Natural & Homeopathic Alternatives for Treatment of Premenstrual Syndrome
You often hear women say that “its my time of the month” during menstruation, and prior to menstruation women often experience symptoms of bloating, cramping, and mood swings. This is known as the dreadful PMS a.k.a Premenstrual Syndrome. Its estimated three out of four women will experience PMS in their lifetime, and those statistics are staggering. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologist define PMS as “ having at least one related symptom associated with an identifiable dysfunction in social or economic performance that occurs 5 days before menses, and discontinues within 4 days of the onset of your menstrual cycle for at least 3 consecutive months.”
PMS has been studied as for back as the early 1900s, but unfortunately no one has yet to crack the code of our beloved female hormones, to determine the cause of this diagnosis. However there are several studies that suggest decreases in progesterone levels during the luteal phase of menstruation may be the culprit. If you remember back in biology class we learned the phases of the menstrual cycle, which were the follicular phase (phase of egg and estrogen production), ovulation (egg ready for fertilization) and the luteal phase ( the dissolution of the egg, and shedding of the uterine lining). Low levels of progesterone in the pituitary gland are said to predispose women to insufficient amounts of serotonin, a natural chemical that creates our happy place in our central nervous system.
I recently visited my OBGYN for my annual visit, and explained to her that I had been experiencing PMS symptoms in the past few months. My symptoms where migraine headaches, and mood swings a week leading up to my menstrual cycle. I also became concerned if I was becoming peri-menopausal. Research studies indicate that PMS is pronounced in women in their 30s and 40s. Symptoms of PMS will usually subside once menstruation begins, but if PMS symptoms persist women should notify their physicians to determine if they are experiencing Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder also known as PMDD.
So how can we get relief?! Here are some recommendations to alleviate PMS symptoms:
First, women can start by incorporating a healthy exercise regimen, and a diet low in caffeine and sodium. I know this maybe tough for avid coffee drinkers, but one cup-a-day may keep the doctor away. Exercise revs up your endorphins and enkephalins, therefore increasing serotonin levels. While over consumption of caffeine can cause dehydration, and too much sodium can cause water retention. Adequate sleep is very important to improving moodiness symptoms, and drinking water is important to help avoid headaches associated with PMS.
Journaling is another great alternative for women experiencing PMS symptoms, and it helps you to capture moods when practiced for at least 3 months so this information that highlights patterns or habits can be shared with your doctor. Journaling can also will help with determining your diagnosis.
Vitamin E, magnesium, and calcium supplements may provide relief of PMS symptoms. Calcium and magnesium both relieve water retention. Calcium may reduce food cravings and pain associated with PMS, and therefore creating better moods. Calcium can be found in milk products, cheeses, yogurts, and you can also take a calcium supplement. Magnesium may alleviate migraines associated with PMS, and can be found in most green leafy vegetables as well as nuts. However there is not enough data to support its efficacy to treat symptoms of PMS.
Herbal alternatives such as evening primrose oil and black cohash have been used for symptoms of PMS, but there are no studies that support its use for relief of symptoms. These herbal alternatives are also associated with many side effects such as upset stomach, rash, and liver dysfunction. They can exacerbate known or unknown allergies, and interact with pharmaceutical products. These interactions can potentially cause harmful side effects, and women should consult their physician before using these products.
A new herbal supplement named Serenol, which contains bee pollen as its active ingredient, has clinical studies demonstrating its ability to reduce symptoms of PMS such as irritability, mood swings, water retention, weight gain, and food cravings. Although the studies of the women participating in these clinical trials where not evaluated for PMS symptoms prior to use, and in the other randomized double blinded studies women who were already menopausal were used as study participants. Serenol has not been FDA approved for treatment or for the diagnosis of any conditions.
In conclusion, there are non-pharmacologic alternatives for treating PMS. Prior history of depression, history of postpartum depression and a family history of depression predisposes women to PMDD. When symptoms persist throughout your menstrual cycle its recommended to seek the attention of a licensed physician. Yoga, meditation, and journaling are great homeopathic alternatives for preventing PMS symptoms. While they are natural alternatives such as herbals and vitamins they should be used with caution, and only taken with approval of your physician to avoid possible side effects, as well as drug-herb interactions. Also don’t feel alone when experiencing PMS, it is very common condition, and as mentioned before most women will experience some type of symptoms in their lifetime. You also have the ability to take control of it by incorporating small lifestyle changes to help you to continue to flourish on your journey.
About the Author
Tayiana J.Reed is a clinical pharmacist and wellness expert dedicated to curating affordable, clean and natural health & beauty products to cultivate a holistic lifestyle. Dr. Reed currently works in public health in the DC area and has dedicated her career to helping patients and clients obtain clinically proficient, cost effective drug information.