Vitamins to help with pms mood swings

Premenstrual tension syndrome, commonly known as PMS, can be a real drag. Especially when you’re suffering from symptoms like bloating, cramping, mood swings, insomnia, and acne. And it can get in the way of living your fullest life. As a women’s hormone expert who helps women balance their hormones naturally and eliminate unwanted symptoms. To that end, I recommend that all women take a three-step approach to their hormonal health. This includes diet, lifestyle, and supplements for PMS relief.

I’ve spoken in previous articles about diet and lifestyle changes for balancing your hormones and eliminating unwanted symptoms. Today I want to share with you the top seven supplements I recommend for women who are struggling with PMS.

Supplements for PMS

  1. B Vitamin Complex
  2. Magnesium
  3. DIM
  4. Turmeric
  5. Probiotics
  6. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  7. Adaptogenic herbs

7 Supplements for PMS

1. B Vitamins Are a Girl’s Best Friend

B vitamins are absolutely essential for building amazing hormones. B vitamins are essential for liver detoxification. If you recall, your liver is exactly what packages up your estrogen to be moved out of the body. Estrogen dominance is a common culprit behind PMS symptoms.

Menstrual Cramps

If you struggle with menstrual cramps, choose a B complex that has at least 100 mg of thiamin, or B1. Studies show that low levels of B1 are associated with muscle cramps, which includes your uterus.

Stressed? B Vitamins Can Help.

For gals dealing with a whole lot of stress, it’s essential to bring on a B complex for support. That’s because the B vitamins support adrenal health and healthy production of cortisol. Cortisol helps keep inflammation low, modulates stress, and keeps you from dumping all of your sex hormones for survival.

Folate vs Folic Acid

Straight out the gate, if you’re taking anything with folic acid, throw that junk in the trash.

Folic acid is a cheap synthetic vitamin that does us no favors if we’re a woman with a MTHFR mutation. It’s estimated that around 40% of the population has issues with how this enzyme functions with folic acid. Now whether or not you know you have a MTHFR mutation, I still recommend not taking folic acid.

I like to think about your body as a Ferrari, baby! You wouldn’t put the cheapest fuel in a Ferrari, would you? Instead, choose a B complex that has a methylated or activated version of folate. NatureFolate blend and methylcobalamin, which is an activated form of B12 are both high quality.

The B Complex I carry in my store has activated B vitamins, like NatureFolate and is designed to deliver the right amount of each B vitamin for complete hormone support.

2. Magnesium

Got menstrual cramps? Those are the worst.

If you are a woman sitting in my clinic struggling with menstrual cramps, magnesium is definitely something we’ll start.

Why? Because it helps lower prostaglandins. Those are the hormone-like substances that cause cramping, which can be severe and debilitating. Elevated levels of prostaglandins are associated with more painful menstrual cramps.

Better Sleep

Magnesium can also help support more restful sleep. If the week or two before your period you’re having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, magnesium may be the ticket. And better sleep leads to better moods, better our hormones, and we feel way happier throughout the day.

Better Mood

Does your mood tank right before your period? There have been multiple studies showing a correlation between magnesium deficiency and depression. In one study it was found that people with depression and a magnesium deficiency had improved moods after taking 500 mg magnesium for more than 8 weeks.

Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRI’s) are a commonly prescribed PMS medication for mood swings. It’s important to note that these deplete folate so, if you’re on them, be sure to take a quality B complex. Remember to also talk to your doctor before you make changes to your medication.

Proper Hormone Production

Magnesium also supports pituitary health and signaling to the hormone-producing glands in your body. Your pituitary gland releases follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH), and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).

FSH and LH are what signal to the ovaries to get an egg ready and to ovulate. That is a major way we get those wonderful hormone levels. However, if you’re on hormonal birth control, know this. Hormonal birth control, like the pill, inhibits this system.

Thyroid-stimulating hormone tells the thyroid gland to produce thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These controls your mood, metabolism and, menses…among other things.

ACTH is a hormone that signals to your adrenal glands to help with the production of cortisol. Balanced levels of cortisol are important for the immune system and inflammation modulation. Also helps with ditching that unwanted belly fat! In my clinical experience, if your adrenal glands are not functioning optimally, you will develop a hormone imbalance.

Which Magnesium to Choose?

Magnesium citrate is the best choice if you find yourself constipated, want to regulate your bowel movements or are concerned about bone health.

A Buffered Magnesium Chelate is a better option if citrate causes you some serious bowel distress (aka pooping too much) and want to take the one of the best absorbed forms.

3. Estrogen Detox

When we talk about the root cause of PMS, menstrual cramps, mood swings, and insomnia elevated levels of estrogen, known as estrogen dominance, are often at play.

Herbs, like vitex and black cohosh, support healthy estrogen and progesterone levels. These can be taken as a capsule or as a liquid tincture.

Calcium-D-glucarate, resveratrol, rosemary, DIM, and broccoli seed extract are all nutrients that help your body process estrogen into safe metabolites and help maintain healthy levels of estrogen.

Balance by Dr. Brighten is a formulation that I use within my clinical practice. It contains the nutrients and herbs listed above, plus added support for your adrenals and testosterone levels.

4. Turmeric

Turmeric contains a constituent known as curcumin which is highly beneficial in lowering inflammation.

Remember, our natural estrogen and synthetic estrogens, like those found in hormonal contraceptives, have an inflammatory effect in the body. When inflammation goes high everything else spirals. Our cramps can become worse, our mood can definitely tank, and it takes a toll on our adrenal glands.

Also, if your adrenal glands are working overtime due to inflammation, that’s going to have a big impact on your sex hormones, leading to a further hormonal imbalance.

