Singer-turned-TV gardener Kim Wilde has a mild nature, but she used to live up to her name for a few days every month. Here's how she finally beat PMS.
Kim Wilde was usually a picture of affability - but heaven help you if you bumped into her at the wrong time. Even her nearest and dearest risked a tongue-lashing unless they kept well clear of her. The normally easy-going 80s star has suffered badly from pre-menstrual syndrome since she was a teenager. Only recently has she found a way to beat the monthly symptoms that have blighted her life for decades. Kim, 43, says: "I never really bothered to do anything about it. When you're constantly touring and performing you get very little time and my problem with PMS was shoved to one side after each period. Somehow I coped, because that's what you do when you're a professional. My dad is the 60s singer Marty Wilde, and when you come from a performing background you put on a brave face, even if you are not 100 per cent."
Kim had bad symptoms for a week to 10 days every month. "I would be bloated, my breasts would enlarge and I would lose my temper big-time," she says. I was suffering, so other people would suffer, too. They would often feel the sharp end of my tongue. They must have thought I was a horrible person. Unless they were close family, my victims would have no idea why I had just lashed out at them. They most probably thought it was my normal way of behaving, but the wild part of me only comes out at the wrong time of the month. The rest of the time I'm very easy-going. It's very much a Jekyll-and-Hyde situation. That's what's so annoying about PMS. After you've had a rage and had time to think about it, you ask yourself: 'Did I really behave so badly to that person?' As a public figure, you want to be amiable and outward-going. I'd do my best to avoid interviews with journalists when I'd got PMS, but it's difficult to say no, particularly if the local paper wants a story and pictures in the town where you're performing."
The person who has had to put up most with her rages is her husband Hal, a music producer. "Hal got used to it," says Kim. "He'd know that I might be spoiling for an argument because of the time of month and just steer clear of anything that might lead to a row. But sometimes I'd have a go at him even if he'd said nothing. A lot of husbands would get upset at being shouted at on and off for up to 10 days a month, but Hal has taken it in his stride. He would do his best to make himself scarce if I was on the PMS warpath, but you can't avoid each other all the time."
After nearly 20 years on the road, Kim settled down in her late 30s to have a family and now has Harry, six, and Rose, four. She thought having children might tame those raging hormones - but in fact it got worse. She says: "I was told that having children sometimes rebalances your periods and can stop PMS or make it milder. But the opposite happened. I seemed to be getting more irritable, although I tried really hard not to lose my rag with the children."
Then about two years ago Kim made a key decision. She explains: "I took a radical look at my health to see if I could reduce my symptoms. I went on a diet and lost a couple of stone and started going to the gym. I heard that magnesium, evening primrose oil and Vitamin B6 could help and so I started to take them daily. I noticed an improvement after the first month, and with each successive month my symptoms got less severe. I cut down on meat and started to eat more fish and a lot more fruit and vegetables. I've also found that purging the body every few weeks by fasting for a day or two seems to help. My close family have noticed a difference in me. I still get irritable, but less so. Hal thinks it's great that I'm less grumpy. These days, he knows there's less likely to be a flare-up before my period - although he's still on his guard."
Eat to beat PMS
LIMIT your intake of refined sugars. It increases excretion of B vitamins and the minerals magnesium and chromium.
RESTRICT salt intake to less than 3g per day.
LIMIT alcohol to one unit per day. Alcohol destroys B vitamins, magnesium and chromium.
CUT caffeine intake - it intensifies anxiety and encourages the body to hold on to water.
EAT potassium-rich foods such as sunflower seeds, dates, figs, peaches, bananas, tomatoes.
HAVE a little dark chocolate. It contains magnesium and iron, which helps with tiredness and irritability.
DRINK six to eight glasses of water a day.Four ways to relieve your monthly miseryAGNUS CASTUS is a herbal remedy from the Mediterranean and West Asia. Research published in the British Medical Journal found it can significantly reduce the symptoms of PMS. It regulates progesterone levels by increasing the production of hormones which stimulate the ovarian secretion of progesterone.
VITAMIN B6 supplements have been shown to help suppress a steroid hormone called aldosterone, preventing bloating. Vitamin B6 supplements should not be taken continuously. Take the recommended daily dose a week before your period begins and continue until the end of the period. Marmite, Brazil nuts and bananas also contain useful amounts of B6.
EVENING PRIMROSE OIL, STARFLOWER OIL and BLACKCURRANT OIL all contain GLA, a rich source of long-chain fatty acids linked to prostaglandins - the hormonal substances which are present in the uterus and control muscle cramps.
MAGNESIUM helps relieve mood swings and anxiety as it's involved in activating the mood regulator serotonin. Green vegetables, fruit, wholewheats, nuts, bananas, chocolate and seeds all contain magnesium.How drugs can helpIf PMS is blighting your life, visit your GP, who can prescribe the following drugs to help with the symptoms...
MEFENAMIC acid - this anti-inflammatory drug reduces the swelling of the womb and pain of PMS. It should be taken 12 days before and during your period.
COMBINED contraceptive pill - this can control the hormone fluctuations that cause PMS.
ANTI-INFLAMMATORY painkillers - relieves pain caused by the inflammation associated with PMS.
PROGESTOGENS - taken a week before your period, these help to even out hormone fluctuations.
DIURETICS - can help reduce water retention.
MILD tranquillisers - can reduce anxiety.
ANTI-DEPRESSANTS - may be useful if PMS is accompanied by severe depression.
BROMOCRIPTINE - hormone-inhibiting drug that can help if breast tenderness is a major symptom.