PMS – A taboo that can be tamed

So, What really is PMS ?

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is the name given to the physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms that can occur in the two weeks before a woman’s monthly period. It is also known as premenstrual tension (PMT). There are many different symptoms of PMS, but typical examples are fluid retention, breast tenderness, mood swings, feeling irritable and loss of interest in sex. These symptoms usually improve when the period starts and they disappear a few days afterwards. PMS is tied to hormone changes that happen during your menstrual cycle. Doctors don’t fully know why premenstrual symptoms are worse in some women than in others. They do know that for many women, PMS runs in the family. Not getting enough vitamin B6, calcium, or magnesium in the foods you eat can increase your chances of getting PMS. High stress, a lack of exercise and too much caffeine can make your symptoms worse. PMS will be tracked by your doctor he will ask questions about your symptoms and do a physical exam. It’s important to make sure that your symptoms aren’t caused by something else, like thyroid disease. Your doctor will want you to track your symptoms for 2 to 3 months by keeping a written record of how you feel. This is called a menstrual diary. It can help you track when your symptoms start, how bad they are, and how long they last. Your doctor can use this diary to help diagnose PMS. The types of symptoms and the degree of their severity differ markedly. A wide range of symptoms has been described but it is their timing and severity, namely that they significantly disrupt normal functioning, that are most important than the specific character in distinguishing those women with PMS from those with no more than physiological premenstrual symptoms. The most common physical symptom of PMS is fatigue. Another common symptom is oedema (fluid retention, with bloating or swelling in the abdomen, breasts, fingers and ankles and accompanying weight gain. Other physical symptoms may include headache, cramps, backache, joint and muscle pains, skin lesions (especially acne), constipation or diarrhoea, and a number of related disorders. Typical emotional and psychological symptoms of premenstrual syndrome range from irritability, anxiety, tension, lethargy, and rapid mood swings to hostility, confusion, aggression, and depression. A recommended diet when going through PMS would centre around complex carbohydrates, including whole grains, legumes, vegetables, and fruits. Avoid saturated animal fats, polyunsaturated vegetable oils, and foods that are high in sugar and alcohol as they can aggravate PMS symptoms. Decreasing intake of milk and dairy products may also be beneficial. Women suffering from edema should avoid salt to reduce fluid retention. Eliminating caffeinated beverages and chocolate may decrease tension and irritability. A regular exercise program, such as swimming, aerobics, or walking is recommended to decrease depression, anxiety, and fluid retention. There are several studies documenting the positive effects of exercise in premenstrual women. At least twenty minutes every other day of vigorous, aerobic exercise is effective, and a daily walk of thirty minutes to one hour is highly recommended.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)

As with all biological parameters, for some women there are extreme premenstrual syndrome symptoms while others have minimal or no symptoms (5 – 10%). A similar number have such extreme symptoms that there is a major impact on their life, that of their family, their interpersonal relationships and normal day to day functioning. This is extreme premenstrual syndrome and is medically termed premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) affects approximately 3 to 9% of women, involving extreme and predominantly psychological mood changes. Women designated as having PMDD also fulfil criteria for PMS but not necessarily vice versa. While premenstrual dysphoric disorder is closely related to major depressive disorder, the symptoms of severe depression are cyclical in nature, fluctuating with cycles of ovulation and menstruation. A distinguishing factor in the diagnosis of premenstrual dysphoric disorder is that depression eventually becomes so severe that home, work, and daily life are disrupted.

Overall, Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can be a very difficult thing for women putting them through an uncomfortable time and can really affect those around them. But with the correct information on supplementation, what to avoid, what certain foods to eat and the type of exercise that you should follow to help relieve the syndrome. PMS really can be controlled, not cured but managed.

Here is the real thing that people want to have a look at, ways to relieve and almost eliminate any of the symptoms are done through supplementing with pills and powder extract, this can make that “Time of the month” a whole lot easier for you to handle and lessen the effect it may have on others…

Evening Primrose Oil (Oenothera biennis)

Evening primrose oil, Oenothera biennis, is derived from the plants’ seeds and is valued for its oil-containing essential fatty acids. These include linoleic acid and gamma-linoleic acid (GLA). Women with PMS have been shown to have impaired conversion of linoleic acid to GLA. Because a deficiency of GLA might be a factor in PMS and because evening primrose oil (EPO) contains significant amounts of GLA, researchers have studied EPO as a potential way to reduce PMS symptoms.

The usual amount recommended is 3–4 grams per day. EPO seems to work best when used over several menstrual cycles and may be more helpful in women with PMS who also experience breast tenderness or fibrocystic breast disease.

St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)

PMS not only causes physiological changes, but also psychological ones, of which depression and anxiety are the most common.

St John’s Wort is the most thoroughly researched natural anti-depressant and has long been recognised as a mood enhancer. It contains the active ingredient Hypericin which studies show, work wonders with the symptoms of depression, anxiety, irritability and sleep disorders often associated with PMS.


Dong Quai (Angelica polymorpha)

The Chinese herb dong quai is one of the most widely used herbs for hormonal balancing and as a female tonic. Having phytohormonal properties, dong quai imitates the action of both hormones oestrogen and progesterone.

It has a balancing effect on the menstrual cycle, making it beneficial in the treatment of irregular, absent or painful periods, especially when accompanied by cramping, neuromuscular tension, debility or weakness.

Dong quai helps to promote hormonal balance. One study found that women who consumed 2g-3g of dong quai daily experienced significant relief from premenstrual cramping and pain.

Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus castus)

Gynaecologists in Europe have successfully used preparations made from the fruits of the chaste tree to treat PMS. This herb imitates the action of oestrogen and progesterone with its phytohormonal actions.

Chaste tree preparations act on the pituitary gland to regulate the production of and induce normalisation of the ovarian hormones. In particular, it increases the level of progesterone relative to oestrogen. This hormonal balancing act in turn, regulates the menstrual cycle, alleviating PMS symptoms.

More than 1,500 women participated in a study while supplementing with Chaste tree extract, of which 1/3 experienced complete relief from the symptoms, while another 57 per cent reported significant improvement. Researchers have shown that using chaste tree over a period of several months helps normalise hormone levels to alleviate the symptoms of PMS.

Overall, with the correct knowledge PMS can be managed, like a lot of other things.

Be smart, take supplementation !

Andrew McGee