When selecting a turmeric supplement, it’s important that you find one that’s highly bioavailable. This means that your body will actually be able to absorb it and utilize it. Unfortunately, many turmeric supplements that are available on the market are poorly absorbed which means although you’re taking it, you won’t really see the benefits. The turmeric supplement I carry in my store contains a unique combination of three bioactive, health-promoting curcuminoids: curcumin, bisdemethoxy curcumin and demethoxy curcumin, along with turmeric oil. These three have been shown to have the strongest, most protective and best-researched constituents of the turmeric root.

Turmeric is also highly beneficial for liver detoxification and optimizes the health of your cells. When inflammation goes high it is harder to use our hormones at the cellular level. This is another way turmeric can support hormone health.

5. Probiotics

These days it seems like just about everything is hating on that microbiota in your gut. From antibiotics to gluten, pesticides, and synthetic hormonal contraceptives, our microbiome needs much love and support.

Why does this matter with PMS? Well, if your liver packages up all that estrogen and gets it ready to move out, you gotta poop it out. Otherwise, that estrogen goes right back into circulation.

Plus, we know that imbalances in the microbiome can actually lead to higher estrogen levels within the body, which then causes a whole lot more PMS.

Probiotics, like most supplements, is not something that you want to skimp on. Getting a high-quality probiotic is a must if you are struggling with PMS or other hormonal symptoms.

Most probiotics do not survive your stomach acid. So bringing on one that can make its way into your intestines and help you repopulate your gut is absolutely essential in eliminating unwanted PMS symptoms. I recommend a is spore-based probiotic. This means it can survive the acidity of the stomach and is less likely to aggravate conditions like SIBO, unlike lactobacillus based probiotics.

6. Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3s are healthy fats can help reduce menstrual cramps by throttling prostaglandins. If you are low in omega-3s or you have a higher level of pro-inflammatory omegas, then prostaglandins can rise and create painful menstrual cramps.

I recommended that women choose a fish oil or algae-based omega-3. Avoid flaxseed oil (whole fresh ground seeds are fine), as many of the commercially available products are usually highly oxidized.

We also need to be mindful that fish oil can be contaminated with things like PCBs and heavy metals. This is why I only recommend the highest quality of fish oil for my patients. It needs to go through third party testing to ensure none of these toxins are present.

If you’re buying fish oil in bulk, at a big box store, or from a company that is not doing third-party testing then chances are you’re not getting what you’re paying for. And worse, you may be taking a contaminated product.

In my store, I only carry fish oil that is screened for these contaminants and third-party tested. They also use sustainable fishing practices so that we ensure we aren’t doing damage to the environment.

7. Adaptogenic Herbs

Adaptogenic herbs help you adapt to stress by balancing your body’s response to stress. They can help increase, decrease or harmonize your cortisol and other stress hormone levels.

What do stress hormones have to do with PMS? When your brain is screaming “make stress hormones” then your ovaries are being told, “do NOT ovulate.” If you’re not ovulating then you’re not making adequate progesterone, which leaves you feeling frazzled, anxious, and wrecks your sleep.

Low progesterone can lead to a relative estrogen dominance. This is a recipe for heavy periods, extreme moods swings and irritability, acne, breast tenderness, insomnia, weight gain…and all those other unwanted period problems.

In my medical practice, I have found that supporting the adrenal glands is part of the secret sauce that facilitates PMS relief and remedies other hormone imbalances quick! I recommend women begin with an adaptogenic herb complex with Eleuthero, Rhodiola, Ginseng, Ashwagandha, and Licorice. These herbs support healthy cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. The product I recommend is Adrenal Support, it contains Vitamin B5, Vitamin C, and Vitamin B6, which are hormone supportive nutrients.

Curious Where to Start?

A list of seven PMS supplements can feel overwhelming and confusing. Where to start with supplements is the number one question I get both in my medical practice and from my readers. Here’s what I recommend.

If you’re a gal who is struggling with hormones or dreading your period every month then I want to share with you what I’ve found to be most effective in improving hormone health— Balance, Adrenal Support, and MegaSporeBiotic probiotic.

Balance by Dr. Brighten supports healthy levels of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. Adrenal Support helps your adrenal glands work like a champ, while also improving your tolerance for stress. Plus, that added licorice can help you get those cortisol and testosterone levels in check. MegaSporeBiotic is a high-quality probiotic that supports healthy digestion. Remember, your gut health is pivotal to your hormone health.

Because these supplements are so important to hormonal health I have bundled them together into the Period Problems Kit™.

Buh Bye PMS and Hello Period Bliss

These were seven of the best supplements for PMS, helpful for any menstruating female. Whether you’re dealing with PMS, PCOS, fibroids, or wanting to offset the negative effects of hormonal birth control. This is what I recommend women keep in their medicine cabinet and make a part of their daily routine.

If you’re a woman who feels like you’ve been doing everything right with your diet and lifestyle choices but are still not getting the hormone results you were hoping to achieve, I recommend considering adding supplements to help your health and reinforce those positive diet and lifestyle changes you’ve made.

In my clinical experience, supplements can be like rocket fuel to help you reach your hormonal goals.

PMS supplements help keep your healing momentum and not backslide when you get hit with an unforeseen stressor, endocrine disrupter, or any of the things that we encounter every day that wreak havoc on our hormones.

If you’re ready for some blissful periods, to ditch your PMS, boost your energy and have an amazing mood, then it’s time you put some supplements and introduce them into your daily routine.

If you’re looking for the highest quality, doctor-approved supplements that are non-GMO, gluten and allergy free, without any weird food coloring or dyes, or any garbage that you don’t want to have in your supplement, check out what I recommend in my store.

