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Can PMDD Be Cured Naturally?

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PMDD is an extreme form of PMS that affects nearly 10 percent of all American women. Find out how to treat this debilitating condition without drugs below.

PMDD is a disorder that affects up to 10 percent of American women. It is basically a severe form of PMS that mixes the hormonal mood swings and physical pain of regular PMS with signs of depression. This dangerous disorder is relatively unknown in the medical community, and a formal diagnosis has only existed since the 1980s. Because of the newness of the diagnosis, there are no known cures for the disorder. However, there are many recent studies that point to the effectiveness of several natural management methods.

What is PMDD?

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is an extreme form of PMS. It affects approximately 2 to 10 percent of all women in the United States. PMDD has similar symptoms to regular PMS but taken to the extreme. It is thought that hormone signaling issues and a history of depression or a family history of depression are high-risk factors for PMDD. The symptoms for PPMD are a combination of regular hormonal PMS changes and the signs of depression. PMDD symptoms are listed below.

Symptoms of PMDD
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Sleep problems
  • Feelings of lack of control
  • Bloating and cramping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Decreased interest in normal activities
  • Extreme anger
  • Constant tension and anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Change in appetite (either more or less than usual)

Causes of PMDD

It is unknown exactly what causes some women to suffer from PMDD. One of the current theories is the link between serotonin reception in the brain and mood regulation. Normal cycle changes in ovarian steroids conflict with central neurotransmitters (of which serotonin is one). Serotonin may not be the only culprit, however. Some studies have also looked at the neurotransmitters gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and beta-endorphin.

Risk Factors for PMDD

Although PMDD only affects about 5 out of every 100 women, when you consider how many millions of women live in the United States, that number skyrockets quickly, with millions of women potentially suffering from the condition. Since the exact cause of PMDD is unknown, some of the risk factors are also unknown.

However, some studies have linked PMDD to similar risk factors for depression, including neurotransmitter malfunctions, a history of depression, low tryptophan or serotonin levels, and an abnormal response to normal hormone levels in the body. Oddly, more women between the ages of 20 to 40 show the highest risks. Women who have had few or no pregnancies may also be at a higher risk of developing the disorder (from exposure to more menstrual cycles).

Conventional Treatments for PMDD

Since very little is actually known about the cause or reason for the condition, there are few conventional treatment options for the disorder.

Hormone Supplements

In the past, hormone supplementation was widely used to treat the disorder, and doctors often prescribed estrogen and progesterone supplements. However, according to Harvard Medical School, supplementing with hormones are not an effective way to treat the disorder, because most women with PMDD show the same hormone levels as women without PMDD, disproving that hormone levels are the problem.

However, some hormone treatments do work, but only the treatment methods that interrupt the signaling in the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal circuit between the brain and ovaries. Many of these treatments have potentially dangerous side effects, according to Harvard Medical School and are only second-line treatments for the disorder.

Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors

The most successful modern treatment for PMDD is antidepressants that retard the reuptake of serotonin in the brain. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are used to control the levels of serotonin in the brain. The medication prevents the brain from moving serotonin to another area of the brain as quickly, which has been shown to be effective at reducing signs of depression and PMDD, according to Harvard Medical School.

A 2008 study conducted by the New York University School of Medicine showed that SSRIs are up to 90 percent effective at reducing PMDD symptoms in women. The medication was most effective when it was taken on a daily basis. However, Harvard Medical School indicates that SSRIs are more effective at preventing PMDD symptoms than depression, and can be just as effective when taken during the luteal phase of a woman’s cycle (the approximately 14 day period after ovulation and before menstruation starts).

Natural Treatments for PMDD

Many doctors will prescribe natural treatments for PMDD before moving on to medications. In some cases, lifestyle changes could reduce PMDD symptoms. According to the Cleveland Medical Clinic, lifestyle changes should be attempted for 2-3 months before medication is prescribed. Women should keep track of symptoms as well as all-natural treatments to determine if any of the methods are effective and which methods are the most effective at reducing symptoms of PMDD.


According to Harvard Medical School, the typical diet advice offered to help reduce PMS symptoms is unlikely to affect PMDD symptoms. However, a diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, fruit, and high-protein foods can’t hurt. Avoiding common inflammatory foods, like vegetable oils, tobacco, caffeine, and alcohol won’t hurt either. The most helpful diet advice for PMDD, according to Harvard Medical School, is to eat high-protein foods and foods with complex carbohydrates to raise the levels of tryptophan in the body. Your body converts tryptophan into usable serotonin and other neurotransmitters.

