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Your Brain on PMS

Your Brain on PMS

Martha Rosenberg
August 3, 2011

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It is said that women's periods are a lot like airline meals. We hate them, we complain about them, we dread them--but just let the flight attendant try to skip you! Not all women have bad things to say about PMS but only the good thing anyone has to say about it is that it ends--like surgery or senior year of high school.

Scientists study the human brain on OxyContin and Ecstasy but not on PMS which afflicts half of the world. Why can't science explain and fix:

PMS eating: "Treating" the feeling of being fat and bloated by...eating an eight ounce bag of baked potato chips? And doing it again, the next day?

PMS circadian derangement: A brain that's so sleepy, you don't remember your computer password...but so wired, when you lie down to go to sleep you have insomnia.

PMS emotional somersaults: Feeling so weepy you'll cry about the loss of your BFF in sixth grade but so mean you want to shove people to the side with "sidewalk rage" and "hallway rage."

PMS uncoordination: Dropping a full bottle of cranberry juice you think you're holding firmly in your hand or hitting a doorway frame for no apparent reason.

And how about the mysterious symptomatology that comes and goes with PMS? 20-year-olds with knee pain; 30-year-olds with wrinkles; 40-year-olds with zits? Thanks for that. (And what is the summer equivalent of the traditional winter PMS outfit of gigantic-in-the-waist leggings and knee length sweater?)

Nor do scientists understand a huge source of potential workplace and domestic violence: women who live or work together, cycling together.

While the strange phenomenon could have evolved for survival reasons--what predator would attack six women with PMS?--misunderstandings abound. When Mom, your sister or roommate is annoyed with you, chances are you are annoyed with her! Then you are annoyed with her for being annoyed with you and it become a chicken-and-the-egg conflagration. The same happens with your female boss and you are tempted, when she calls your name for the fourth time in an hour, to say "what did I do this time?" though hopefully you won't.

Even though men know nothing about PMS (except to duck) male health professionals are a wellspring of saccharine advice. Avoid salt, sugar, carbohydrates, alcohol and coffee they trill and "nibble on carrots and other low calorie snacks," pretending that low calorie snack isn't an oxymoron. Hit the treadmill or the track if you are feeling "lethargic," they also proffer, though they've taken away your coffee. A new Got Milk campaign, aimed at men and no doubt created by them, even tells husbands and boyfriends to run to the store and get women milk for their PMS.

That's worse than carrot sticks.

*************

Martha Rosenberg's first book, tentatively titled "Born with a Fritos Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp the Public Health" will be published by Amherst, New York-based Prometheus Books next year.

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