Resources:

Gröber U, Schmidt J, Kisters K. Magnesium in Prevention and Therapy. Nutrients. 2015;7(9):8199-8226. doi:10.3390/nu7095388.

Johnson S. The multifaceted and widespread pathology of magnesium deficiency. Med Hypotheses. 2001 Feb;56(2):163-70.

McDowell L. Thiamin. In: Vitamins in Animal and Human Nutrition. 2nd ed. Ames: Iowa State University Press; 2000:265-310.

Mehta K, et al. Antiproliferative Effect of Curcumin (Diferuloylmethane) against Human Breast Tumor Cell Line. Anticancer Drugs. Jun1997;8(5):470-81.

Rajizadeh A, Mozaffari-Khosravi H, Yassini-Ardakani M, Dehghani A. Effect of magnesium supplementation on depression status in depressed patients with magnesium deficiency: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Nutrition. 2017 Mar;35:56-60.

Takada Y, Bhardwaj A. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents differ in their ability to suppress NF-kappaB activation, inhibition of expression of cyclooxygenase-2 and cyclin D1, and abrogation of tumor cell proliferation. Oncogene. 2004 Dec 9;23(57):9247-58.

Xu Y, Ku BS, The effects of curcumin on depressive-like behaviors in mice. Eur J Pharmacol. 2005 Jul 25;518(1):40-6.

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About The Author

Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten, NMD, is one of the leading experts in women’s medicine and is a pioneer in her exploration of the far-reaching impact of hormonal birth control and the little known side effects that impact health in a large way. In her best selling book, Beyond the Pill, she shares her clinical protocols aimed at supporting women struggling with symptoms of hormone imbalance, including Post-Birth Control Pill Syndrome and birth control related side effects. A trained nutritional biochemist and Naturopathic Physician, Dr. Brighten is the founder and Clinic Director at Rubus Health, an integrative women’s medicine clinic. She is a member of the MindBodyGreen Collective and has been featured in prominent media outlets such as Forbes, Cosmopolitan, ABC news, and the New York Post. Read more about me here.

There are plenty of awesome things about being a woman. PMS is not one of them.

Unfortunately, far too many women deal with PMS. Over 90% of women report premenstrual symptoms. And while the symptoms occur in a predictable pattern (some women can practically set their watches by the regularity of their periods) that doesn’t make the symptoms any more bearable.

We say enough is enough. Life doesn’t slow down for PMS and you shouldn’t have to slow down either. There’s a whole wide world to conquer out there. So it’s high time to tackle PMS head-on. Here’s everything you need to know about PMS supplements and how to choose the right one for you.

What is PMS?

To understand how supplements can help hold PMS at bay, it helps to understand what PMS is (besides Mother Nature knocking on your door to throw confetti in your face and scream, “You’re not pregnant!”)

Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, is a wildly common issue for women, particularly in their reproductive years (when you have your periods, which makes sense because PMS is tied to your periods). However, while most women have premenstrual symptoms of some kind, 5% to 8% of women experience PMS so severe that it significantly interferes with daily life.

Scientifically speaking, PMS occurs during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, right before ovulation. This is the window when an egg can be fertilized. If the egg is not fertilized, it passes through the uterus instead of implanting there and the uterine lining breaks down, beginning the next menstrual period.

Common Symptoms

The list of PMS symptoms is long and varied, but most women only experience a handful of them. There are two groups of symptoms: physical and emotional/psychological.

Common physical symptoms include things like:

  • Abdominal bloating

  • Acne flare-ups

  • Alcohol intolerance

  • Breast tenderness

  • Constipation or diarrhea

  • Fatigue

  • Headache

  • Joint or muscle pain

Common emotional/psychological symptoms include things like:

  • Appetite changes or food cravings

  • Change in libido

  • Crying spells

  • Depressed mood

  • Insomnia or changes in sleep patterns

  • Irritability or anger

  • Mood swings

  • Poor concentration

  • Social withdrawal

  • Tension or anxiety

While PMS generally goes away within four days of the start of a woman’s period, every woman experiences PMS slightly differently. A small number of women routinely experience severe, disabling PMS symptoms, a form of PMS known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

What Causes PMS?

The obvious cause of PMS is monthly menstrual cycles. However, it remains unclear why some women experience PMS more strongly than others.

Several known factors can contribute to PMS, such as cyclical hormone changes tied to your period and cyclical chemical changes in the brain. Fluctuations of key mood-regulating neurotransmitters can significantly affect your mood, and if you already have low levels of these neurotransmitters, changes during your period can contribute to premenstrual depression.

Some women with severe PMS have undiagnosed or untreated depression, though depression does not cause PMS. The issue goes back to brain chemistry and hormones–if you’re already operating with insufficient neurotransmitters, period changes can make this even worse.

Because the exact cause of PMS is not clear, all currently available treatment options focus on symptom relief, not curing the problem.

Why Try Supplements?

If supplements aren’t a cure for PMS, why should you try them?

For one thing, supplements work by operating on natural bodily functions to provide relief. This makes them more sustainable than living off of ibuprofen or Aleve for a week each month.

Also, supplements can provide an accessible treatment option for some women. Many women rely on hormonal birth control to regulate hormonal fluctuations and mitigate symptoms of PMS. However, not all women can take hormonal birth control for health reasons–some avoid hormonal birth control due to mood disorders, while others have significant complications.

Plus, if your PMS is the result of an underlying health issue such as a vitamin deficiency, supplements kill two birds with one stone. Taking supplements in those cases wouldn’t just treat PMS–it would resolve various other health issues attached to vitamin deficiencies.

The Best PMS Supplements Include These Ingredients

The best PMS supplements should include a range of vitamins and essential minerals that support your body through its menstrual cycle. Vitamins B6 and D can both ease symptoms, along with calcium, iron, and magnesium. There are also other PMS supplements that can address specific symptoms such as trouble sleeping.

