– Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, is a compilation of symptoms that many women experience beginning from a week to ten days before their menstrual cycle. It’s a common syndrome characterized by irritability, backache, breast tenderness, headache, fatigue, bloating and depression. Women with this condition may have all of these symptoms or only a few of them and experience them to varying degrees. No one knows exactly what causes PMS, although hormonal fluctuations likely play a role. Up to 85% of women suffer with this syndrome.
Fortunately, lifestyle changes appear to have had a positive impact on PMS symptoms. Aerobic exercise helps with many symptoms and salt reduction helps to reduce fluid retention in people. Women should also avoid caffeine and rapidly-absorbed carbs like sugary desserts. Exercise increases the production of natural, “feel good” chemicals called endorphins that help to counteract the mood changes associated with premenstrual syndrome. READ MORE ABOUT PMS »
Some research also shows the mineral magnesium may play a role in alleviating PMS. It is believed that low magnesium levels may decrease levels of a brain chemical called serotonin, which helps to regulate mood. Some research shows that magnesium supplementation improves mood-related changes. These changes may include irritability, anger and sadness.
Calcium may also improve the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Research suggests that consuming adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D reduces the risk of symptoms associated with PMS. Unfortunately, not all women get enough calcium and vitamin D through diet alone, so supplements may be helpful.
Essential fatty acids that your body requires but is unable createmay also have an impact on symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Some research shows that supplementing with these fatty acids has an anti-inflammatory effect that helps to reduce the symptoms of PMS. One of these essential fatty acids called gamma-linolenic-acid is found in evening primrose oil. Some women with PMS experience a reduction in breast tenderness, swelling and irritability when they supplement with evening primrose oil, although studies have been inconsistent. There’s also some thought that women who experience cyclical breast pain are deficient in essential fatty acids like gamma-linolenic-acid. One study showed that women who took evening primrose oil and vitamin E experienced less cyclical breast pain.
Many women experience skin changes just before their period and the essential fatty acids in evening primrose oil may also work to promote healthier skin. Gamma-linolenic-acid is also found in borage oil. It’s an ingredient in some supplements used to address premenstrual syndrome. Borage oil has been used since antiquity to address “melancholy.” There’s some thought that it may improve feelings of sadness and irritability that some women experience with premenstrual syndrome.
B vitamins are important for energy metabolism and for synthesizing neurotransmitters that affect mood. One study showed that women who had higher intakes of two B vitamins – thiamine and riboflavin – had a lower risk for premenstrual syndrome. B vitamins may be most effective for relieving the mood changes women experience around the time of their period.
Premenstrual syndrome is a challenging condition that can significantly impact a woman’s life. Fortunately, attention to good nutrition, lifestyle changes and supplements may help. Talk to your doctor about whether a PMS supplement is right for you. BACK TO TOP »
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