Natural solutions for managing PMS

Natural solutions for managing PMS

Do you feel like a completely different version of yourself the week or so before your period? Mood swings, fatigue, bloating, tender breasts? Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a cluster of physical and emotional symptoms associated with the menstrual cycle. It is commonly experienced in the five to ten days prior to menstruation.

PMS is common, but differs significantly between individuals. Some women get mild symptoms, and for some it is debilitating. Common underlying factors include; inflammation, high testosterone, high exposure to xenoestrogens, low intake of nutrients and chronic stress.

These tips are geared towards helping you find the right balance.

Magnesium - an essential mineral and key player in a number of critical functions in the body, it is often labelled ‘nature's tranquilizer’. The effectiveness of magnesium has been demonstrated in a few studies and clinical trials, which are compiled into a 2017 literature review called “Magnesium in the gynecological practice”. In this, authors conclude that there is “an important role for magnesium for the prevention and the treatment of a number of conditions relevant for women’s health” [1]

Research has found that women suffering with PMS had suboptimal levels of magnesium[2]. These women were given magnesium for the last half of their menstrual cycle and reported significant improvement in their second month, specifically with their mood.

Magnesium calms the nervous system, resulting in less anxiety, less stress hormone and a better ability to cope with stress. All of this has positive effects on our menstrual cycle.

Magnesium can also be used to prevent premenstrual migraines and menstrual cramps[1]. It works on cramps by relaxing the smooth muscle of the uterus and by reducing the prostaglandins that cause period pain[3]

Good sources of magnesium include green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, legumes, whole grains.

B vitamins - Research has found that taking B6 daily could soothe PMS symptoms and improve the low mood often associated with it PMS[4]. Taking B6 can relieve symptoms such as water retention, food cravings, anxiety, back pain and low mood[5] Scientists think this may be because B6 plays a vital role in creating neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that carry information between your brain cells, including mood-regulating serotonin[6]

One study found that a combination of magnesium (250 mg) and vitamin B6 (40 mg) has been shown to significantly decrease PMS symptoms[7]

Food sources of vitamin B6 include sweet potatoes, sunflower seeds, spinach and bananas. However, food sources only provide about 30% of the recommended dose that can relieve PMS so it is recommended to supplement. [10]

Be smart about fats - Essential fatty acids cannot be produced by the body so must be taken in from the diet. Getting the right balance of dietary fats can balance your prostaglandins naturally. The key with prostaglandins is for your body to produce more of the anti-inflammatory and less of the inflammatory prostaglandins to prevent PMS pain[8]. Balancing fatty acids is all about decreasing intake of the “inflammatory” omega-6 fatty acids versus “anti-inflammatory”omega-3 fatty acids in order to have a better omega-6:omega-3 ratio. Get your ratio right by consuming 2 portions of oily fish per week or taking a good quality omega 3 supplement. Avoid heavily processed foods and vegetable and sunflower oil.

Fibre - For some women, excess oestrogen in relation to progesterone can be at the root cause of PMS symptoms such as breast pain, cramps, mood swings. Making sure your diet is rich in fibre is a good way to support elimination of excess estrogen out of the system to bring hormones back into balance. Good sources include flax seeds, wholegrains, beans and legumes. Fibre also helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer, so can help to reduce sugary cravings.

Stress management - A study in the Journal of Women’s health found that women who reported high levels of stress in the two weeks before they got their period were 25 times more likely to experience low mood as well as physical PMS symptoms such as body aches, bloating, low back pain, cramps, and headache, compared to women who did not feel stressed early on in their cycles[9]

Regular, daily stress management techniques like yoga, walking, meditation, rest should be part of your PMS prevention protocol along side dietary intervention.

It’s worth considering using a menstrual cycle tracking App. These can be useful to log your period and symptoms, so that you can monitor any changes and familiarise yourself with your menstrual patterns.

If you enjoyed reading this article, you might like Mood Food - 6 nutrients to nourish and make you feel good.

References

  1.  https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28392498/ 
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10746516/)
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/2675496/ 
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10334745
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4161081/ 
  6. https://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/vitamin-b6-pyridoxine
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3208934/ 
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6350579/  
  9. Gollenberg, A.L. Journal of Women's Health, May 2010; vol 19: pp 959-967.  
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC27878/

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Inessa Team

Our team pull together science-backed information to bring you up to date health and wellness insights.