Let’s look at each of them in more detail.

Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6, like many of the complex B vitamins, is like a Swiss army knife–it’s so universally useful that you should always have it within arm’s reach.

Vitamin B6 is involved in more than 100 enzyme reactions in the body, most of them concerned with protein metabolism. Taking vitamin B6 has a wide range of positive health implications, including:

  • Reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease

  • Reducing your risk for certain kinds of cancer

  • Reducing cognitive decline over time among older adults

  • Reducing nausea and vomiting in pregnancy

  • And, of course, reducing PMS symptoms

One randomized crossover study looked at the effects of vitamin B6 on PMS symptoms for a group of 63 women between the ages of 18 and 49. That study found that B6 had a significant beneficial effect on emotional symptoms (i.e. depression, irritability, and fatigue) but no significant effect on PMS symptoms of any other type.

What It Treats

Because vitamin B6 has been observed as primarily useful in treating emotional symptoms, it should be taken as a supplement for that class of symptoms. For example, if you experience PMS-related depression, irritability, or fatigue (i.e. mood-related fatigue, not physical tiredness) then vitamin B6 may be beneficial to you.

For women, the recommended daily dose of vitamin B6 is 1.3 milligrams until the age of 50. At age 51, you need to boost your daily dose to 1.5 milligrams. However, if you’re recovering from alcoholism, have experienced kidney failure, or have a bowel disorder like Crohn’s or celiac disease, you will need a higher dosage of B6.

Conversely, if you take certain medications, such as oral contraceptives, tuberculosis medication, epilepsy medication, or medication for breathing issues, your B6 levels will also be affected. Talk to your doctor about how much B6 you get and how much you should use in a supplement.

The good news is that you can find a significant portion of your daily B6 requirement in food. A cup of chickpeas, for example, gets you a whopping 1.1 milligrams. You can also find it in yellowfish tuna, sockeye salmon, chicken breast, a medium banana, or even cooked potatoes.

Vitamin B12

B6 is far from the only B vitamin to keep in your arsenal. Vitamin B12, like other B vitamins, is an all-purpose vitamin.

Typically, vitamin B12 is used to support your nerves and blood cells. It’s particularly important in red blood cell formation and DNA synthesis (you know, just the little things). It can also help reduce your risk of macular degeneration and may help reduce symptoms of depression.

What It Treats

Vitamin B12’s superstar role in blood cell formation is what makes it so useful for PMS. Since it helps your body to form new blood cells, it works to replenish the blood you lose during your period, keeping your energy levels up.

The good news about vitamin B12? Unless you’re a vegan, you’re probably getting enough B12 from your diet. The vitamin is naturally found in a wide variety of animal foods, including:

  • Beef liver and clams (the best sources of B12)

  • Fish

  • Meat

  • Poultry

  • Eggs

  • Dairy

  • Some fortified products

Vitamin B12 is also unusual in that the body can store it for a surprisingly long time. Unlike many vitamins, which the body uses and discards the excess, the human body stores excess B12 in the liver until the body needs to use it. Your liver is astonishingly good at it–it can store several years worth of vitamin B12 at any given time.

Because of this, B12 deficiency is quite rare, except in a few specific cases. Vegans and vegetarians (specifically vegetarians who don’t regularly consume dairy or eggs) are prone to B12 deficiency because plants don’t naturally contain B12. Also, individuals with digestive disorders or pernicious anemia may have issues absorbing B12.

If any of those situations apply to you, talk to your doctor about whether a B12 supplement could help you. However, make sure to check with your doctor about a recommended dosage–remember, your body is excellent at storing B12, so you don’t want to take too much.

Calcium

Did your parental unit harp on you about drinking your milk? Turns out, they were on the money–particularly when it comes to PMS.

Milk is the most popularly known source of calcium, an essential mineral. Humans store calcium primarily in our bones and teeth since we use calcium as a building block to support healthy bone structure. It also helps play a role in regulating the release of various hormones and enzymes, which means that calcium plays an indirect role on most major bodily functions.

What It Treats

While calcium is best known as a builder of healthy bones, research shows that it’s quite useful in treating mood-related symptoms of PMS.

One study of 66 women taking 500 mg supplements of calcium daily for two months saw significant changes in:

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Emotional changes

  • Water retention

  • Somatic changes (i.e. breast tenderness, bloating, joint and muscle pain)

Of all the supplements on this list, calcium has some of the strongest scientific backings.

Many recommendations say that adults between the ages of 19 and 50 should get 1,000 mg of calcium daily, while teenagers between the ages of 14 and 18 should get about 1,300 mg per day. However, the World Health Organization disagrees, recommending about 500 mg per day.

The higher calcium recommendation comes from old scientific reasoning about bone density. Your bone density drops when bone breakdown outpaces bone formation, so scientists originally reasoned that a higher calcium balance in the blood would keep the body from drawing calcium out of the bones.

However, the 1,000 mg recommendation is based on a few brief studies in the 70s which only lasted a few weeks. In reality, your calcium balance (like your B12 levels) is determined over the years. Also, the studies were based on the logic that higher calcium would reduce the risk of bone fractures, which has since been proven false.

If you go by the 500 mg recommendation, eating right can help bolster your calcium naturally. Collard greens, for example, provide 350 mg per 8 ounces, while broccoli provides 200 mg per 8 ounces. But the big hitter for most people is milk (skim, low-fat, or whole) which provides 300 mg per 8 ounces.

However, many people don’t necessarily get enough calcium. Women of childbearing age whose menstrual periods stop because they exercise too much, eat too little, or both are at significant risk. Vegans and vegetarians who don’t eat dairy lose access to most major calcium sources, as do people with lactose intolerance.

