3 Simple Tips to Cope with PMS Naturally
Fact number one to know about PMS: It’s not all in your head.
PMS is the product of a real hormonal turbulence that accompanies the menstrual cycle, more in some people than in others, and it can cause significant mood swings, depression, anger, and irritability, not to mention a compendium of physical symptoms like bloat and constipation.
That hormonal storm—which for some people is a light tropical rain while for others it’s Hurricane Katrina—affects neurotransmitters like serotonin, influencing mood, cravings, and behavior.
I’ve talked to hundreds of women—professionally and personally—about their experiences with PMS. I’ve also personally experienced—on the receiving end, that is—the effects of PMS in many of its forms and intensities. And I’m quite aware—from both your point of view and mine—that PMS is not anyone’s idea of a summer picnic by the beach.
PMS seems to have at least four “types.” Obviously each of these “types” is shorthand for a constellation of symptoms, but here’s an easy way to remember them:
- A for anxiety
- B for bloating (sometimes called H for hydration)
- C for cramps
- D for depression.
Some folks like to add the all too familiar fifth type, E—for everything!
Diet, Allergies, and Yeast
There’s little doubt that there’s a nutritional link to PMS. Researchers have shown that the typical PMS sufferer consumes 275% more sugar, 62% more refined carbohydrates, 78% more sodium, 79% more dairy products, 52% less zinc, 77% less magnesium, and 53% less iron than non-PMS sufferers.
PMS is a very common complaint among women who suffer from allergies. Testing and treating the underlying food allergy may help. Eliminating wheat has a profound effect on symptoms for many people, not surprising since wheat is such a common source of food sensitivities.
Then there’s Candida albicans, commonly known as yeast. Yeast—which are after all living organisms—produce toxins in the body which in turn can produce a host of symptoms including fatigue and PMS. To complicate matters, an overgrowth of Candida may hinder the absorption of B vitamins, which in turn aggravates PMS symptoms. Treating the underlying Candida is always a good idea. It’s done with a sugar- and yeast-free diet, low in processed carbs and high in protein and fat.
Diet for PMS
In virtually every case, improvement can be expected by adopting a more “paleo” diet: one rich in foods from what I call the Four Food Groups: food you could hunt, fish, gather, or pluck. Stick with protein, fat, vegetables, nuts and fruit (unless you’re sure you have Candida, in which case leave the fruit out for a couple of weeks while you treat the yeast). Stay away from grains and sugar. And lighten up on the caffeine.
Several supplements can also help support a healthy menstrual cycle.
We’ve sorted through the thousands of supplements that are available and are thrilled to recommend the cream of the crop to you below.
Supplements for PMS
Research clearly indicates that calcium can help with PMS symptoms. Studies suggest that blood calcium and vitamin D levels are lower in women with PMS. Since most readers are already supplementing with calcium (and hopefully, vitamin D!), we’ll concentrate on four other nutrients that can have a profound effect on PMS symptoms.
Magnesium is the great relaxer, and it relieves symptoms of PMS for many people. It improves mood, helps stabilize blood sugar, and also helps with fluid retention.
In one of many studies, supplementation with 360 mg of magnesium three times a day produced significantly improved scores on the Moos Menstrual Distress Questionnaire, leading the researchers to conclude that magnesium supplementation could represent an effective treatment of premenstrual symptoms related to mood changes.
We recommend Magnesium Malate Chelate by Designs for Health. This new improved form of magnesium is an Albion mineral chelate bound to malic acid which makes it ideal for absorption. True chelates are better absorbed than magnesium salts, and are also better retained in body tissue (such as bone). We recommend 800 mg of magnesium malate daily.
Vitamin B6 is an important part of a comprehensive nutritional support package for PMS. The body needs B6 to make serotonin—the “feel-good neurotransmitter”—out of the amino acid tryptophan.
Many people may be low in B6 (as well as other B vitamins) because of the high levels of stress, which literally eat up B vitamins. One study in the Journal of Women’s Health and Gender-Based Medicine tested various combinations of B6 and magnesium and found that both B6 and the B6-magnesium combo were helpful in reducing mild PMS-related anxiety symptoms.
We recommend vitamin B6 Complex by Pure Encapsulations. Vitamin B6 (also known as pyridoxine) exists in different forms. One of those, pyridoxal-5-phosphate, is a cofactor in many enzyme reactions and is the active form of vitamin B6. Although the body can convert pyridoxine to pyridoxal-5-phosphate in the liver, individuals with compromised liver function have difficulty making this conversion.
The Pure Encapsulations contains a good balance of pyridoxal-5-phosphate (the active form of the vitamin) and pyridoxine HCL (the inactive form). For relief of PMS, we recommend between taking 1-2 capsules per day.
Note: High levels of supplemental vitamin B6 (over 200 mg a day) may interfere with certain medications. If you have concerns about this, consult with our nutritionist or with your health professional.
The Magic of Neptune Krill Oil
Neptune Krill Oil is a very high-quality source of omega-3 fats and has been found in research to significantly reduce PMS symptoms. In one study, women taking 2 grams of krill oil a day had significantly improved outcomes on 10 different measures of PMS including emotional symptoms (feeling overwhelmed, irritable, and depressed) and physical ones (breast tenderness, joint pain, weight gain, and bloat).
We recommend XanthOmega Krill Oil by Designs for Health. In addition to providing a hefty 880 mg of krill oil per 2-capsule serving, it’s also a rich source astaxanthin, one of the most powerful antioxidants on earth. XanthOmega Krill Oil delivers a double whallop of nutritional power, providing both krill oil and astaxanthin in the same supplement.
And speaking of bloat…
If bloat is an issue for you during PMS, consider taurine, an amino acid which is a natural diuretic and the best way I know to reduce bloat. We recommend Water Ease by Designs for Health. It’s almost pure taurine (with a little B6 thrown in for good measure). For water retention take 900 to 1,000 mg of taurine when needed.
Taken individually or together, these four supplements…
- Magnesium Malate Chelate by Designs for Health
- B6 Complex by Pure Encapsulations
- XanthOmega Krill Oil by Designs for Health
- Water Ease by Designs for Health
…are an excellent way to manage your PMS symptoms.
Abraham G. Nutritional factors in the eitiology of the premenstrual tension syndromes. J Reprod Med. 1983; 28:446-64.
Bertone-Johnson, et al. Calcium and vitamin D intake and risk of incident premenstrual syndrome. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2005; 165: 11
Sampalis, et al. Evaluation of the effect of Neptune Krill Oil on the management of premenstrual syndrome. Alter Med Rev. 2003; 8(2): 171-179