The Biology of Premenstrual Syndrome Symptoms

Premenstrual syndrome aka PMS is a dreaded monthly visitor because of the variety of symptoms it imposes on its recipient. The more severe form of PMS called premenstrual dysphoric disorder also produces PMS symptoms only in a more severe format. Both of these conditions are linked to fluctuations in the endocrine system.

What is the endocrine system you wonder? It consists of the different glands in your body like the thyroid, pituitary, pancreas and reproductive organs like the ovaries. These glands secrete special chemicals called hormones that affect different functions of the body from height growth to metabolism.

When the hormones that control the menstrual cycle fluctuate or act irregularly, PMS symptoms occur.

Hormone Complexity

The female body is rather complex, especially the way the endocrine system reacts in relation to the menstrual cycle and all that it entails. It is somewhat of a mystery why some women are plagued with PMDD or PMS while others are not. Genetics does play a significant part in the formation of PMS symptoms.

The fact that these symptoms are different between women is notable but the biological causes can be quite different as well. Here are a few endocrine system examples of how women with PMS symptoms can be so different:

  • The adrenal gland produces a chemical called aldosterone while is increased after ovulation, when the ovaries release a mature egg for possible fertilization. This chemical aldosterone can contribute to PMS symptoms such as headaches, water retention and breast tenderness.
  • Sometimes, the brain might not utilize the chemical transmitter produced in the brain called serotonin, which can affect mood. When levels are low, depression and even anxiety can occur. Doctors theorize that the low serotonin can be the result of a sensitive reaction to changes in progesterone and estrogen.
  • The pituitary gland produces the hormone prolactin and too much of it can hinder ovulation thereby causing such symptoms as breast tenderness and even cycle irregularity.
  • The cells in your body produce a chemical called prostaglandin that accompanies PMS symptoms like water retention, emotional fluctuations, breast tenderness, headaches, cramping and more.
  • Endorphins released from the pituitary gland typically causes a natural high which can combat or mask pain. Painful PMS symptoms and depression can occur when the body does not produce enough endorphins.
  • A sensitive vulnerability to the body’s insulin can occur during ovulation which can lower blood sugar. Researchers theorize that this too can contribute to the symptoms of PMS and PMDD.

The biological and chemical changes in a female’s body are considerable during the menstrual cycle and are the reason why some women have a tough time. Their bodies do not have the biological tools to combat the problem.

Over the counter medications can curtail some of the pain and symptoms of PMS but when the problems are severe and head into PMDD territory, women have to rely on prescription medications to get them through.

The birth control pill, in monthly, quarterly or yearly prescriptions, can help alter certain hormones and reduce the painful symptoms quite effectively. Treatment such as birth control pills should not be taken lightly and should be discussed with a doctor.