Magnesium

In case you haven’t noticed yet, most of the major supplements on this list are heavy hitters in your overall health. Magnesium is no exception.

It’s a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems in the body. It’s a prerequisite for DNA and RNA synthesis and plays a major role in blood glucose control, muscle and nerve function, and blood pressure regulation. Plus, it helps transport other key minerals (like calcium and potassium) across your cell membranes.

Your body keeps a small store of magnesium available, generally about 25 mg at any given time, with 50% to 60% of that stored in your bones and the rest in your soft tissues.

What It Treats

The trouble with magnesium is that while the mineral is good for your health, current research seems to indicate that (like PMS) its usefulness varies by person.

One study found that magnesium levels are significantly compromised in women suffering from PMS, though the study consisted of 62 university students. A separate study looking at the efficacy of magnesium infusions found that magnesium had little advantage over the placebo.

On the other hand, a separate study found that magnesium in combination with B6 helped reduced PMS mean scores across the board.

So, what gives?

One explanation is that some groups are at a higher risk of magnesium deficiency than others, and taking a magnesium supplement may prove more beneficial to them than other groups. Diabetes, gastrointestinal diseases like Crohn’s and celiac disease, chronic alcoholism, and certain medications can all increase your risk of magnesium deficiency.

If any of these apply to you, talk to your doctor about whether magnesium could help you. Also, if you take any medications, ask your doctor if those medications may interfere with your ability to absorb magnesium, creating a magnesium deficiency.

Herbal Remedies

If you’re not a fan of taking a batch of pills every morning, certain herbal remedies have been shown to be effective in reducing PMS symptoms. Some of them have been used for centuries as a home remedy, long before humans invented multivitamins.

That said, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate herbal remedies and doctors cannot prescribe them. Herbal remedies would be consumed as an over-the-counter remedy and dosage is far less precise, so treat them with caution and always check with your doctor to see if you take any medications or have health issues that could cause complications.

Chasteberry

Chasteberry, the fruit of the chaste tree, has been used to treat various ailments for centuries. The plant itself is a delight for gardeners, but if PMS is your first concern, focus on the berry.

Most women who use berry know of it as a treatment for hormonal imbalances brought on by periods. As such, it can help treat some symptoms of PMS like bloating, low mood, and breast pain. You can find the fruit dried and added to liquids, capsules, and tablets.

If you have a hormone-sensitive condition, make sure to talk to your doctor before trying chasteberry. And if you do add chasteberry (or any herbal supplement) make sure to ease into it by starting at a low dosage.

Evening Primrose Oil

Evening primrose is a plant native to North America with lovely yellow flowers that bloom in the evening (thus the name). Traditionally, Native Americans used the whole evening primrose plant as a treatment for bruises, while the roots were used as a treatment for hemorrhoids.

Today, many people use evening primrose oil and a home remedy for eczema, PMS, breast pain, rheumatoid arthritis, and menopause, among other conditions.

The tricky part about evening primrose is that while some women swear by it, there are very few scientific studies examining the benefits of evening primrose and those studies that do exist have conflicting results. It’s safe to take for a short time, though some people report mild side effects like headaches and stomach upset.

St. John’s Wort

While some herbs on this list have shaky results or limited research, St. John’s Wort is not one of them. The herb has been studied extensively, particularly for its effects on depression and interactions with other medications.

St. John’s Wort is a long-recognized herbal treatment for depression. Some studies show that it has similar effects to prescription antidepressants and may prove useful in the treatment of mild depression, including PMS-related depression.

However, St. John’s Wort is known to have significant, sometimes life-threatening interactions with several medications. It is known to weaken the effects of several medications, including:

  • Antidepressants

  • Birth control pills

  • Cyclosporine, a medication which prevents the body from rejecting transplanted organs

  • Digoxin, a heart medication

  • Some HIV drugs

  • Some cancer medications

Taking St. John’s Wort with antidepressants is considered unsafe, as antidepressants combined with the herb can lead to an unsafe spike in serotonin levels with potentially serious consequences.

Dandelion Leaf

Fun fact: those dandelions you love to butcher as ugly weeds are quite nutritious.

Yes, dandelions. They’re an excellent source of vitamins K, A, and C and have substantial amounts of calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium. As a home remedy, the dandelion leaf has long been used to decrease swelling.

The beauty of hipster foodies is that you can now find dandelion leaves at some farmer’s markets. Whole Foods even carries dandelion greens these days. But whatever you do, don’t pick dandelion leaves from your yard–the last thing you want is to ingest harsh weed killers and fertilizers you use on your lawn.

Unless, of course, you let your lawn grow au naturel and don’t use any funky chemicals. In which case, pick some greens, clean them, and give it a whirl.

Make PMS a Thing of the Past

We know that PMS is real and that it has a detrimental effect on the lives of far too many women. And we say it’s time to change the way you think about PMS.

Our PMS supplements have shown positive results–many of our customers now swear by them over other PMS treatments. Instead of taking a handful of pills, you can get an easy-to-use, time-release patch that provides all-day treatment to keep your worst PMS symptoms in check.

If you’re tired of letting PMS hold you back, to check out our available supplements today.

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Believe it or not, the monthly mood swings, breast tenderness, irritability, cravings and weight gain don’t have to come with the territory of being female.

What is PMS?
PMS (premenstrual syndrome) involves many different symptoms lasting from a few days to two weeks prior to menstruation. The symptoms, along with their intensity, can vary from month to month, but usually end after the first or second day of bleeding when the follicular phase of the menstrual cycle begins. The time before the menstrual flow, coinciding with PMS, is called the luteal phase. It begins at ovulation and continues until the first day of bleeding.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimates that at least 85 percent of menstruating women have at least one or more symptoms of PMS as part of their monthly cycle. Symptoms may vary widely, but often include a mix of physical and emotional changes including water retention, abdominal fullness, breast tenderness, weight gain, acne, digestive disturbances, cravings, depression and fatigue. You may find it helpful to record your symptoms in a PMS tracker.

