Banish the blues

August 28, 2011 02:04 pm | Updated 07:21 pm IST

NOW, YOU CAN JUMP WITH JOY Exercise and a balanced diet can help you overcome PMS.

NOW, YOU CAN JUMP WITH JOY Exercise and a balanced diet can help you overcome PMS.

Alisha was a cheerful 17-year-old. She was a good student. But just before her menstrual cycle, life would suddenly become an emotional rollercoaster. She would be irritable, moody and lose her temper.

What she experienced each month was the classic symptoms of PMS or pre-menstrual syndrome. There is a medical explanation for her peculiar behaviour. Before menstruation, the body hormones interact with the brain, causing mood swings. So you laugh, cry, or go into depression, at short intervals. The mood shifts are only temporary, but it was more traumatic for the people around Alisha to put up with her tantrums!

Once Alisha realised she had a problem, she was able to cope with it better. Her doctor advised her not to give in to her sugar cravings, which would only cause greater mood fluctuations, but to eat fruits, drink plenty of water, and ensure she had a balanced diet. She also did walking, deep breathing and stretching exercises regularly.

Over time, this made a huge difference. She still had her off days, but she was much more in control of her life. Her friends and family too could breathe easy!

Alisha's fitness tips:

* To relieve cramps, bathe using warm water.

* Exercise and stretch your body; keep blood circulation going.

* Drink plenty of water.

* Avoid consuming too many sugary foods.

The Inside Story

The pear-shaped uterus is where babies grow before they are born. The uterus is connected to two ovaries, which produce eggs and the female hormone oestrogen. On either side of the uterus, are the Fallopian Tubes, where the sperm meets the egg. Every month, the uterus develops a thick lining of tissue, to help nourish a baby. However, when the egg does not get fertilised with male sperm, the lining, along with the blood, is discharged through a passage called the vagina. This discharge is called menstruation, or simply, a monthly period.

Did you know 1 in 2 adolescent girls is anaemic?

With monthly menstruation, you lose blood. If you do not eat well, the iron in your blood tends to be low, and you can become anaemic. This may make you feel weak and easily tired. You can also look pale. To up the iron levels in your blood, your diet needs to be rich in iron. And when you have iron with vitamin C, found in orange juice or lemon, it gets absorbed better. So have more of the foods on this list!

* Meat

* Fish

* Chicken

* Leafy greens/ broccoli

* Legumes

* Cereals

* Prunes, raisins, apricots, figs

* Watermelon

Thigh, back and stomach discomfort

Cramping in the abdomen, back, or upper thighs is common. You can get some relief with a heating pad, hot water bag, a warm bath, application of anti-inflammatory ointments and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, but only if suggested by your doctor. Often, light exercise, such as going for a walk or stretching, can help ease the pain.

Fit fact: Symptoms of PMS are probably reduced due to the mood-elevating and stress-relieving benefits of exercise!

Water retention

Eighty-five per cent of all women have bloating, or water retention, during PMS. The cause of bloating is believed to be linked to hormone changes in the body.

Cut down on caffeine and refined sugars, because poor nutrition only increases water retention. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables to relieve bloating. Reduce your salt intake, as salt makes your body retain water. Drink 8-10 glasses of water per day. (No, water will not make you bloat; it will drain the extra salt that can cause water retention!)

Green tea or chamomile tea can soothe the pain caused by your period, and the mild diuretic effect can relieve the water retention.

Back stress relievers

Walk or march for 5 minutes to warm your body up, before you start these exercises.

Cat-camel stretch

Sit on all fours (on your hands and knees). Carefully arch your back and hold this position for 3 to 5 seconds. Then gently round your back (like the hump of a camel) and hold for 3 to 5 seconds. Repeat this exercise 5 times.

Hip and lower back stretch

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet shoulder-width apart. Hands clasped behind your knees, slowly draw both your knees towards your chest. Hold in this ‘knees-to-chest' position; breathe as you allow your body to relax. Roll your spine down gently as you revert to the start position. Hold for 10 seconds.

Cobbler pose

In a seated position, bend your knees and slowly bring your feet together in the namaste position; feel the stretch in your inner thighs. Hold for 10 seconds.

The writer is a certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist.

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