3 Approaches to Addressing Your PMS Naturally
BySarah Axtell, ND •March 6, 2020
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) refers to the cyclical nature of symptoms that appear during the luteal phase (or second half) of the menstrual cycle. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a severe form of PMS that is more debilitating. Symptoms of PMS and PMDD include irritability, anger, food cravings, depression, anxiety, breast tenderness, headaches, tension, fatigue, bloating and water retention. Sound all too familiar?? We have answers…
1. Serotonin and PMS
Serotonin is the principal neurotransmitter implicated in the pathogenesis of PMS and PMDD. Declining serotonin may account for the emotional lability that arises during the luteal phase. Vitamin B6 increases the synthesis of serotonin. Multiple studies published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gyneaecology have shown the beneficial effects of vitamin B6 for PMS.
In addition to B6, 5-HTP can boost serotonin levels and therefore improve PMS. 5-HTP is an amino acid that is a building block of serotonin. It is most effective when combined with B6.
2. Chaste Tree Berry to the Rescue
The most common hormone imbalance that contributes to PMS is low progesterone. Chaste tree berry (aka Vitex) increases your body’s production of progesterone and balances the estrogen: progesterone ratio. Low levels of progesterone have been associated with many PMS symptoms including anxiety and sleep disturbance.
In fact, chaste tree berry was found to be superior to placebo for relieving PMS symptoms. Chaste tree berry was also comparable to both oral contraceptives (the pill) and fluoxetine, an antidepressant that increases the chemical activity of serotonin in the brain. And bonus- fewer side effects occurred in the women on chaste tree berry vs. fluoxetine or the oral contraceptives.
3. Don’t Forget Lifestyle
Exercise is the most underutilized antidepressant we have. Exercise boosts mood-uplifting endorphins and neurotransmitters, notably serotonin. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes per day, 4 times weekly.
Avoiding sugar and minimizing carbs is also key to preventing cramps, irritability, and anger. This is especially important the week before your period.
If you must indulge, choose dark chocolate (80% cacao or greater). Dark chocolate has minimal sugar and is a good source of tension-relieving magnesium.
Lastly, seed cycling can be an effective way to balance hormones. This consists of rotating seeds with your cycle. Consume 2-4 tbsps of ground flax seeds for the first half of your cycle (days 1-14). Consume 2-4 tbsps of ground sunflower seeds the second half of your cycle (days 15-30). These seeds can be added to a green smoothie in the morning.
Discuss with your naturopathic doctor whether or not the supplements listed above may be indicated for you.
For more on PMS and achieving hormone balance with food, check out these articles:
Achieve Hormone Balance with Food
Kleijnen J, ter Riet G., Knipschild P. Vitamin B6 in the treatment of the premenstrual syndrome–a review. Br J Obstet Gynaecol. 1990 Sep;97(9):847-52.
Verkaik S, et al. The treatment of premenstrual syndrome with preparations of Vitex agnus castus: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2017 Aug;217(2):150-166
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.