DrSugar is in the house! And she's answering your health-related questions.DrSugar,
I have been trying to get back on track with my exercise routine after those dangerous two months of parties, but I notice that each month when my period comes around, it seems impossible to get past the cravings and fatigue. What causes this and what can I do to get around it?
— Crazy Cravings
The symptoms you describe, food cravings and fatigue, around the time of your period sound like they are most consistent with typical symptoms of menstruation, which, when severe, can be called premenstrual syndrome (PMS). I understand your concern and disdain with these symptoms, as they do seem to counteract your desire to maintain a healthy lifestyle with exercise and eating healthy. To learn more about what causes these symptoms and what can be done to try to overcome them, keep reading!
According to the National Institutes of Health, bleeding is the primary sign of menstruation and some women have other symptoms associated with menstruation, including cramping, bloating, sore breasts, food cravings, mood swings, irritability, headache, and fatigue. They also report that if these symptoms are present and are severe, that it might be a sign of premenstrual syndrome. MedicineNet.com states that about 80 percent of women experience some of these symptoms, however, the true incidence of clinically significant (moderate to severe intensity affecting a woman's functioning) is thought to only occur in 20 to 30 percent of women.
The Mayo Clinic states that the exact cause of premenstrual and menstrual type symptoms is not known; however, there may be several factors that contribute to the symptoms. Menstruation is an orchestration of fluctuating sex hormones and it is thought that this could account for part of the symptoms. It is also thought that changes in serotonin levels in the brain could also play a role. Finally, stress and eating habits (including salty foods, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol) may also play a role.
The Mayo Clinic recommends management of these menstrual symptoms by modification of the diet (smaller, frequent meals, limiting salty foods, taking a multivitamin, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol), incorporating exercise into your regular routine, and reducing stress by getting plenty of sleep and other relaxation techniques. I understand you are already trying to get back on track, and according to the Mayo Clinic and MedicineNet.com, typically, lifestyle modifications including healthy diet, stress modification, and exercise are effective to help control menstrual symptoms. However, if these measures are not effective, you should see your primary care physician in order to determine if further treatment or workup is necessary, as there are other conditions that have similar symptoms, such as depression, chronic fatigue, hypothyroidism, and irritable bowel syndrome.
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