If you have ever seen a woman shed her radiant nature and become an unstoppable, homicidal lunatic in a matter of hours you might have experienced first-hand a premenstrual syndrome (PMS) incident.
Women who suffer bouts of PMS can be vile and dangerous. Some are believed to have killed under the spell of PMS.
PMS is a group of symptoms that starts one to two weeks before your period.
"Most women have at least some symptoms of PMS, and those symptoms fade away after their periods start. For some, the symptoms are severe enough to interfere with their lives," says Thozi Sangweni.
More than 80percent of menstruating women suffer from this hormone-triggered condition. They might experience emotional and physical turbulence before menstruation.
More than 150 symptoms are associated with PMS, ranging from breast tenderness to nausea to extreme anger, irritability and severe depression.
Sangweni says it's imperative that women take notice of their next expected date of menstruation as this can ease the tension caused by PMS.
"If you get a major mood swing and tell people off, you are bound to get worse when you don't know the cause of your irritability," he said.
One patient on a blogging site asks for help saying: "Sometimes I honestly think I'm losing my mind. My reactions to common occurrences are dramatically different from other times of the month. When I'm suffering PMS symptoms I burst into tears or want to argue over the slightest things. I can't sleep. I eat too much of the wrong foods because I'm starving. I feel depressed."
Sangweni says this patient stands a better chance of alleviating her PMS signs than oblivious sufferers who might find themselves so lethargic they can harm their partners, children and themselves, verbally or physically.
"But PMS responses affect me about 10 days out of each month. That's a big chunk of my life, and I'd really like to find management that can help me," says the patient.
Though the causes of PMS are not totally clear, medical research points to the changes that occur in hormone levels before menstruation begins.
"We do know that PMS only happens to ovulating women. Women who do not ovulate do not have PMS, and pregnancy is more often than not a huge relief to PMS sufferers," Sangweni says.
A separate article in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition reviews studies on the effectiveness of various dietary supplements in reducing PMS symptoms. Large, controlled clinical trials demonstrate the beneficial effects of calcium supplements. They are inexpensive and have the additional long-term benefit of enhancing bone health.
Several preliminary studies suggest that Vitamin E and magnesium might also be valuable in relieving PMS symptoms, but additional clinical trials involving larger numbers of women are needed to further evaluate their role.
Manganese might also have a role in reducing PMS symptoms, but further studies are needed to understand how it is related to the symptoms of PMS.
Oral contraceptives have been widely prescribed as a treatment for PMS.
"But there is very little proof to support their effectiveness," argues Rose Tlakula, a gynaecologist.
But she has prescribed these oral contraceptives because she has seen some patients' PMS levels go down considerably.
"The use of alternative treatments such as natural progesterone, primrose oil and vitamin B6 have either been shown to be ineffective or to be only of limited benefit in treating specific symptoms," says Tlakula.
"But I must say that Vitamin B6 is necessary in moderation to treat irritability."
Evening primrose oil and borage seed oil have also been suggested as treatments.