PMS the cyclic recurrence of a group of symptoms that appear during the luteal (later)phase of the menstrual cycle and diminish or completely disappear after the onset of the menstrual cycle.
A huge number of symptoms have been attributed to PMS. They can range from the psychological symptoms such as mood swings, depression and irritability to physical symptoms such as breast tenderness, bloating and headache.
Etiology is unclear. It is though that PMS can be brought about by a hormonal imbalance between progesterone and oestrogen.
Often it is presumed that oestrogen is too low, however some research is showing that the condition is more likely to be one of low progesterone.
Another possible reason, especially where breast tenderness is concerned is an increased Prolactin level. The reasons for these imbalances occurring can be unclear as all bodily systems can influence hormonal balance and neuroendocrine function.
Treatment should take into account nutritional insufficiencies, and psychological/stress factors as well as the use of herbal or homeopathic remedies.
Some therapists group PMT symptoms into several sub types which can be useful when deciding how to treat each individual.
Type A (anxiety) – tension & anxiety, agitation, irritability and mood swings.
Type C (cravings) – Increased appetite and craving for sweet foods. May also be headache, dizziness, fainting or palpitations.
Type D (Depression) – Unexplained crying, depression, insomnia, forgetfulness and confusion.
Type H (Hyper-hydration) – Build up of water in the body especially over the abdomen and breasts.
Type P (Pain) – Abdominal or pelvic pain, either as cramping and/or dragging in nature.
Herbal treatments work extremely well where any hormonal imbalance is concerned as rather than ‘giving’ a hormone to the body they stimulate the pituitary to work more effectively, hence providing a better balance of hormones.
They do need to be taken over a period of 3-4 months (not weeks) to be really effective, while at the same time looking to the diet.
The herb Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus castus) is often the herb of choice as it is a tonic to the female reproductive system. It has been shown to stimulate and normalise pituitary gland functions. It stimulates production of progesterone in the premenopausal woman by the stimulation of Lutenising hormone in the pituitary.
It also contains ‘dopaminergic’ phytochemicals that will inhibit the excessive production of prolactin by the pituitary gland. It is therefore useful for all types of PMS. Chaste Tree is best used through out the cycle, not just in the latter half. The dose needs to be about 2-3ml or 1-2 500mg tablets daily.
Other herbs such as Dong Quai, which relieves heavy clotting and dark unhealthylooking bleeding, Wild Yam (Types H and P), Black Cohosh and Paeonia, which are also excellent balancers and tonics, may also be useful.
Where breast tenderness is a problem it is important to avoid all excess sugars, fats ‘junk’ foods, Coke, wine and coffee as they will greatly compromise liver function and cause inflammation and tenderness to worsen. In many instances this can be the sole cause of breast tenderness and other PMS symptoms. Once again best results are obtained where this is done all the time, not just when thought necessary!!
Avoiding these foods groups also helps avoid mood swings but where this has already been addressed then the use of herbs would be appropriate.
One of the most used herbs for premenstrual moods/stress (Type A) must be St. Johns Wort. (Hypericum). It deals very nicely with feelings of negativity and helps the outlook on the world to be far more positive!
Kavakava is also very good if feelings of anxiety predominate and Skullcap if feelings of anger predominate. Valerian can be very useful if nervous tension is present. These can be mixed together by a herbalist or used separately.
Evening Primrose Oil, used at a dosage of 3000mg per dose 1-3 times daily can also be excellent for feelings of anxiety (Type A) and also for those nasty “weepy’ phases. (Type D) Also useful for breast tenderness or tenderness can be an imbalance in prostaglandins, which are hormone-like compounds that function as mediators in a number of physiological responses.
PgE1 is anti-inflammatory and is derived from essential fatty acids (EFAs), especially those containing high amounts of GLA such as found in Evening Primrose oil, Borage oil and Starflower oil. Therefore increasing any of these oils during periods of PMS can often reduce symptoms. They can be taken when necessary and don’t need to taken all the time.
High consumption of alcohol, coffee, Coke etc combined with deficiencies of zinc, magnesium and B6 will reduce PgE1 formation as well as (as mentioned prior) compromise liver function.
Other nutritional factors that should be considered are:
– Deficiency of Magnesium. Best supplemented at about 500mg daily and used in conjunction with Colloidal minerals, (to supply all other trace elements). Works well where stress/tension are involved (Types A and P).
Go to On-line shop for organic EPO or magnesium supplements.
– Vitamin B6. Required for efficient absorption of Magnesium. Best taken 100mg twice daily in conjunction with B complex. Eases many PMS symptoms (Type H)
– Vitamin E. Can be useful for breast tenderness, anxiety and depression.
(Type A, D andH)
– Chromium. (Useful for Type C and H). Should be used in conjunction with zinc, magnesium and B6 as well as strict adherence to avoiding sugars, wine, coffee, alcohol and any other ‘junk’ foods.
– Iodine. Many symptoms of PMS are similar to those of hypo-thyroid function. A few drops of iodine rubbed onto the inner arm, iodine taken as kelp added to the diet or supplemented as Potassium Iodide can make a huge difference. NZ soils are low in Iodine and this can be the reason for many depressive (Type D) and low energy symptoms.