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- Menstium: Frequently Asked Questions
Can Sunlight Cure PMS?
Is there one substance that can stop PMS for good? According to recent studies, vitamin D may just be that substance. Learn how vitamin D can help ease PMS symptoms below.
Once a month, about 90 percent of women experience some form of PMS symptoms. These can include mood swings, cramping, bloating, pain, headaches, lethargy, and general grouchiness. Most women dread this time of the month because it is difficult to feel like yourself when you are plagued with uncomfortable side effects.
However, many doctors believe that PMS is not a necessity of life. Rather, PMS is your body calling out for help. If you listen, and give your body what it needs, you may never have to suffer from PMS again. Hint: It could be as easy as stepping outdoors.
Although most symptoms of PMS are preventable, there are a few reasons why up to 90 percent of women experience at least one of the common PMS symptoms each month. According to endocrinologist and PMS expert Dr. Susan Thys-Jacobs, M.D., there is a point to PMS symptoms. She believes that PMS is a manifestation of nutritional deficiencies.
Specifically, Dr. Thys-Jacobs identifies deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D as the source of your PMS pain. Low levels of calcium and vitamin D can cause hormonal imbalances that react negatively to estrogen and progesterone. When PMS hits, progesterone levels drop and estrogen levels rise. This leads to many of the symptoms of PMS: including mood swings, cramps, bloating, depression, and sensitivity to pain.
The National Institute of Health agrees with Dr. Thys-Jacobs. In the early 2000s, the Institute conducted a large study on women with severe PMS symptoms. The researchers found that women with the lowest calcium and vitamin D levels had the most severe PMS symptoms. Supplementing with additional calcium and vitamin D could lead to a reduction in PMS symptoms for nearly all women.
Researchers from the University of Massachusetts published a study in the “Archives of Internal Medicine” on the link between calcium and vitamin D intake and the probability of developing PMS symptoms. The researchers looked at over 2,000 women over a period of 10 years. The researchers examined the women’s diets and lifestyles to determine what elements were more likely to lead to PMS symptoms.
The researchers found that women who had the highest intake of vitamin D (around 700 IU) were 41 percent less likely to have PMS symptoms. Women who consumed about 4 servings of dairy daily had a 30 percent reduction in their chances of developing PMS.
In 2012, researchers from Italy published their findings in “Archives of Internal Medicine” on the role of vitamin D in PMS. In the study, 20 women were given high doses of vitamin D 5 days before their expected periods. 20 other women received a placebo. Within 2 months, the women supplementing with vitamin D reported an average of 41 percent decrease in pain and PMS symptoms.
The researchers believe that vitamin D is effective for controlling pain because it reduces inflammation and redirects prostaglandin pathways, which are responsible for how severely pain is felt and can reduce the instances of muscle cramps.
Calcium and vitamin D often work together to benefit the body in multiple ways. The most well-known use for the calcium and vitamin D combo is its role in producing healthy bones. Calcium is essential for building strong bones, but without vitamin D, the body cannot properly absorb the calcium. Additionally, vitamin D is also responsible for alleviating pain and helping to control hormone levels.
A lack of calcium and vitamin D could lead to the overabundance of estrogen and other hormones in the body, which could make PMS symptoms worse. Eating the right levels of calcium and vitamin D can significantly reduce your PMS symptoms without much trouble on your part.
A study published in the American Journal of OB GYN found that when women boosted their calcium intake, PMS symptoms were reduced by up to 50 percent. Calcium and vitamin D can work together to relieve symptoms including headaches, mood swings, cravings, tension, bloating, and possibly even hormone-related acne. Dr. Thys-Jacobs recommends that women eat about 100 mg of calcium daily and about 1000-2000 IU of vitamin D daily.
Calcium and vitamin D work together to eliminate about 50 to 60 percent of PMS symptoms, but the other half are caused by a variety of other factors. If you suffer from severe PMS, you may want to try implementing these other steps into your daily habits to completely eliminate PMS and prevent the need for monthly medications that could have dangerous side effects.
While some doctors recommend birth control pills to control PMS, the use of hormones as a control for PMS is simply masking the symptoms of the problem and can lead to more severe consequences and side effects in the future.
Some bad eating habits could make PMS worse. Typical food “vices” like sugar, carbonated drinks, coffee, massive salt intake, and alcohol are linked with worsened PMS symptoms. Avoiding these could offer some relief before your period. Try eliminating these items about a week before your period is expected and see if you have lessened symptoms. Junk food should also be off-limits right before your period (but you should always try to avoid it anyway).
Exercise can benefit your body in many ways. Regular exercise can boost mood, regulate hormones, and calm the mind. Yoga is particularly effective in treating PMS. Exercise outside and you can harvest some of the beneficial effects of vitamin D while you also harvest the benefits of exercise. Simple walking can boost your mood and help your body function better. If you want something a little more fun, try dancing, hula-hooping, or jumping on a trampoline.
Calcium and vitamin D are not the only nutrients that can benefit PMS. Magnesium, B6, and vitamin E can also help. Numerous studies have looked at the role of magnesium in women with PMS. Magnesium levels are often lower in women who have severe PMS symptoms. Studies on magnesium have shown it to be able to relieve swelling, pain, tenderness, and low moods associated with PMS. Most women are deficient in magnesium, in part, due to periods themselves. Losing blood monthly contributes to the fast loss of minerals like magnesium. All women should try to consume as much magnesium as they can, from food and supplement sources. Magnesium also works with calcium for maximum absorption of calcium.
Vitamin E and B6 may also reduce PMS symptoms if women have a deficiency in these minerals. According to a 1983 study published in the “Journal of American College of Nutrition,” women who supplemented with vitamin E for several months had reductions in emotional and physical side effects of PMS. The researchers suggested that the changes were due to vitamin E’s ability to change androgen levels. Women are commonly low in vitamin B6 levels, and in a study of over 600 women with PMS, supplementing with vitamin B6 improved symptoms in 85 percent of study participants.
The above supplements have been used for hundreds of years to alleviate the symptoms of PMS and menopause. Traditionally, these herbs are effective at regulating hormones, controlling PMS symptoms, and boosting your mood. Many PMS-fighting supplements combine these ingredients along with other helpful ingredients like vitamins and minerals. Check for these combo supplements in your local health food store or online.
One of the best ways to avoid feeling moody and irritable right before your period is to make an effort to have fun. By doing this, you can trick your body into feeling better and conquering your natural instinct to be irritable. If you know when to expect your period, you can work harder to fight PMS about a week before your period is supposed to start. Engage in fun exercise, try to eat healthy, go outside, and resist stress to alleviate some of the pain associated with PMS. There is no reason why a quarter of your life has to be painful and moody.
Although the issue is a little more complicated than simply going outdoors a little more often, there is a clear link between your vitamin D intake and the severity of your PMS symptoms. With the right intake of calcium, vitamin D, and other essential nutrients; you can work with your body to eliminate PMS symptoms. Dr. Thys-Jacobs believes that PMS is your body’s way of communicating its needs to you. If you listen and provide your body with the right nutrients, you may never have to suffer from PMS again.
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