CONDITIONS A-Z

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Premenstrual Syndrome is a condition which affects many women during the one or two weeks before menstruation begins. It is characterised by troublesome but usually harmless symptoms including breast tenderness, mood swings, bloating, depression and backache.

There appears to be a common hormonal imbalance in women suffering from PMS which is due to increased levels of oestrogen and decreased levels of progesterone. These hormonal changes lead to a build up of fluid in the body, and reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the uterus, brain and ovaries.

What supplements may help relieve PMS?

Vitamin B6 is an important nutrient for women during their menstrual period and several studies have shown that a good supply of vitamin B6 everyday may reduce discomfort associated with the menstrual cycle. B6 may help increase oxygen flow to the female organs as well as helping to restore oestrogen levels to normal. Research has found a link between a B complex deficiency and PMS and so often the B complex vitamins are recommended by nutritionists for women suffering from PMS.

Magnesium deficiency has also been associated with the occurrence of PMS. One trial of magnesium levels and PMS showed a reduction in breast tenderness in 96% of subjects and of weight gain in 95% of subjects given magnesium supplements.

Vitamin E has been widely researched, with most research focussing on breast tenderness. But it may also have positive effects on headaches, fatigue and depression.

Women suffering from PMS have been shown to have impaired conversion of linoleic acid (fatty acid) to gamma linoleic acid (GLA). Therefore a GLA deficiency may be a contributing factor in PMS, particularly breast tenderness. PMS sufferers often supplement with Evening Primrose Oil because it contains good levels of GLA. Evening Primrose Oil seems to work best when taken over several menstrual cycles.

What herbs may help relieve PMS?

Agnus Castus may help to rebalance the normal levels of oestrogen and progesterone during the menstrual cycle. It has traditionally been used by women for a wide variety of female problems.

Blessed Thistle, Dong Quai, False Unicorn root, Sarsparilla root and Squaw vine are all herbs which exert a balancing effect and are often found useful by women suffering from PMS. Dong Quai is also know as the ‘female ginseng’ and it is believed to have an antispasmodic effect.

The herb Black Cohosh is approved for use in women with PMS in Germany. Native American women historically used it before their menstrual cycle.

Water retention is a common symptom associated with PMS. Many herbs possess diuretic actions such as bladderwrack, chilvers, ground ivy and burdock root and are often combined in licensed preparations for better results.

The role of diet and lifestyle in PMS

Generally PMS sufferers should limit their intake of refined carbohydrates such as sugar, white flour and bread. Women who eat more sugary foods seem to have an increased risk of PMS.

Intake of fresh fruit, vegetables and fibre should be increased as several studies have suggested that diets low in fat or high in fibre may help to reduce symptoms of PMS.

Caffeine should be avoided as it is linked to breast tenderness and acts as a diuretic. One study found that consumption of caffeine beverages were associated with increase occurrence and severity of PMS and that the more caffeine women consumed, the more likely they were to suffer form PMS.

Regular exercise can help with mood and also aid in stabilizing hormone levels.

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