpful with some of the symptoms.

For more info: National Women's Health Network: 1-202-628-7814

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