Acupuncture An ancient Chinese technique of inserting thin needles at specific points on the body called meridians to control pain, improve functioning, and cure disease.
Adrenal glands Glands located above the kidneys that produce hormones, including estrogen, progesterone, steroids, cortisol, and cortisone, and chemicals such as adrenaline, norepi-nephrine, and dopamine. The glands regulate many functions in the body, including heart rate, blood pressure, and stress response.
Adrenaline A hormone produced by the adrenal glands that is released into the bloodstream in response to stress. Adrenaline stimulates the heart, blood vessels, and respiratory system. Adrenaline is also called epinephrine.
Affective symptoms Mood or emotional responses out of sync with or inappropriate to the behavior or stimulus that prompts them. In PMS, affective symptoms include depression, anxiety, irritability, and mood swings.
Agnus castus The scientific name for chasteberry, an herb used to treat PMS symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, bloating, breast fullness, and headache. The complete scientific name is Vitex agnus castus.
Aldosterone A hormone secreted by the adrenal glands that stimulates sodium retention.
Alternative medicine A broad category of medical treatment systems that are not recognized by conventional or standard medicine. Alternative medicine is used in place of standard treatments. Examples include traditional Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, and naturopathy.
Amygdala An almond-shaped structure in the part of the brain that regulates emotion and triggers response to dangers. The amygdala is implicated in many psychiatric disorders.
Androgen/androgenic hormone A hormone that produces male characteristics and the development and function of male sexual organs. Androgenic hormones include testosterone and androsterone.
Antiolytics Drugs used to treat anxiety symptoms, tension, and agitation.
Aromatherapy The practice of using essential oils from flowers, herbs, and trees to promote health, relieve stress, and promote relaxation. It is an alternative practice to treat PMS.
Ayurvedic medicine A 5,000-year-old system of holistic and preventive medicine from India. Ayurveda treats illness as an imbalance or stress in a person’s life and encourages right thinking, diet, lifestyle, and herbs.
Bipolar disorder A mood disorder characterized by severe and often rapid alteration in mood, in which a person experiences recurrent bouts of depression alternating with mania or euphoria. It was formerly known as manic-depressive disorder.
Chiropractic A system of treating musculoskeletal disorders by adjusting the spinal column.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy A type of psychotherapy in which a person is taught to recognize distorted thinking and replace it with more realistic thoughts and beliefs. It is used to treat depression, anxiety disorders, phobias, and other mental illnesses.
Cognitive symptoms Responses that affect a person’s ability to perceive, think, and remember. In PMS, these might include difficulty concentrating and memory problems.
Complementary medicine Noninvasive, nonpharmaceutical medical techniques used to treat illness and disease. These techniques are used in conjunction with more conventional medical treatments, such as drug therapy and surgery. Examples of complementary medicine practices include dietary supplements, herbal medicine, meditation, and acupuncture.
Corpus luteum A structure formed in the ovary from the cells that remain after an egg has been released. The corpus luteum produces progesterone to support a woman’s pregnancy and prevent menstruation.
Cortisol A steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. It is important in maintaining blood insulin levels, body fluids, and electrolytes.
Cyclothymia A chronic bipolar disorder with short periods of mild depression and hypomania (which consists of elevated mood, irritability, optimism, a decreased need for sleep, and increased talkativeness). Some people with this disorder go on to develop full-blown bipolar disorder.
Diuretics Drugs that increase the production and excretion of urine. They are used to remove fluid from the body and reduce bloating.
Dopamine A neurotransmitter critical to muscle movement, insulin regulation, physical energy, thinking, short-term memory, and emotion.
Dysmenorrhea Pain or discomfort before or during menstrual periods. Primary dysmenorrhea is pain that does not have a separate medical cause; secondary dysmenorrhea is pain that is caused by a condition other than menstruation, such as endometriosis.
Dysthymic disorder Depression characterized by a lack of enjoyment or pleasure in life that continues for at least two years.
Electrolytes Minerals that regulate bodily functions, including the body’s fluid balance and muscle contraction. Electrolytes include potassium, calcium, chloride, bicarbonate, and magnesium.
Endocrine Having to do with hormones and the glands that produce and secrete them in the body.
