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12 Remedies for Premenstrual Syndrome
Most of the standard medications used in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome only address the symptoms and end up causing serious side effects. Because researchers are still far from fully understanding the causes of and factors contributing to PMS, conventional medicine has no true “cure” for the condition. In fact, most of the effective and proven remedies for PMS are natural supplements such as calcium and chasteberry. This article identifies and discusses the 12 most effective natural remedies (including minerals, vitamins and herbs) used to treat PMS.
Calcium is not only important for the maintenance of optimal bone mineral density, it is also required for muscle contraction and the release of neurotransmitters from neurons in the central nervous system.
Multiple studies have linked calcium to PMS including those that found that women with PMS had lower calcium levels than those who never suffered from the syndrome. In addition, calcium supplementation has been conclusively proven to help treat and prevent PMS.
But how is calcium linked to PMS? Studies show that calcium level is at its lowest during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. The luteal phase is also the period associated with PMS.
This is why PMS is sometimes described to as a state of hypocalcemia. However, this is not totally accurate. More than low calcium levels, it is improper regulation of calcium metabolism that is directly responsible for the symptoms of PMS.
The ovarian hormones released in large amounts in the menstrual cycle interferes with the metabolism of calcium (and also magnesium and vitamin D). The flood of hormones such as estrogen can unmask a latent case of hypocalcemia during the luteal phase and, therefore, trigger PMS.
To test the theory that calcium deficiency is one of the causes of PMS, researchers have conducted a number of clinical trials involving calcium supplementation for women with PMS.
In every case, calcium significantly improved PMS symptoms. In addition, a long-term study found that high calcium (and vitamin D) intake can lower the risk of PMS.
The recommended dose of calcium supplement for PMS is 1200 mg/day. Long-term calcium supplementation also serves a second purpose of lowering the risk of osteoporosis.
Alternatively, you can increase your calcium intake by consuming more green leafy vegetables, yogurt and almonds.
However, simply loading up on calcium does not directly guarantee relief of PMS. To make calcium supplementation more effective, you need to combine it with vitamin D and magnesium supplements. Vitamin D and magnesium promote the absorption and utilization of calcium in the body.
Magnesium is another important natural remedy for PMS symptoms although it is not as widely accepted as calcium.
One important mechanism by which magnesium can help with PMS is by promoting the distribution and activities of calcium. Magnesium is needed for the release of calcium from certain cells.
Therefore, magnesium deficiency can easily cause calcium deficiency and even hypoparathyroidism.
Low magnesium levels also mean that there will not be enough calcium to maintain neuronal activity in the central nervous system. Without calcium to drive the electrical firing of neurons in the brain, cognitive processes are affected and mental fatigue will result.
In addition, magnesium deficiency impairs the release of neurotransmitters involved in excitation and mood.
As expected, hypomagnesemia is closely linked to PMS. Symptoms shared by both hypomagnesemia and PMS include irritability, depression and muscle cramps.
However, magnesium has other ties to PMS symptoms besides its involvement in calcium metabolism.
Magnesium is required for bioactivity of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the chief energy molecule of cells. ATP is only active when bound to magnesium. Therefore, magnesium deficiency reduces the energy expenditure of cells and can cause PMS symptoms such as fatigue.
In addition, magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant. This means that it can reduce muscle spasms. In fact, magnesium supplements are routinely used to treat seizures because of this property of the mineral.
For women with PMS, the muscle relaxant property of magnesium can help reduce cramps and aches.
Lastly, magnesium can help with PMS-related fluid retention. Low magnesium levels trigger the release of aldosterone. Aldosterone is an adrenal hormone that promotes the retention of salt and water in the body.
Magnesium can reduce the amount of aldosterone released and, in this way, reduce PMS-related abdominal bloating, weight gain, swollen limbs and breast tenderness.
A review of studies done to investigate the benefits of magnesium supplementation in the management of PMS shows that the mineral is effective for PMS symptoms involving fluid retention, mood changes and migraine headaches.
The recommended dose of magnesium supplement for PMS is 400 mg per day.
There is no consensus regarding the usefulness of vitamin B6 in the management of PMS. However, various studies have found that in the right doses, vitamin B6 can help certain symptoms of PMS in some women.
Generally, new studies are finding that B vitamins may be quite useful for PMS. In one recent study, researchers found that consuming foods rich in B vitamins can reduce the risk and severity of PMS.
For vitamin B6, positive studies all agree that the vitamin can provide relief for the same set of PMS symptoms. These symptoms include moodiness, anxiety, irritability, depression and bloating. This is because the vitamin is a cofactor in the syntheses of the neurotransmitters involved in the regulation of mood.
However, there is a concern about the risk of peripheral neuropathy with high-dose vitamin B6 supplementation.
In high doses, this vitamin can cause nerve damage which presents as tingling sensation and numbness of the hands and feet.
Therefore, the recommended dose of vitamin B6 supplement to use should fall between 50 mg/day and 100 mg/day.
Vitamin D deficiency is not commonly associated with PMS. However, it can trigger calcium deficiency and should, therefore, be considered in the treatment of PMS.
Vitamin D is required for the release of the intestinal proteins needed for the absorption of calcium in the gut.
Besides increasing the absorption and uptake of calcium in the body, vitamin D is also useful in PMS management because of its possible analgesic properties.
