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Premenstrual Syndrome

What Treatments Work?

Monday, April 23, 2012 - 15:59

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Many types of treatment are used to relieve symptoms of PMS. Most of them have not been scientifically proven to be effective, although they seem to help many women.

Most researchers and clinicians suggest starting with lifestyle changes, such as diet, exercise, and stress management. Over-the-counter and prescription medicines as well as non-drug treatments like vitamins, minerals, and herbal remedies are also used.

Different treatments are effective for different women. Although you may need to try several before having success, more than 90 percent of women can get at least some relief from their PMS symptoms.

Primary treatment for PMS currently includes:

Non-drug and lifestyle approaches

Medications

Non-drug And Lifestyle Approaches

Many women begin with non-drug treatments, as they tend to have fewer side effects. Non-drug treatments include:

What changes in diet can help?

Eating a healthy diet is important for general health and may also help relieve PMS symptoms such as bloating, breast tenderness, weight gain, irritability, and headaches.

This includes eating foods high in complex carbohydrates like whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables, and avoiding saturated fats. It may also help to avoid salt, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and red meat, and sometimes dairy products. Eating more small meals each day instead of three large meals may reduce food cravings and mood swings.

How can physical activity help?

Most women report that exercise improves their PMS symptoms. It is especially helpful in relieving stress, improving mood, and preventing weight gain.

Try to be physically active for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week throughout your menstrual cycle. Walking or other moderate physical activity may be enough, but some women find they need more vigorous aerobic exercise, such as jogging, biking, swimming, or climbing stairs. If you have not been exercising regularly, talk with your doctor before starting any vigorous exercise program.

What about stress management?

Everyone has events, people, and circumstances in their lives that cause stress. But the way that we handle stressors makes a huge difference in our physical and emotional well-being.

Identifying sources of stress and your reactions to them is the first step in managing stress. Try not to plan stressful activities during the days when your symptoms are worst.

Relaxation techniques, such as meditation, deep breathing, and yoga, help decrease PMS symptoms in some women. Talking with friends or with a counselor may give you ideas on changing negative responses to stress to healthier ones.

Nice To Know:

Our society is often not tolerant of the changes that occur during premenstruation. In some cultures, premenstruation and menstruation are considered special times for women to reconnect with each other, slow down, and honor their own lives and bodies. Menstruation is also considered a time of cleansing.

By taking time to rest, and comforting yourself while still following healthy habits, you may minimize your discomfort.

What other non-drug treatments can help?

The most common non-drug treatments that help some women with PMS include vitamins, minerals, and herbal remedies. Acupuncture or massage may also help.

  • Calcium and magnesium. Calcium and magnesium levels fluctuate during PMS. Some researchers have found that calcium can reduce PMS symptoms by almost half. They now recommend trying calcium before trying prescription medicines. Magnesium supplements seem to help some women with PMS, although this has not been confirmed in any studies.
  • Vitamins. Some women report relief of PMS symptoms from taking vitamins, especially vitamins B6 and E, although there is currently no scientific proof. If you try vitamins beyond a daily multivitamin, be careful about the amounts you take. Some vitamins can cause harm in large doses.
  • Other dietary supplements. There are a variety of products available that combine different vitamins and minerals for relief of PMS symptoms. PMS Escape is one product that has been shown in a scientific study to help reduce food craving, irritability, depression, and problems concentrating. It contains complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals in a combination that raises levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin.
  • Herbal remedies. Although no studies have proven that herbal remedies reduce PMS symptoms, some women have reported relief from using herbs. Evening primrose oil and dong quai have helped some women. A side effect of dong quai is sun sensitivity. Black cohosh may affect estrogen levels, and may help open the blood vessels, which may relieve symptoms. Possible side effects include dizziness and headaches.

Premenstrual Syndrome