Got PMS? Bloating, weight gain, mood swings, cramps, headaches, tension, anger, anxiety, irritability, cravings, increased appetite, tender breasts and fluid retention are hallmarks of premenstrual syndrome fondly known as PMS. These symptoms generally peak a week or two before your period and then go away only to start again. Don’t underestimate the impact that this can have on your life, productivity, relationships and wellbeing. It affects about 40% of women of childbearing age. Aside from the discomfort, it can be debilitating and about 5% of women suffer from severe mood symptoms that can cause dysfunctional relationships. This form is known as PMDD premenstrual dysphoric disorder. While no one size fits all, there is treatment for PMS to relieve the symptoms.
There are many natural and some pharmaceutical solutions to alleviate symptoms. Here are some that have some good studies to support their effectiveness.
- Chasteberry is an herb also known as Vitex agnus-castus that has been used in the treatment for PMS and has been used for menstrual disorders, fertility, PCOS and acne. Studies have shown significant relief of symptoms such as irritability, depressed mood, anger, headache, bloating, breast fullness, skin disorder, fatigue, drowsiness, and sleeplessness. The rate of response increased over time and 91% of participants had no or only mild symptoms. The dose used was 20mg of a standardized extract.
- Calcium has many studies indicating it is a good treatment for PMS symptoms.College students that took 500 – 600 mg of calcium carbonate twice a day had decreased symptoms of tiredness, cravings, and depression.
- Aerobic Exercise is also a beneficial treatment for PMS. Studies indicated that t increased red blood cell count and lowered estrogen, progesterone and prolactin resulting in improvement of symptoms such as fatigue, poor concentration and PMS symptoms.
- Yoga has been shown to be a helpful treatment for PMS. In a randomized controlled study, yoga participants who practiced for 35-40 minutes per day, had lower body weight, heart rate, systolic and diastolic blood pressure as well as a decrease in anger, depression and anxiety. There was also a change in the sympathetic (adrenaline) and parasympathetic (calming) nervous system balance. Yoga participants had better psychological well being. Stimulating pituitary hormones such as follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH) and prolactin (milk producing hormone) were significantly decreased.
- Acupuncture can be used as a treatment for PMS. It showed a 50% or better relief of symptoms.
- Omega 3 fatty acids have also been used as a treatment for PMS. Study participants who took 2 grams per day had a reduction in symptoms of depression, nervousness, anxiety, and lack of concentration. Omega 3 fatty acids may also reduce bloating, headache and breast tenderness. These effects increased by longer duration of treatment.
- Diet is also a treatment for PMS. Limitation of salt, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol and fat is and increasing complex carbohydrates is recommended for 2-3 months to alleviate or eradicate symptoms.
- Progesterone is used as a treatment for PMS and menstrual migraine when progesterone is low in comparison to estrogen. It can also have a dramatic effect on bloating, weight gain, mood swings, headaches, irritability, tender breasts and tension. Be sure to have your levels measured and have an evaluation by a functional medicine physician.
- SSRI’s are beneficial for treatment of PMDD. Currently fluoxetine, controlled-release paroxetine, and sertraline are the only Food and Drug Administration-approved agents for this indication. Consider these when mood disorders are severe and lead to impaired function or relationships.
While there is no cure, there is treatment for PMS that is safe, natural and effective. A functional medicine doctor can help with these alternatives.