How to manage Pre-Menstrual Syndrome

Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) is a very common condition that affects most women of child bearing age to some degree. Indeed for many it has become accepted as ‘normal ‘, and part and parcel of feminine life. Our partners learn to live with it or avoid us for certain chunks of time. It’s also a pretty good excuse for strange behaviour –

I couldn’t help eating the box of chocolates, (it’s my hormones)

I’m going to spend the day in my pyjamas because all of a sudden my clothes don’t fit, (nothing to do with eating the box of chocolates, it’s because I’m so bloated)

Irritability – WTF – why is there no chocolate in the cupboard – I’m going to scream if you don’t go and buy me some

Depression – Life is so terrible, I’m looking awful and I don’t want to face the world. I’m just going to stay in bed (and eat chocolate!)

PMS is classified into four different types:

PMS-A : This is characterised by increased anxiety, irritability and noticeable mood swings
PMS-H : Characterised by weight gain, abdominal bloating and breast tenderness.
PMS-C: characterised by increased appetite, cravings for sweet foods, headaches, pounding heart
PMS-D: typical symptoms include low mood, crying, forgetfulness

And if you are really unlucky you might have all four!

Factors such as stress, dietary imbalance and nutritional deficiencies can all have an effect upon hormone balance. PMS symptoms are a manifestation of underlying changes or imbalances in body chemistry. Certain factors in our diet can cause or aggravate specific PMS symptoms. For example caffeine containing products such as coffee, tea, cola drinks and chocolate can contribute to breast tenderness, blood sugar imbalance and heightened stress. Refined carbohydrates (bread, cakes, pasta, sweets, biscuits etc.) can contribute to fatigue and lethargy. Lack of essential fats can cause mood swings and depression.

How to manage PMS

The best way to get rid of PMS is to follow a hormone balancing diet, and be particularly careful about balancing your blood sugar, (and don’t eat too much chocolate). Also take steps to manage your stress levels. These measures will help to reduce the load on your adrenal glands. Your adrenals are involved in managing the progesterone levels in the second half of your cycle, and it is low levels of this hormone which are believed to contribute to some of the symptoms of PMS.

In addition to the measures mentioned above there are specific supplements that are known to help with PMS symptoms.

Magnesium has a relaxing and calming effect on muscles and the nervous system. It helps with cramping pains and also reduces tension and stress. Take 200 – 400 mg daily in citrate form. It is often best to take it in the form of a multi-vitamin and mineral complex so that all the appropriate co-factors are also available.
Vitamin B6:
This works well in conjunction with magnesium. Vitamin B6 is required for many of the body’s chemical processes and particularly for the synthesis of the “feel good” neurotransmitter serotonin. Take 50 mg daily and make sure it is the active form of B6 (P-5-P the phosphate form).
Zinc is important for hormone balance and utilisation. Also useful when spotty skins are a feature. Women suffering from PMS are often deficient in Zinc. Take 15 – 25 mg daily.
Vitamin E:
Useful for breast tenderness, bloating, mood swings and irritability.
Evening Primrose Oil
This contains GLA,  an omega-6 fatty acid which is used by the body to reduce inflammation.  Due to its anti-inflammatory properties GLA can reduce some of the symptoms of PMS such as bloating, and tenderness.
Agnus Castus (Vitex)
This herb is used to regulate the female cycle. It does this by acting on the pituitary gland. This can be taken as a tincture or in pill form and generally need to be used for about three months to get the full benefits.