New secrets for PMS

SAVVY SOLUTIONS

If your PMS is so bad that you often miss work, you may be among the 5 to 8 percent of American women who have something called premenstrual dysphoric disorder. If that sounds like you, new recommendations say that you can beat severe mood swings by taking antidepressants like Paxil and Zoloft a couple of weeks at a time.

Hormonal dips and surges each month trigger changes in the brain that can put you on a moody roller coaster, but antidepressants help brain cells communicate normally again. "People go from dreading each cycle to not even knowing their period is coming," says Yale University psychiatrist Kimberly Yonkers, MD, one of the eight physicians who wrote the recommendations. Doctors now know you can get full relief taking the drugs for just 1 or 2 weeks before your period (instead of all month), which minimizes typical side effects like loss of sex drive and sleep trouble. And a new birth control pill called Yaz appears to work as well as antidepressants.

For milder PMS (which afflicts 75 percent of us), several drug-free remedies can help. Try chasteberry supplements or 600-milligram doses of calcium plus vitamin D twice a day. De-stress with meditation or exercise. Lay off caffeine, alcohol, and salt. Eat plenty of mood-boosting complex carbs (like brown rice or whole wheat pasta). And avoid simple sugars (table sugar, soda, cake), which can make you feel worse.

To determine what's best for you, figure out your five worst symptoms, record their intensity on a scale of 1 to 10 in your calendar throughout the month, then discuss them with your doctor.

Let go: Mild or severe, PMS can be controlled.

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By Emily Sohn

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