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Raging hormones

The hormonal rush of adolescence, especially in girls, is often aggravated by pre-menstrual syndrome.

WHEN a young girl gets her first period, many things in her life change. She feels different because she has a new routine in her life and is on her way to womanhood. Some of these changes are welcome, but some can be bothersome, like premenstrual syndrome. As with most adolescent girls, her emotions are generally ruled by hormones and PMS can come along to aggravate the situation. It’s not easy for a teenage girl to cope with all these sudden changes. As a parent, you can help her by explaning the facts of PMS to her and finding ways to relieve her discomfort.

Attack of the hormones

You may not be able to believe that your sweet and cheerful little girl has suddenly turned into this grumpy and rude person, but you shouldn’t be too alarmed. The reproductive cycle causes hormonal changes that manifest as premenstrual syndrome. This causes some physical and emotional changes just before the monthly menstrual period. Physical symptoms include bloatedness, swollen or sore breasts, headaches, and pimples.

Premenstrual syndrome is an inevitable consequence of hormones, and every woman experiences this to a certain extent.Some premenstrual girls become moody, irritable, tearful, grumpy, and have strange ravenous cravings or feel like the world is coming to an end. These emotions may cause your daughter to become quite contrary – on the one hand, she may snap at you and demand to be left alone, but on the other hand, she gets upset if nobody pays her any attention.

Fortunately for her, and for you, these symptoms and emotions will go away as soon as her period begins. However, menstruation itself can cause some pain or discomfort, such as cramps in the abdomen, lower back or thighs. These cramps may feel like a dull ache, or a sharp, intense pain. These cramps usually go away after the first few days.

Explaining this process to your daughter will help her understand why her emotions and body seem so out of control during this period. She needs to know that she is not “losing it” – it’s just hormones and every woman experiences this to a certain extent.

Food relief

As your daughter is still young, you may be looking for natural PMS relievers so that she doesn’t have to rely on painkillers. Fortunately, there are natural remedies for the symptoms of PMS, particularly the physical ones like breast tenderness and bloating. Diet is one way to reduce PMS symptoms. A balanced diet with a variety of nutrients works in many mysterious ways to keep the body physically well and affect mood and emotions.

Some vitamins, such as vitamin A, are believed to be helpful in combating PMS symptoms. Specifically, vitamin B6 may reduce bloating, while vitamin E can help relieve soreness and tenderness of the breasts. Both vitamins play a role in regulating hormones and thus may be able to help reduce irritability and depression. The best way to get these vitamins and all the other important nutrients is from the food in your daughter’s daily diet. Cod liver oil is a good source of vitamins A and D, as well as essential fatty acids. To add some variety, include some oily fish like sardines and salmon into her diet as well.

Lentils, alfalfa sprouts, peas, cabbage, oats, beef, tuna, and bananas are good sources of vitamin B6. Panthotenic acid, calcium, and magnesium also have stress-reducing properties, which are useful in alleviating menstrual cramps. Foods rich in these nutrients include brown rice, milk, cheese, broccoli, leafy green vegetables, nuts, and sunflower seeds.

In short, make sure that family meals serve up a variety of natural foods, as often as possible. Vitamin and mineral supplements should not replace what natural foods can provide. If you do decide to give your daughter supplements, get advice from your doctor, dietitian, or pharmacist first, as some vitamins and minerals are toxic if taken at high doses. At most, a standard daily multi-vitamin is all that will be necessary to provide your daughter with adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals.

What about herbs?

Herbs are popular among women looking for natural remedies for PMS. Due to our diverse multi- cultural society, there are many different types of traditional herbs that are touted as the solution to PMS and menstrual problems. For a long time, our cultures have believed that herbs contain healing properties that can play a role in disease prevention and well-being. Some herbs like false unicorn root, cramp bark, jatamansi, and red raspberry are believed to help relieve period cramps, while yarrow, nettles, and shepherd’s purse can help to reduce heavy bleeding in cases of menorrhagia.

Jatamansi, blue cohosh, ginger, skullcap, and some Chinese herbs are also believed to help the menstrual cycle of women who have irregular periods. Herballists usualy recommend that herbs be taken for at least three months before any improvement can be seen. Because of the variable nature of herbs and the vast diversity available, there is still a lot that science does not know about the efficacy and safety of herbs. It is best to consult your doctor, and get herbs from a licensed and trusted practitioner, so that you do not expose your daughter to unnecessary risks.

Sometimes, however, the best remedy is the simplest and most comforting, like putting a warm pad on your daughter’s stomach or back when she’s experiencing cramps. A warm bath or a hot drink can also be very soothing.

Encourage your daughter to exercise regularly as well, because this can help to reduce the severity of the cramps and also induce a generally positive feeling.

The Star Newspaper, Sunday May 30, 2010

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