Health Case Study: Giving PMS a pounding with oils
Every month, Maria Rogers life was made hell by PMS, until she discovered a supplement that changed everything. She tells Joy Orpen how she and her family are now no longer living in dread of her periods
It has attracted an array of euphemisms - none of them particularly flattering. Most, including "the curse", "monthlies" and "red-shark week" make it very clear that having a period is at best, inconvenient, and at worst, seriously debilitating.
Someone who knows all about this is Maria Rogers, a stylishly flamboyant and pretty mother of three living in Santry, north Dublin.
From the outset, menstruating was difficult for her. "I always had a problem with heavy bleeds," Maria says. "I never knew when a period might come on and that can be difficult when you're a teenager. I also had very tender breasts, acne, bloating and cramps. There was a lot of pain and I often had to take time off school or else I'd go home, take a painkiller and then go back to the class."
But Maria did get a break from her symptoms in a life-changing way when she was just 18 years old.
"Getting pregnant was a relief in a way, because my periods stopped," she explains, "but still it was a terrible shock when it happened."
In spite of a fairly chaotic situation, she continued on at school and managed to get five honours in her Leaving; which begs the question, what would have happened if Maria hadn't fallen pregnant? "I would probably have gotten more honours and gone to college," she says. "But I got there in the end anyway."
After Maria's first son Warren was born, 13 years ago, the dreaded "curse" returned with a vengeance so she went to her GP who put her on the Pill.
"I tried a few different ones but they all gave me really bad headaches so I was put on the mini-Pill," she says.
By then Maria had met and fallen in love with Christopher Rogers, a house painter. They were young enough to be unconcerned about having children together immediately, so Maria continued with the mini-Pill. However, eight years ago nature again intervened, and in spite of taking contraceptives, Darragh was born. A year later, Cameron made his appearance.
Maria then had a coil inserted, hoping it would prevent further pregnancies and improve her monthly miseries. But it didn't do all that she had hoped it would, though a scan showed the coil was properly positioned.
"The bleeding was less but it's still heavy and goes on for 10 days," she says.
About six months after her youngest child was born, Maria began to realise she was suffering from symptoms typical of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). "I noticed I always felt unwell around the time of my period," she explains. "I'd feel completely low in myself and very drained. But I had to keep going."
Maria soldiered on; taking care of her lively lads when she wasn't working in a nursery school or doing childcare studies at college. All the while she was being laid low each month by PMS. As a consequence, Christopher and the boys had to take the brunt of her mood swings and would be on their guard when she was having a period.
Then one day Maria's astute sister Clare, who works in a chemist shop, was asked by a sales representative if she'd like to take part in a trial for krill oil. Having read the literature on the supplement, Clare began to suspect that Maria might be the better candidate for the product, as her sister never took any fish products and had PMS issues.
Having made contact with the rep, Maria was asked to supply details of her medical and personal history.
Soon after that, she received a supply of Cleanmarine Krill Oil for Women. At the end of the first month she was asked to let them know how she got on.
"After three weeks I noticed a big difference," she says. "Suddenly my period was on me but I didn't feel low. That was a shock. I continued and the same thing happened the next month."
Maria says she was asked to score how she was feeling and by the end of the third month she was able to report that she was much, much better. "I couldn't believe the difference in myself."
At the end of the trial period her free supply came to an end so she began to buy her own capsules. "The acne on my face had gone, the headaches and tender breasts were a thing of the past and my mood was much better. So I was making sure I didn't go without," she says, laughing.
However, as time went on and given the recession and the needs of three growing boys, money became pretty tight so Maria stopped taking the capsules.
"It was coming up to Christmas, and while €22 doesn't seem a lot of money, every penny we had was going on the kids. I went off the capsules for about four months. I thought I could do without them. But then I noticed the cramps were coming back and my moods were getting bad again. Then one day my husband asked me, 'What's up with you?' and it dawned on me I was back to square one.
"So I started taking the capsules again and they're working. I'd recommend them to anyone suffering from PMS. The atmosphere in the house is so much better since I went back on them.
"It has definitely improved my relationship with my husband and it helps at work," she insists, "especially working with children." Maria ascribes all this to her use of Cleanmarine Krill Oil for Women.
Krill are small crustaceans found in the sea; their oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. Krill oil is more easily absorbed into the body than fish oil. These capsules also contain a combination of nutrients specifically for women such as rosemary and vitamin D3, which help with mood disorders sometimes associated with PMS.
According to a recent study, three out of four menstruating women in Ireland experience some form of PMS. The report says that there are various ways of tackling the symptoms and these may include diet, exercise, supplements and medication.
Dr Barbara Kearns, a practising GP based in Blackrock, Dublin, says: "Very often women ignore PMS or just presume it's something that has to be put up with every month. But there are steps you can take that will alleviate the symptoms, such as taking more exercise, improving your diet and taking a supplement.
"By making sustained lifestyle changes and providing your body with the vitamins and minerals it needs to combat PMS you will be creating long term benefits for yourself," Barbara says.
Cleanmarine Krill Oil for Women is a supplement available at pharmacies and health food shops. The cost is €21.99 for one month's supply