Without sugar to numb her extreme PMS Anna Magee has turned into a fully paid up member of the kray kray club – she wonders why (and what to do)
This week I are mostly premenstrual. I didn’t know it as – naughty me – I don’t keep track of my cycle and since I started taking Evening Primrose Oil, don’t get lumpy breasts or even stomach cramps when my period is on its way so I don’t get a warning. Unfortunately nor do those around me.
Two days ago I went crazy. I don’t mean primary school crazy but fully-paid up postgraduate doctoral thesis card-carrying member of the kray kray club. I was about to walk out of my life and go back to Australia, move to Alice Springs and work on a wildlife reserve because everything was Just So Shit. My husband was a controlling and ineffective loser, I was a hopeless failure in my job and my house was falling down around me (that bit’s kind of true). Without that great emotional, premenstrual band-aid that is Cadbury Dairy Milk, I kept screaming and crying and screaming and crying for almost an entire evening. I had to pause Vera and all.
Then my period came.
Is all PMS that extreme? And why does it happen?
About a quarter of women suffer with it – bloating, breast tenderness and moodiness – and it’s caused by rising progesterone in the second half of the cycle (cruelly, it gets worse in our mid-30s). This is normal.
But for 5-10 per cent of women severe, irrational mood swings signal Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) or extreme PMS. ‘The most distressing symptoms of PMDD are mood-related,’ says Dr Nick Panay, consultant gynaecologist at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and Chairman of The National Association of Premenstrual Syndrome (NAPS) told me recently. ‘Women become a Jekyll and Hyde character in the two weeks before their period and can even get violent. Most get misdiagnosed with a psychiatric disorder.’
I think this might be me.
Then again I might simply need a Yorkie Bar.
I can’t tell you the depth of my current sugar cravings right now. It kind of hurts my heart how much I want a piece of chocolate. It’s been going on a couple of days and because sugar addicts always find a shortcut, this morning I snuk a little (okay a lot) of vanilla essence onto my yoghurt and it tasted so sweet that it really must have been a form of sugar. It tasted like honey. Yum. But still haven’t caved to any real sugar, which I refuse not to congratulate myself over.
The reason we turn into Malteser-inhaling machines pre-period is that in the second half of our cycles many women experience a rise in insulin resistance, says Dr Panay. ‘This can lead to increased blood sugar spikes and cravings for simple carbs such as chocolate and cakes’. It’s worsened by living or working under stress that raises adrenaline making cravings worse. Oh, none of that going on around here is there?
Taking 200mg a day of chromium (Healthspan make a good one, at £11.95) can help, experts tell me.
You can also add a pinch of cinnamon to your breakfast cereal or smoothie to help chronic sugar-seeking, says Dr Marilyn Glenville, one of my key go-to nutritionists.
I will be heading down to the health food store to pick some up tonight. Watch this space (or the papers, as god knows what I will do if it doesn’t work).
Read more of Anna Magee’s 90 days of no sugar blogs:
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