Remedies for PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome)

Are there ways to ease PMS symptoms naturally?

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As hormones rise and fall, some women experience PMS (premenstrual syndrome), a group of physical and emotional symptoms such as abdominal bloating, breast tenderness, changes in appetite, fatigue, depression, and anxiety in the week or two before their menstrual period. 

PMS Natural Remedies

If you deal with PMS, you may be able to improve your symptoms by making lifestyle changes. A variety of remedies are often used to relieve PMS symptoms, from eating certain foods to exercising.

Here are some of the more commonly used remedies:

Calcium

Although a variety of supplements have been suggested to relieve PMS symptoms, at this time only calcium has demonstrated a consistent therapeutic benefit. 

One of the largest studies on calcium for PMS, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, examined the use of calcium supplements by women with moderate to severe premenstrual symptoms. Participants in the study took either calcium or a placebo for three months.

Researchers found that women who took calcium had a 48 percent reduction in their total symptom scores.

In another analysis, published in Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers analyzed data from 1057 women who developed PMS over 10 years of follow-up and 1968 women without PMS. They found that women who had a high intake of calcium from food sources had a significantly lower risk of PMS.

Approximately four servings a day (equivalent to about 1200 mg calcium) of skim or low-fat milk, fortified orange juice, or low-fat dairy foods such as yogurt was associated with a lower risk.

Interestingly, calcium from supplements was not associated with the risk of PMS.

Foods high in calcium include:

  • Dairy products
  • Sesame seeds
  • Almonds
  • Leafy green vegetables

The study also found that women who had a high intake of vitamin D (a vitamin that regulates calcium absorption and metabolism) from food sources corresponding to approximately 400 IU per day had a lower risk of PMS.

A later study published in BMC Women's Health assessed blood levels of vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D) and found that vitamin D levels were unrelated to the risk of PMS overall, but were inversely related to the risk of specific menstrual symptoms such as breast tenderness, diarrhea or constipation, fatigue, and depression.

Diet

The most common diet recommendations are to limit sugar intake and increase consumption of complex carbohydrates. Some people may benefit from reduced sodium intake, which may help to reduce bloating, water retention, and breast swelling and tenderness.

Caffeine restriction is another common diet change because of the association between caffeine and PMS symptoms such as irritability and insomnia.

Exercise

Sticking to a regular exercise routine may help to improve PMS symptoms. Regular aerobic exercise such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling releases endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin (chemical messengers that can boost mood) and has positive benefits on energy and sleep.

Stress Management

Breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga are some natural ways to reduce stress and promote relaxation. Many women feel more assertive and attuned to their needs in the weeks before menses. This can be used constructively by allowing for personal time to relax, expressing emotions, and giving priority to your needs and what nourishes you.

Agnus Castus (Chaste Tree Berry)

Chaste tree berry (Vitex agnus-castus) berry is often suggested as an herbal supplement to help with premenstrual syndrome.

For example, a study published in Phytomedicine examined the use of agnus castus (in three different doses) or a placebo in 162 women with PMS. After the three month period, women who took 20 mg per day had improved symptoms compared to those who took the placebo or 8 mg.

In a 2013 study published in Planta Medica, researchers reviewed previously published studies on the use of chaste tree for female reproductive conditions. They found that five out of six studies found agnus castus supplements were more effective than a placebo.

There may be side effects and it may not be appropriate for some people (such as those with certain health conditions or people are taking medication), so if you are considering taking agnus castus, it's important to consult your health care provider first.

Integrative Approaches

Acupuncture, massage therapy, and aromatherapy (using essential oils) are sometimes suggested to reduce symptoms of PMS.

Bottom Line

If you have PMS, there may be certain lifestyle changes you can make to improve your symptoms and help bring your hormones back into balance. Speak with your care provider, who can help you choose the approach that is right for you.

Sources:

Bertone-Johnson ER, Hankinson SE, Bendich A, Johnson SR, Willett WC, Manson JE. Calcium and vitamin D intake and risk of incident premenstrual syndrome. Arch Intern Med. 165.11 (2005): 1246-1252.

Bertone-Johnson ER, Hankinson SE, Forger NG, et al. Plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D and risk of premenstrual syndrome in a prospective cohort study. BMC Womens Health. 2014 Apr 12;14:56.

Schellenberg R, Zimmermann C, Drewe J, Hoexter G, Zahner C. Dose-dependent efficacy of the Vitex agnus castus extract Ze 440 in patients suffering from premenstrual syndrome. Phytomedicine. 2012 Nov 15;19(14):1325-31. 

Thys-Jacobs S, Starkey P, Bernstein D, Tian J. Calcium carbonate and the premenstrual syndrome: effects on premenstrual and menstrual symptoms. Premenstrual Syndrome Study Group. ​Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1998 Aug;179(2):444-52.

van Die MD, Burger HG, Teede HJ, Bone KM. Vitex agnus-castus extracts for female reproductive disorders: a systematic review of clinical trials. Planta Med. 2013 May;79(7):562-75. 

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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