Symptoms associated with PMS can be frustrating and without knowing the cause behind them, they may be difficult to treat. For instance, is irritability due to sleep deprivation or is it a change in hormone levels to blame?
Often, women are handed prescriptions to help treat individual symptoms without really looking at the cause behind them. Yes, medications may provide temporary relief, but rarely provide a long-term solution. This is why many women chose to look at natural alternatives — to get long-term relief of PMS symptoms.
What is PMS?
PMS stands for Premenstrual Syndrome and is a combination of physical and emotional symptoms that women suffer about a week before their period. It is estimated that approximately 75% of women suffer from some degree of PMS, making it a very common occurrence.
It is believed that PMS happens after ovulation because estrogen and progesterone levels fall if you’re not pregnant. Once hormone levels begin rising again, PMS symptoms tend to go away.
- Physical: swollen/tender breasts, dizziness, nausea, cramps, headaches, back pain, joint pain and GI changes (diarrhea or constipation.)
- Emotional: depression, anxiety, trouble focusing, poor memory, mood swings, fatigue, food cravings, and low libido.
Causes of PMS Symptoms
For many, the main cause of PMS symptoms is hormonal imbalance. However, there could be other conditions or factors that may worsen or trigger PMS symptoms, including:
- poor diet (eating foods high in sodium, too much caffeine, highly-processed foods, etc.)
- low vitamins and mineral levels
- leaky gut
- thyroid issues
- consuming alcohol
- environmental toxins
- lack of exercise
- dietary sensitivities and allergies
Supplements That Help Reduce PMS Symptoms
If diet, environment and lifestyle changes haven’t reduced symptoms, adding dietary supplements may help. Here’s a list of supplements that may help reduce PMS symptoms:
- Magnesium – It is believed to help with cramps and headaches. Additionally, taking magnesium and vitamin B6 together has been shown to be more beneficial than taking magnesium alone.
- Vitamin D – A recent randomized controlled trial discovered that vitamin D supplementation significantly reduced anxiety, irritability and sadness in young women with concomitant mood disorders linked to PMS.
- Probiotics – Replacing healthy bacteria in the gut also helps normalize estrogen and hormone metabolism. If eating fermented and prebiotic-rich foods (such as onions, asparagus, and bananas) isn’t enough, a probiotic supplement (and prebiotic) may help.
- Dandelion root and leaves – Dandelion helps with bloating due to water retention, since it has been shown to work as a diuretic.
- Omega-3 and omega-6 – Studies show that taking a supplement with 1 to 2 grams of polyunsaturated fatty acids may help reduce cramps and other PMS symptoms. Good sources of polyunsaturated fatty acids include flaxseed, nuts, fish, and green leafy vegetables. Gamma-linoleic acid is a type of omega-6 fat that may support healthy progesterone levels.
- Vitamin B6 – The Office of Women’s Health website suggests that vtamin B6 may help with PMS symptoms, including moodiness, irritability, forgetfulness, bloating, and anxiety. Vitamin B6 can be found as a dietary supplement and in foods such as fish, poultry, potatoes, fruit (except for citrus fruits), and fortified cereals.
- Calcium – research has shown that calcium supplements reduced fatigue, changes in appetite, and depression in women with PMS.
It is important to note that the right dosage and strength should be determined by your physician, or a trained healthcare professional.
- Sleep more — ideally 8 hours a day. Studies show that not getting enough sleep affects hormone levels.
- Exercise more — shoot for 30 minutes of exercise 4 times per week
- Adopt self-care strategies — It has been shown that stress worsens hormone imbalances. Learn what helps you relax and make it a priority to do, at least, a few minutes a day. Maybe it’s enrolling in a yoga class, or learning to meditate, or doing a few minutes of breathing exercises. Every person is unique and what works for one may not work for others.
- Limit sugar, alcohol and caffeine
- Avoid foods that may cause inflammation — dairy can be an irritant to women, especially as they approach their period. Other common irritants include gluten, and grains.
- Environmental changes — Endocrine disruptors are found in many everyday products including plastic containers, metal food cans, toys, foods, even cosmetics! It’s important to check for ingredients known to affect the endocrine system, and avoid them as much as possible. Some examples of chemicals that affect hormone levels include diethylstilbestrol (the synthetic estrogen DES), dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), DDT, and some other pesticides, BPA, DEHP and foods with phytoestrogens, found in soy-derived products.
- Pharmaceutical — Bioidentical progesterone cream. After everything has failed, many healthcare providers recommend using a bioidentical progesterone cream during the last two weeks of the menstrual cycle.
If you suffer from PMS symptoms, talk to your doctor or our pharmacists to learn about your treatment options.