According to a 2007 study conducted by McGill University in Canada, foods that can naturally raise serotonin levels effectively include dairy products and chickpeas.


Exercise has not been studied specifically as a treatment for PMDD, but it has been studied as a treatment for depression, with positive results. The McGill University study showed that moderate exercise 3-4 times a week creates a significant rise in tryptophan levels in the body.

Light Exposure

The McGill University study also suggested that light exposure to daylight can help increase serotonin levels in the body. The study recommended that individuals suffering from a lack of serotonin get at least 1000 lux of light exposure for 30 minutes a day. Getting outdoors when the sun is at its highest levels will provide more light exposure than when the light is filtered by buildings, trees, or clouds.


Several supplements may be able to help reduce the severity of PMDD in some women. These supplements include:

Vitex agnus-castus: This is a supplement derived from the chaste tree. This tree is known as the “woman’s tree” as it is used to regulate many hormones and functions of the female body. It is used to regulate cycles, prevent PMS and PMDD symptoms, increase milk production, preventing miscarriage due to low progesterone, and many other important functions. Web MD states that this supplement is “possibly effective” for reducing PMDD symptoms.

L-tryptophan: A 1999 study published in Biology Psychiatry indicated that l-tryptophan with a dose of 6 g per day was able to reduce PMDD symptoms in some women. The researchers used the Visual Analogue Scales (VAS) to determine the effectiveness of the supplement. After supplementing for 17 days, women who took L-tryptophan received a 34.5 percent mood score versus the 10 percent score that the women taking the placebo pills received.

Calcium: According to a 1999 study from the University of Tennessee, supplementing with calcium showed a reduction in PMS symptoms. The recommended dose is 1200-1600 mg per day.

Vitamin B6: A 1999 review of 9 clinical trials studying over 960 women with PMS and PMDD indicated that a regular supplement of vitamin B6 could help reduce PMS symptoms. Women who took 100 mg a day of vitamin B6 showed a reduction in PMS symptoms of over twice that of the placebo group. Depressive symptoms were reduced by nearly two times versus the placebo group.

Magnesium: A 1991 study conducted by the University of Pavia in Italy showed that magnesium supplements can help control mood swings associated with PMS and PMDD. Participants in the study were given 360 mg of magnesium three times a day for two months. After that time, some of the women were given a placebo pill instead for an additional two months. The women then used The Menstrual Distress Questionnaire to determine their mood and pain levels. The study showed that women taking magnesium supplements reported fewer pain symptoms and mood swings than the placebo group.

GABA: GABA is a natural neurotransmitter found in the brain that may be responsible for causing PMDD symptoms. Supplementing with GABA may help reduce the symptoms of PMDD in women. Web MD states this supplement is “possibly effective.” There have been no direct studies linking GABA supplementation to reduce PMDD symptoms. If you want to try supplementing with GABA, ask your doctor what dosage amount could be right for you.

Stress Management

Arranging Schedules According to Cycles: The Cleveland Medical Clinic recommends arranging the most stressful activities of the month during the follicular phase of a woman’s cycle. This phase starts with menstruation and ends with ovulation. Stress during this time is less likely to cause PMDD flare-ups.

Counseling: According to Web MD, counseling may be effective in helping PMDD sufferers. PMDD-specific therapy can help women manage their mood swings and anger flashes. Relaxation therapy, including yoga, meditation, and reflexology are also treatment methods that may provide some relief in symptoms.

Manage PMDD Naturally
  • Exercise 3-4 times a week
  • Sleep at least 7 hours a night
  • Eat a healthy, high-protein diet
  • Avoid PMS triggers like alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco
  • Employ relaxation techniques to reduce stress
  • Get counseling if you feel overwhelmed
  • Stay outside for 30 minutes a day
  • Take PMDD-fighting supplements 

Managing PMDD Without Drugs

If you want to avoid the use of potentially dangerous drugs, there are several lifestyle changes and supplements you can try. There are no known natural cures for PMDD, but if you try the above methods, you should have about the same success rate as with medical methods, and possibly even better results. However, natural control options not only mask the symptoms of PMDD but actually help prevent them from occurring at all, leading possible complete healing from the disorder. With the right natural approach, you should be able to see a vast improvement in PMDD symptoms.





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