Endometriosis A condition in which endometrial tissue, which lines the uterine cavity, grows in locations outside the uterus, such as the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and abdominal cavity. It is a painful condition that causes heavy bleeding and scarring and may lead to infertility.
Endorphins Opium-like chemicals naturally produced by the brain that elevate mood and kill pain.
Estradiol The main hormone produced by the follicular cells of the ovary.
Estriol A weak estrogen hormone that increases during pregnancy.
Estrogen A primary sex hormone produced by the ovaries, placenta, and adrenal glands. Estrogen is responsible for the development of female sex characteristics.
Estrone An estrogenic hormone produced by the ovarian follicles. It is weaker than estradiol.
Evening primrose oil A nutritional supplement made from a weedy plant that contains essential fatty acids, especially gamma-linolenic acid. It is used to relieve pain and inflammation. In PMS, it has been found helpful in reducing breast tenderness.
Fibrocystic breast condition A condition in which there is fibrous tissue in the breasts; the condition of having lumpy breasts.
Fibromyalgia A chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, soft-tissue tenderness, and sleep disorder.
Fluoxetine A selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor used to treat depression and premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Brand names include Prozac and Sarafem.
Follicular phase The first phase of the menstrual cycle during which the egg follicles in the ovaries grow and endometrial tissue in the uterus thickens.
FSH-RF Follicle-stimulating hormone-releasing factor; a chemical secreted by the pituitary gland that prompts the body to release follicle-stimulating hormone.
Homeopathy The medical practice of treating disease by using very small doses of substances that in a healthy person would produce symptoms similar to the disease.
Hyperhydration Water intoxication, in which a person’s intake of water is excessive. In PMS, hyper-hydration refers to fluid retention, weight gain, breast tenderness, and swelling of the extremities.
Hypoadrenia A term used by alternative medicine to describe a reduction in adrenal activity. This condition is not recognized by conventional medicine.
Hypoglycemia Abnormally low blood sugar. It can cause jitteriness, rapid breathing, and lethargy.
Hypomania A mild form of mania.
Hypothalamus A small structure at the base of the brain that regulates the endocrine process, body temperature, sleep, and appetite.
Hypothyroidism A condition of having too little thyroid hormone, which leads to a lowered metabolic rate, weight gain, and a loss of energy. This condition is also known as underactive thyroid.
Hysterectomy The surgical removal of the uterus and sometimes the cervix.
GABA Gamma-aminobutyric acid is the primary neurotransmitter in the brain. It is involved in muscle relaxation, diminished emotional reaction, and sedation.
Generalized anxiety disorder An anxiety disorder in which a person has excessive and uncontrollable anxiety for six months or longer, often without apparent cause.
Gonadotropin A hormone that stimulates the gonads (ovaries in women, testes in men).
GnRH agonists A group of drugs that suppress the pituitary gland in order to suppress the ovaries. GnRH agonists induce menopause-like symptoms and are commonly used to treat endometriosis.
Leptin A hormone that helps regulate a person’s appetite and metabolism.
Light therapy A treatment that uses very bright full-spectrum light for a prescribed amount of time to promote a normal sleep-wake cycle and decrease sleep disturbances. It is used to treat seasonal affective disorder. It is also known as phototherapy.
Luteal phase The second half of the menstrual cycle during which an egg becomes a corpus luteum and produces progesterone.
Luteinizing hormone A hormone produced by the pituitary gland that stimulates ovulation.
Mania A medical condition characterized by severely elevated mood.
Mastalgia Pain in the breast; the condition of painful breasts.
Melatonin A hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain in response to darkness. It regulates the onset and timing of sleep rhythms.
Menopause The stage in life when a woman stops having menstrual periods. On average, this happens at age fifty-two.
Menstrual migraine A type of migraine headache that occurs only during menstruation or at ovulation.
Mood lability The quality of unstable or quickly changing moods.
Myomectomy The surgical removal of fibroids. The procedure leaves the uterus intact.
Naturopathy A holistic system of medicine originating in Europe that uses natural substances to balance a person’s internal chemistry.
Naturopathy avoids drugs and surgery and instead relies on nutrition, herbal medicine, and homeopathy.
Neurohormones Biochemical substances made by tissues in the body that stimulate the cells to which they attach.