How to improve your symptoms
Here are some factors that could be increasing severity of your PMS symptoms.

Excess sugar/processed foods: Excess sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, caffeine or alcohol, along with insufficient protein, healthy fats, fibre and complex carbohydrates, can contribute to PMS. An improper diet results in hormonal imbalance, inflammation, weight gain and nutrient deficiencies that may contribute to PMS.

Progesterone deficiency: Stress causes a depletion of the hormone progesterone as its production is limited, while increasing the long-term stress hormone cortisol. Progesterone, naturally highest in the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, works wonderfully to prevent many PMS symptoms such as anxiety, headaches, sleep disruption, water retention and breast tenderness.

Excess stress: Stress also depletes serotonin and dopamine, two mood-enhancing hormones involved in the prevention of PMS symptoms such as breast pain, digestive upset, cravings, depression, anxiety, poor concentration and lack of motivation. Stress also raises the hormone aldosterone, which contributes to water retention and magnesium loss.

Estrogen dominance: When we take the birth control pill or other forms of medications containing estrogen, estrogen dominance arises. Excess estrogen is linked to PMS as well as to uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts and risk of breast cancer. Abnormally high levels of estrogen in the luteal phase may cause emotional symptoms such as irritability and aggression in addition to many physical PMS symptoms.

Nutrient deficiency: Magnesium, vitamin B6, calcium, folic acid and essential fatty acids are essential for the prevention and treatment of PMS. Vitamin B6 and magnesium are especially helpful for breast pain, water retention, cravings, tension headaches, depression and anxiety.

Toxicity: Yeast overgrowth, lack of fibre or beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract compromises estrogen breakdown and elimination. Poor liver function or limited bile flow will also cause estrogen dominance because bile is high in estrogen metabolites.
Excess prolactin: Some women with PMS have abnormally elevated amounts of prolactin. Prolactin, a hormone naturally produced when we breast-feed, also increases with stress (stress depletes dopamine and dopamine keeps prolactin in check) or with a prolactin-secreting tumor. High prolactin causes infertility, menstrual abnormalities and PMS symptoms including breast tenderness and swelling, anxiety and irritability.

Hypothyroidism: Underactive thyroid disease should be considered as a possible cause of PMS symptoms. Progesterone, the same hormone that if deficient causes PMS, is also necessary for healthy thyroid gland function.

Three tips for PMS relief
1. Detox your body: Remove alcohol, caffeine, sugar, processed flours and inflammatory fats such as those found in full-fat dairy products, red meats, peanuts, margarines, shortening, and hydrogenated oils from your diet. Limiting salt can also help. Eat a balance of lean protein (organic chicken, turkey, tempeh, nuts, omega-3 eggs), healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts, etc.) and complex carbohydrates (kamut, beans, rye, oats, fruits, vegetables) every three to four hours during the day. This will stabilize blood sugars and avoid undue stress and hormonal imbalance because of skipped meals.

Probiotic supplements will establish healthy bacterial balance in your digestive system and support the breakdown and elimination of estrogen. Address constipation (less than one bowel movement per day) quickly. It significantly contributes to toxicity, hormonal imbalance and future risk of disease. For constipation and to help PMS symptoms, have 1-3 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds daily for fibre, lignands and phytoestrogens. Sprinkle these onto your salads or into your oatmeal and you will acquire four of the recommended daily intake of 35 grams of fibre. Add a hypoallergenic fibre supplement to your smoothies as well and you’ll gain another eight.

I have also formulated Clear Detox Hormonal Health to assist with liver detoxification and the removal of excess hormonal waste, particularly toxic estrogen, which can lead to weight gain or prevent weight loss. Take one pack at breakfast unless you are on a thyroid medication each morning. In this case it should be taken at lunch.

2. Improve your vitamin regime: Include these in your daily supplement intake.

  • A high potency multivitamin with breakfast and dinner. This will provide the nutrients needed for hormonal balance while also maintaining your metabolism and energy levels.
  • Calcium/magnesium citrate in a 1:1 ratio with vitamin D3. Magnesium helps fluid retention, breast tenderness, anxiety, fatigue and bloating while calcium assists with cramping and other PMS symptoms because it is specifically involved in estrogen detoxification.
  • Vitamin B complex (preferably higher in vitamin B6). This can reduce water retention, breast tenderness and irritability.
  • Fish oil (EPA/DHA) and evening primrose oil taken daily may reduce breast tenderness, mood changes, weight gain, abdominal pain, and cravings associated with PMS. These fats influence the production of prostaglandins that regulate pain and inflammation in the body as well as aid hormonal balance.
  • Taking a vitamin E supplement that contains all the types of vitamin E (especially gamma tocopherol) reduces the production of prostaglandins that contribute to cramps and breast tenderness.

3. Boost your exercise and reduce your stress: Improve hormonal balance and stress recuperation by sleeping seven and a half to nine hours each night, in pitch black. Exercise for 30 minutes at least 3-4 times per week to reduce stress and tension and to improve mood. Aerobic exercises such as cycling, walking or running improve moods and reduce pain. Practice progressive relaxation exercises, meditation, yoga or deep breathing to help stress-related symptoms such as headaches, anxiety or sleeping troubles.

Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and her newest release, The Supercharged Hormone Diet, now available across Canada. She is also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique.

