Treating PMS Naturally

 Treating PMS Naturally


In this day and age of science and technology, one would think that a disorder that affects somewhere between 30 and 70 percent of women would have a clear cure. In the case of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS for short) this just isn't the case. Ironically, there are still health care providers who doubt that this common ailment even exists, despite being a recognized problem in the health field for over 60 years.

Conventional medical treatments run the gamut from antidepressant drugs such as Prozac or Zoloft to Valium to hormonal treatment, such as the administration of gonadotropin-releasing hormone. Clearly, no set treatment for this problem exists, yet naturopaths have had excellent results treating PMS with a combination of lifestyle changes and natural remedies. It is clear that PMS is a result of hormonal imbalances in the female body. Several hormonal patterns are typical in a PMS sufferer, the most common being an elevation of the hormone estrogen combined with a reduction of the hormone progesterone. This increased estrogen-to-progesterone ratio can lead to problems with the liver not functioning as it should, reduced levels of serotonin (an important mood-elevating neurotransmitter) in the brain, lower endorphin levels, and alterations in other hormone levels. Also, it is common to find hypothyrodism and elevated prolactin levels in a woman experiencing PMS, so it is important to rule out serious health care issues with an understanding physician.

Typical PMS symptoms include the following: abdominal bloating, acne, anxiety, backache, breast swelling/tenderness, changes in libido, cramps, depression, diarrhea and/or constipation, edema of fingers and ankles, food cravings (especially carbohydrates in the form of sweets), fainting spells, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, joint pain, nervousness, water retention, and personality changes such as drastic mood swings or bursts of anger and/or violence. In most women, the best form of treatment is to increase progesterone while lowering estrogen in the body. The most popular and highly effective way among naturopaths is to use vitex or chastetree extract. In two surveys of gynecological practices in Germany, physicians graded chastetree berry extract as good or very good in the treatment of PMS, showing that even conventional medicine in other countries realize the effectiveness of chastetree berry extract. In a study of over 1500 women taking chastetree berry extract, one third of the women experienced complete resolution of their symptoms, while another 57% reported significant improvement; 90% reported improvement or resolution overall. Chastetree berry apparently has profound effects on the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, and is able to normalize the secretion of other hormones, namely progesterone and estrogen. Best results occur after three months of treatment in most cases.

Another popular herb in Europe for treating PMS symptoms is black cohosh. Black cohosh was widely used by the American Indians for the relief of menstrual cramps and menopause. Black cohosh seems to work by reducing feelings of depression, anxiety, and tension. It helps stabilize moods and is an excellent tonic for the nervous system. Recommended dosage for PMS symptoms is 2 mL daily in tincture form. Another herb that is helpful in hormone balancing is dong quai. This herb has demonstrated it's usefulness as an uterine tonic, and can ease the discomforts of menstrual cramps. A benefit to dong quai may be it's ability to increase glucose utilization by the liver and uterus - especially helpful to the many women who experience glucose intolerance along with their PMS symptoms. The tincture form is preferred, and the recommended dosage is 4 mL daily, starting on day 14 of the menstrual cycle and continuing until menstruation begins.

To increase naturally occuring progesterone in the body, many women have found wild yam extract to be beneficial. This extract contains natural progesterone and has proved effective in alleviating several symptoms of PMS, including cramps, headache, mood swings, depression, and insomnia. Nutritional considerations are also important in treating PMS. Many natural health care practitioners recommend women suffering from PMS to make several dietary changes, including reducing the amount of sugars and simple carbohydrates in the diet, and increasing fresh fruits and vegetables along with quality whole grain cereals and breads. High protein foods are also important - beans, peas, lentils, nuts and seeds are all good sources, as well as broiled chicken, turkey, and fish. Increasing the use of soy may be helpful for some women, as soy is an excellent source of phytoestrogens (plant estrogens), which bind to estrogen receptors in the body, thereby competing with estrogen naturally occuring in the body, reducing the amount of estrogen overall.

Calcium supplementation has also been beneficial for many women, but one must be cautious when considering calcium sources. For example, commercial milk is often laden with estrogen from injections given to the cows at the dairy. In fact, several sources indicate that calcium via milk is a possible causative factor of PMS, perhaps due to the combination of calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorus, which reduces the magnesium absorption by the body. However, women who took a calcium supplement of 1000 mg daily showed significant symptom improvements in several studies. It's important to try these treatments and see which work best. Because PMS may have so many different causes, not all treatments will be appropriate.

By Meredith Edwards-Cornwall. Visit for more information on natural health for moms, babies, and kids.