Neuropsychiatrist A physician concerned with the study of the brain and mental diseases.
Neurotransmitters Chemical substances that carry impulses from one nerve cell to another. They include serotonin, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine.
Norepinephrine A neurotransmitter and hormone involved in the body’s fight-or-flight response to stress; it is involved in alertness, concentration, aggression, motivation.
NSAIDs Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; a group of drugs used to relive pain, fever, and inflammation, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.
Oophorectomy Surgery to remove one or both ovaries. This is a last-resort treatment for PMS since it causes premature menopause.
Ovulation The release of a mature egg from an ovary.
Ovulatory phase The phase of a menstrual cycle when ovulation occurs (generally, but not necessarily, the midpoint of the menstrual cycle).
Perimenopause The transition period before menopause. Symptoms include decreased production of estrogen and progesterone, irregular menstrual periods, hot flashes, and night sweats, as well as mood changes.
Pilates An exercise technique based on the work of Joseph Pilates designed to strengthen core muscles, increase flexibility, and improve posture.
Placebo An inactive substance that has no treatment value. It is used in clinical trials as a control to evaluate the effectiveness of experimental treatment.
Postpartum depression Depression that occurs after childbirth.
Precursor A substance from which another substance is formed. For example, tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, which means it is the source of serotonin.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder PMDD; a severe form of premenstrual syndrome characterized by severe depression, shifting moods, difficulty concentrating, irritability, anxiety, and tension, as well as physical symptoms such as bloating, headache, and joint and muscle pain.
Premenstrual magnification The worsening of certain illnesses and symptoms during the premenstrual phase.
Progesterone A female steroid hormone secreted by the ovary. It prepares the uterus for the fertilized ovum and maintains the pregnancy.
Synthetic progesterone is used in oral contraceptives.
Progestin The synthetic form of progesterone.
Prolactin A hormone produced by the pituitary gland that stimulates breast development and milk production.
Prostaglandins Hormone-like substances produced in the uterus that control inflammation, control contractions, and may cause cramps.
Psychological symptoms Symptoms of PMS that affect both mood and cognition. Examples include depression, confusion, and forgetfulness.
Psychotherapy Types of treatment that involve talking and listening, usually with a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or licensed counselor.
Randomized controlled trial Clinical trial in which study participants are assigned randomly either an intervention being tested or a placebo. Randomized controlled trials are highly reliable because the study design avoids bias.
Reflexology A form of massage in which pressure is applied to specific areas on the feet, hands, and ears to promote health and relaxation.
Sarafem The brand name of the SSRI fluoxetine hydrochloride; used to treat premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
Schizoaffective disorder A mental disorder in which the person exhibits both mood symptoms and psychosis, such as hallucinations and delusions.
Seasonal affective disorder A mood disorder that is related to the change of seasons, developing in the winter when sunlight is limited and resolving in the spring.
Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors SSRIs; antidepressant drugs that selectively inhibit the absorption of serotonin at certainnerve membranes. SSRIs make the brain use serotonin more efficiently.
Serotonin A neurotransmitter that affects behavior, emotions, and thought, serotonin also causes blood vessels to narrow. It is involved in mood disorders, such as depression and PMDD. Serotonin is also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine.
Somatic Having to do with the body. Somatic PMS symptoms include muscle and joint pain, headaches, and so on.
Soy isoflavones Nutrients isolated from soybeans, isofla-vones include genistein and daidzein. They are thought to be very beneficial for PMS.
Testosterone The male sex hormone, it promotes the development of male characteristics. Women have small amounts of testosterone in their bodies.
Thyroid disease An abnormality of the thyroid gland and its production of thyroid hormone.
Tricyclic antidepressants A class of medications used to treat depression; named after the drugs’ molecular structure, which contains three rings of atoms. SSRIs largely replaced TCAs as the preferred treatment for depressive disorders.
Triphasic oral contraceptives Oral contraceptives in which the ratio of estrogen and progestin varies in three phases over the course of the cycle. This pattern more closely mimics a woman’s natural menstrual cycle.
Tryptophan An essential amino acid formed from proteins during digestion. It is essential for normal growth and development and is a precursor to serotonin.
Weight cycling Rapidly losing and then regaining weight, also known as yo-yo dieting.