Most people experience bloating, irritability and mood swings right before their periods. There is also a bit of fatigue, and while the experience may be individually different, the symptoms are more or less common for most. But, did you know that approximately 3 to 9 per cent of people actually experience premenstrual changes so severe they cannot even keep up with their daily routine?

Experts say they suffer from premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a condition characterised by intense emotional and physical symptoms that occur 5 to 11 days before periods. In other words, PMDD is like supercharged PMS!

Dr Amodita Ahuja, a consultant gynecologist, obstetrician, and laparoscopic surgeon — who is also the founder of an online consultancy and educational platform Project Pink Butterfly — says that there is a wide spectrum of 150 different types of symptoms that people can experience during this time.

“Some of the symptoms include abdominal bloating, pain, sore breast, acne, food craving especially chocolates and ice creams, constipation, diarrhoea, headache, irritability, sensitivity to light and sound, anxiety, depression, irritability, etc. It’s a real biological condition for which people seek treatment — and for which effective treatment is available,” the doctor says.

While the cause is unknown, it is believed people who suffer from PMDD have an exaggerated response to hormonal fluctuations that normally happens during the menstrual cycle.

“These hormonal fluctuations cause alteration in the level of happy hormones, thereby causing mood alterations and physical changes. If the symptoms hamper day-to-day life and relationships or if the symptoms do not go away, consult your gynecologist. They will conduct a physical examination and run certain tests so as to rule out other things.”

The doctor suggests that lifestyle changes like regular exercising, yoga, meditation, and drinking plenty of water can help.

* Increase the intake of folic acid, vitamin B6, calcium, zinc, and magnesium.
* Try to cut down on sweets and snacks which are rich in sodium.
* Add fennel and cinnamon to your diet, as they reduce bloating and abdominal cramps.
* Take a spoon of crushed flaxseeds every morning as it reduces psychological symptoms like anxiety and depression.
* Take apple cider vinegar with lemon water mid-morning, as it reduces bloating, headache, and water retention.
* Keep stress under check by doing yoga and meditation.

“Working with a therapist can help you navigate the emotional challenges that come with PMDD. A specific type of therapy called ‘cognitive behavioural therapy’ can be particularly helpful. This approach helps in developing new behaviours and thought patterns to navigate through difficult situations. Therapists may also prescribe medications to increase the happy chemical serotonin in the body,” explains Dr Ahuja.

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