Natural Treatments for Premenstrual Syndrome: Article Summary
Renata Trister DO
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a frequently observed phenomenon in women of reproductive age that is characterized by recurring physical and psycho- logical symptoms. The symptoms appear in the week before menstruation and subside after menstruation begins. If the symptoms are severe enough to negatively impact a woman’s ability to function at home, in the work- place, or in personal relationships, the diagnosis of PMS can be made.
As many as 85% of menstruating women have some of the symptoms of PMS, but in 5% to 10% of women, these symptoms greatly affect their daily activities. A myriad of symptoms have been associated with PMS; including irritability, tension, fluid retention, and a general unwell feeling.
THE CAUSE OF PMS
The exact cause of PMS and the variation in the severity of symptoms are poorly understood. The current theories focus on the fluctuation of of sex hormones (such as estrogen, progesterone) and mood altering neurotransmitters. Renal regulation of fluid balance and hormone balance by the liver are also important components.
NUTRITIONAL STRATEGIES FOR INTERVENTION
The multifactorial nature of PMS has resulted in a variety of natural treatments. Nutrient deficiencies, hormone or neurotransmitter support with select herbal supplementation have been successful approaches. Management of PMS should begin with correcting possible nutrient deficiencies that can worsen symptoms. Herbal supplements have been scientifically studied have been successfully used to treat PMS symptoms. The herbal remedies have been effectively used for centuries.
Nutrition and Vitamins—Studies have demonstrated the importance of nutritional support to ameliorate PMS symptoms suggesting that reversing nutrient deficiencies should be the first step in PMS management. Dietary modification and vitamins are of special importance due to the fact that women with PMS have been reported to consume more refined sugar, refined carbohydrates, and dairy.
HERBAL APPROACHES TO MANAGEMENT
A number of herbal remedies have been used to help manage PMS symptoms, many with a history of use dating back centuries. These natural interventions include herbs that support hormone and neurotransmitter balance, fluid retention, and liver health. Please consult with your primary care physician before begging an herbal regimen. Although these are natural and safe products, there may be interactions with other medications.
Chasteberry—(Vitex agnus castus) has been used for centuries in the management of gynecological complaints. Evidence of its effectiveness has led to its approval by the German Commission E health authorities as an intervention for pre-menstrual symptoms and menstrual cycle irregularities. Today, chaste- berry is among the most popular herbs used to help relieve a broad spectrum of PMS symptoms, including breast tenderness, weight gain, abdominal cramps, depression, and mood swings.
St. John’s Wort—(Hypericum perforatum) is used in the management of mild depression, and clinical trials have demonstrated its effectiveness. A pilot study provided some evidence that supplementation with St. John’s wort may also improve PMS symptoms, such as depression, confusion, anxiety, and insomnia.58
5-HTP (5-Hydroxytryptophan) Obtained from the seed of the African plant Griffonia simplicifolia, 5-HTP has also been used to treat minor depression. 5-HTP enhances levels of serotonin a neurotransmitter involved in the regulation of depression, anxiety, and appetite.
Ayurvedic Medicine—In the Indian traditional system of medicine, known as Ayurveda, women who regularly experience menstrual disorders are commonly treated with the tonifying herbs shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) and ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). Historically, shatavari is promoted as having rejuvenating, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic properties, and is useful in PMS symptoms such as menstrual cramps, bloating, and excessive menstrual bleeding. Ashwaghanda is used as a general tonic, sedative, and diuretic.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)—Ancient Chinese medicine has a fully developed botanical system for managing gynecological problems, including PMS and irregular menses. One of the most commonly used TCM formulas, known as Xia-o Yáo Sãn— incorporating the roots of bupleurum (Bupleurum chinense), peony (Paeonia lactiflora), dong quai (Angelica sinensis), bai-zhu atractylodes (Atractylodes macrocephala), poria sclerotium (Poria cocos), ginger rhizome (Zingiber officinale), licorice (Glycyrrhiza uralensis), and mint leaf (Mentha haplocalyx)—focuses on liver function and strengthening the blood.
Seeing a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine is advised, as this system is highly complex. Vitamin B6, calcium and magnesium are also important supplements.
Acupuncture is a great treatment for those who prefer that approach. Acupuncture has been demonstrated effective for thousands of year. And has now become an acceptable and highly recommended treatment by the entire medical community.
The multifactorial nature of PMS has led to a variety of management approaches. A natural intervention program for PMS should begin with correcting possible nutrient deficiencies. Select herbal remedies have been scientifically studied and can support underlying mechanisms associated with the menstrual cycle—such as hormone and neurotransmitter balance, kidney function, and liver health.