In high doses, vitamin D3 blocks the production of prostaglandins and can exert a significant pain-relieving effect. This analgesic effect can help relieve the pain, aches and cramps associated with PMS.
A 2012 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine confirmed this analgesic effect of vitamin D in a group of women with PMS. In that study, a daily dose of 300,000 IU of vitamin D3 was given for 5 days and it achieved a 41% reduction in pain scores.
However, that dose is considered as too high and is not recommended. Even then, the study indicates that there may be a lot more benefits to adding vitamin D3 to calcium in the treatment of PMS.
Vitamin E has been shown to be particularly effective for some women with PMS.
Exactly how vitamin E helps is unknown. However, experts believe that because vitamin E deficiency is linked to nerve and muscle damages, it is possible that vitamin E supplementation can help reduce pain and aches associated with PMS.
In one study, women who took 400 IU of vitamin E daily experienced relief in PMS symptoms such as breast pain and breast tenderness.
Chasteberry is the herbal remedy prepared from the berries of Chaste tree or Vitex agnus-castus.
It is one of the few herbs conclusively proven to help with PMS. It is even approved in Germany as a drug for treating PMS and breast pain.
In traditional medicine, chasteberry is commonly used to treat female reproductive disorders including menopausal problems.
Chasteberry promotes hormonal balance in the body. In fact, some of its bioactive phytochemicals are precursors of steroidal hormones. In addition, chasteberry acts on the pituitary gland to achieve this hormonal balance.
The benefits of chasteberry in the treatment of PMS extends beyond the endocrine system. This herb also exerts its influence on neurotransmitters and neuronal pathways in the central nervous system.
For example, some chasteberry phytochemicals bind to opiate receptors in the brain and make the herb useful for relieving pain and aches. Some other compounds also bind to dopamine receptors in the brain to block the release of prolactin from the pituitary gland.
Prolactin is a pituitary hormone that is secreted in high levels during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle. It is associated with PMS symptoms such as breast tenderness, bloating, cramps and mood swings.
Chasteberry is a safe and effective herbal remedy for PMS. However, it should be not be used by pregnant and breastfeeding women because it reduces the production of breast milk.
Recommended dose of chasteberry extract is 20 mg taken 1 – 2 times daily.
Dong quai is also known as female ginseng even though it does not belong in the ginseng family.
This Chinese herbal remedy is traditionally used to treat menstrual problems. It can help reduce PMS symptoms such as mood swings, irritability, fatigue, cramps, headache and insomnia.
This herb is commonly combined with black cohosh in the treatment of PMS.
Because dong quai also has anticoagulant properties, it should not be combined with blood thinners such as warfarin.
Black cohosh is also known as black snakeroot because of its roots and rhizomes which are the parts used to prepare the herbal remedy.
The Native Americans used black cohosh to treat depression, kidney problems as well as menopausal and menstrual problems.
Black cohosh is useful in the treatment of PMS because some of its bioactive phytochemicals possess serotonergic properties. Therefore, they increase the activities of serotonin in the brain.
Serotonin is one of the major neurotransmitters involved in the regulation of mood. It is also important to sleep and memory. Therefore, black cohosh can help with PMS symptoms such as mood changes, irritability, insomnia and poor mental performance.
Maca is a family of related plants native to Peru and notable for their edible, fleshy roots.
Maca roots come in different shapes, sizes and colors. Their compositions can also vary significantly. However, most varieties of maca are rich in proteins, fibers, carbohydrates, fatty acids and essential micronutrients.
In addition, maca roots contain phytochemicals that are bioactive in the central nervous system.
Maca is an effective remedy for PMS because it reduces stress and anxiety while boosting mood and sex drive. Therefore, this herb can help women with PMS regain their vitality and overcome fatigue.
St. John’s wort is traditionally used in the treatment of depression. Its antidepressant property has been confirmed in multiple studies and it has been recognized in the medical community as a safer alternative to standard antidepressants.
This herb is, therefore, useful in the management of PMS chiefly because of its antidepressant effect.
As an antidepressant, St. John’s wort promotes the activities of serotonin, dopamine, glutamate, noradrenaline and gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA). These are also the neurotransmitters that regulate mood, sleep and cognitive performance.
Therefore, St. John’s wort can significantly improve the mood-related symptoms of PMS.
However, you need to consult your physician before taking St. John’s wort. Because of its extensive effects on neurotransmitters, this herb can interact with any drug or supplement that acts on the central nervous system.
The leaves of dandelion plant is a popular herbal remedy. This herb is commonly known for its diuretic effect as well as its ability to detoxify the liver.
The diuresis prompted by dandelion leaf will lead to the elimination of water from the body. The herb is, therefore, good for treating PMS-related fluid retention. Therefore, it can help with weight gain and abdominal bloating in women with PMS.
Unlike some standard diuretics, dandelion replaces the potassium lost to its diuretic effect. This is a safe herb except for those with ragweed allergy.
Cramp bark is also known as guelder rose. As an herbal remedy, it is known for its muscle relaxant property.
Cramp bark is used for relieving menstrual cramp because of its ability to reduce uterine contraction. It can also help with PMS-related cramps.
This herb is commonly combined with valerian. While cramp bark reduces uterine cramps, valerian is an all-purpose muscle relaxant. Therefore, the combination of both herbs can provide relief for the aches, pains and cramps experienced by women with PMS.
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