As a clinician with more than twenty years experience, I regularly prescribe magnesium for PMS, PCOS, and perimenopause. I see excellent results with my patients and I’ve come to rely on magnesium as one of my favorite natural treatments for period problems.

The effectiveness of magnesium has been demonstrated in a few studies and clinical trials, which are compiled into a 2017 literature review called “Magnesium in the gynecological practice”(1). In that review, the authors conclude that there is “an important role for magnesium for the prevention and the treatment of a number of conditions relevant for women’s health” (1).

My hope is that with even more research, magnesium will one day make its way into every health practitioner’s office as standard care.

Here are some of magnesium’s potential benefits for menstrual health.

Magnesium can reduce stress

Magnesium calms the nervous system and reduces the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis (2). The result is less anxiety, less cortisol, and a better capacity to cope with stress. Reduced stress can, in turn, have positive effects on your menstrual cycle and health.

Magnesium may improve insulin resistance and help with PCOS

Magnesium supplementation has been demonstrated to improve the metabolic condition insulin resistance, which is a condition of chronically elevated insulin (3). In other studies, the benefits are less clear (4).

If magnesium does help insulin resistance, then it could be a useful supplement for many of the long-term negative health consequences associated with insulin resistance, including the female endocrine disorder polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which is associated with insulin resistance. The benefits of magnesium for people with PCOS was demonstrated in one study where magnesium-zinc-calcium-vitamin D co-supplementation improved the insulin metabolism of 30 PCOS patients over 12 weeks (5).

Magnesium and premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

According to a recent literature review, magnesium is an evidence-based treatment for PMS (1). Some researchers propose that it may work by calming the nervous system and by “normalizing the actions of different hormones (mainly progesterone) on the central nervous system” (6).

Tip: Magnesium works best in combination with vitamin B6 (7)

Tip: Magnesium can also be used to prevent premenstrual migraines (1)

Magnesium may help to prevent period pain

Taken daily, magnesium may prevent dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps) in some people (1). It works by relaxing the smooth muscle of the uterus and by reducing the prostaglandins that cause period pain (1,8).

Magnesium promotes healthy estrogen clearance

By supporting the COMT enzyme (catechol-o-methyltransferase) in the liver, magnesium promotes the healthy excretion of estrogen (9). This may reduce the risk of the estrogen excess conditions (such as fibroids) associated with low COMT function (10).

Magnesium can relieve symptoms of perimenopause and menopause

Magnesium can ease symptoms of the menopause transition (1). For example, in one study, magnesium relieved the menopausal hot flashes of women who were undergoing treatment for breast cancer and could not take hormone replacement (11).

Should you test for magnesium deficiency?

Unfortunately, the standard “serum magnesium” blood test cannot detect magnesium deficiency, and a normal reading might mislead both you and your healthcare practitioner. Instead, you could consider the test “red blood cell magnesium,” which is slightly more accurate but may still fail to detect a whole-body magnesium deficiency.

Magnesium deficiency is common and approximately two thirds of Americans have been found to not consume enough magnesium (12). One way to know if you might be deficient in magnesium is to try taking a supplement and see how you feel. Unless you have chronic kidney disease, magnesium is safe to try and safe for long-term use. Some forms (such as magnesium chloride) cause diarrhea, but gentler forms (such as magnesium glycinate) are usually fine.

I recommend 300 mg daily taken directly after food.

The best type of magnesium supplement

You can get some magnesium from food (green leafy vegetables, chocolate, and nuts), but you may need to supplement it because magnesium is depleted by stress (13).

The best type of magnesium supplement is magnesium glycinate or bisglycinate (which is the mineral joined to the amino acid glycine). It’s the type that is most absorbable and is also the least likely to cause diarrhea. Magnesium bisglycinate has the added benefit of glycine, which calms the nervous system and improves insulin sensitivity (14,15).

Lara Briden is a naturopathic doctor with 20 years of experience in women’s health. Her book is the Period Repair Manual—soon to be available in German as well as English. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

5 Supplements That May Ease PMS Symptoms

In the days leading up to their periods, many women experience symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. PMS symptoms vary from woman to woman, but they may include emotional symptoms like anxiety and irritability — and physical symptoms like fatigue, trouble sleeping, pain, and bloating.

Plenty of treatments are available to help manage PMS symptoms — medications, lifestyle changes, even cognitive therapy. And now there is mounting evidence that certain dietary supplements may be beneficial to women who have PMS.

Herbs, Minerals, and Vitamins for PMS

Throughout your menstrual cycle, the levels of certain nutrients are thought to fluctuate. These nutrient fluctuations may cause some women to become deficient in certain vitamins and minerals at various points in their menstrual cycle, which is why some experts feel that certain vitamins and minerals may help ease PMS symptoms.

As more people turn to herbal supplements to manage their health conditions, researchers are looking into whether certain herbs can do the same for women with PMS.

These five supplements are among those that are being studied for their ability to help relieve PMS symptoms:

Calcium. In a recent study, researchers found that women with PMS who took a 500 milligram (mg) calcium supplement twice a day for three months had significantly reduced levels of fatigue, appetite changes, and depression than women who took a placebo. Another study revealed that taking 1,200 mg of calcium a day helped reduce women’s emotional and physical PMS symptoms. Among all the supplements used to treat PMS, calcium has the strongest evidence to back its benefits.

Chasteberry. Some studies have suggested that the herb chasteberry may help relieve certain PMS symptoms, including negative mood, headache, breast fullness, and water retention. Chasteberry extract comes from the fruit of a tree, and has been used for thousands of years by women to ease menstrual problems. But evidence is limited supporting chasteberry for PMS symptom management. More studies are needed to confirm its effects.

Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential to many of your body’s functions, including your metabolism, immune response, and nervous system functioning. Some evidence exists that supplementation with vitamin B6 may help relieve PMS symptoms, but more clinical trials are needed to determine if it really works. And since vitamin B6 deficiency is rare and extremely high levels of vitamin B6 can cause serious health effects, it is especially important to talk with your doctor before taking large doses of vitamin B6.

Magnesium. Because some evidence exists that a magnesium deficiency can lead to PMS symptoms, some researchers believe that magnesium supplementation may benefit women with PMS. A recent study found that women with PMS who took magnesium supplements found that their PMS symptoms improved. Certain people are at increased risk of magnesium deficiency — including those with diabetes, those taking certain medications, and those with alcoholism — so talk to your doctor to see if magnesium deficiency might be a problem for you.

Vitamin E. Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that is abundant in nuts, seeds, and vegetable oils. There is preliminary evidence that vitamin E supplementation may benefit women with PMS symptoms. In fact, a recent study found that vitamin E supplements helped ease menstrual cycle-related breast pain.

If you are interested in using supplements to help ease your PMS symptoms, talk with your health care provider. Unlike prescription or over-the-counter medications, no federal regulations monitor the safety and effectiveness of dietary supplements. So what a supplement’s label says it can do isn’t regulated. Some supplements can have harmful health effects and even interact with other medications and supplements that you take. Your health care provider can make sure that you take supplements safely.

5 Favorite Supplements (+ Recipe) for Irregular Cycles: A Clinician’s Perspective

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This article was contributed by Dr. Bridgit Danner, LAc, FDN. You may know, that I’m a big proponent of food-first to address our hormonal imbalances.

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For you to have a healthy cycle, that is timely, fertile, painless, and PMS-free, you need to nourish the glands of your endocrine system, which make your female hormones.

Your adrenal glands make DHEA, a precursor to estrogen. Your ovaries are the main producer of estrogen, at the signal of the hypothalamus/pituitary gland. Progesterone is made mainly by the corpus luteum, which arises in the ovary after ovulation.

In this article, I’ll discuss some of my favorite supplements for hormonal health, some of which can be safely purchased over the counter, and others which you could consider under care of an herbalist, naturopath, functional medicine practitioner or acupuncturist.

1. Adaptogens

Adaptogens are an amazing class of herbs that help you literally adapt to mental or physical stress. They include maca, ashwaganda, rhodiola, schisandra, tulsi (holy basil), panax ginseng and eleuthero.

They can help you adapt to stresses such as a change of climate, but can also help you face life’s daily changes without your body taking a hit. (1)

In the hormone world, they can really raise DHEA, the precursor hormones to testosterone and estrogen. I have seen this in the results of labs I’ve run, and clinically with women feeling better more energy, a greater sex drive and increased fertility.

Adaptogens often come mixed together in a tincture or capsule. Tulsi is pretty easy to find in tea from, and has a nice, mild taste. You can even grow it in your garden.

2. Vitamin C with Bioflavonoids

The lowly vitamin C is actually a power player for our adrenal glands. It is needed to make all our steroid hormones (including progesterone, estrogen and testosterone.)

Sufficient vitamin C helps give you a healthy stress response(2). If you have too little vitamin C, you can release excess cortisol, and then you may make less sex hormones. That high cortisol hanging around can also interfere with your sex hormones attaching correctly to their receptor sites.

I love squeezing a whole or half lemon into water and optionally adding a little liquid stevia as an afternoon pick-me-up. Peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts are other great sources.

In a supplement form, it’s important to choose a vitamin C that includes bioflavonoids (3). (compounds naturally found in plants, fruits and flowers.) You may see ‘bioflavonoids’ listed or quercitin, or sometimes I see rosehips added for a whole food bioflavonoid option.

When bioflavonoids are included, this allows your body see the vitamin C supplement as more of a food and assimilate it better.

You can ask your practitioner if taking 1,000 – 3,000 mg per day is safe for you.

3. Vitex (Chaste Tree)

Vitex or chaste tree is a very popular female tonic these days. I read posts in online forums of women singing its praises as a miracle herb. I would caution that there is no one miracle herb, and vitex is not a fit for every woman. However I have seen it help women bring their cycles back, or help stabilize their luteal phase to become pregnant or reduce PMS. (4)

Vitex is thought to work on the hypothalamus pituitary axis to stimulate signaling to the ovaries. For some women, this is just the push their body needs. For other women, this approach may be too ‘upstream,’ and may cause some adverse symptoms like depression or irritability. Perhaps these women need more of a nutritional approach, stress reduction, etc.

Over the counter vitex supplements will vary in quality and concentration, so be sure to choose a brand you trust. My favorite is from a company called Mediherb, that is available only through distributing practitioners.

It is generally recommended to take vitex for a shorter span of time, such as 3-6 months.

If you want to try vitax in a tea form, I have a recipe here for you.

Chasteberry and Rose Petal Tea

  • 1 tablespoon rose petals (where to buy)
  • 1 teaspoon whole chaste tree berry, crushed (use a grinder or pestle and mortar) (where to buy)
  • 1 teaspoon hibiscus flowers (where to buy)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed star anise, about one star
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon chips (where to buy)
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup, honey, coconut nectar or 1 drop of stevia

Steep all the herbs and spices for 10 minutes in 4 cups of hot water, add the sweetener and enjoy hot or cold.

4. Glandulars

Now we are journeying into a stranger hormonal option. Glandulars are processed bits of animal gland, such as adrenal gland, ovary gland or pituitary gland, distributed only through practitioners who use them.

When a practitioner wanted to prescribe me glandulars many years ago, I resisted at first. It sounded gross to be taking animal parts. But when you consider that for thousands of years we ate every part of the animal, it begins to make sense. The tissue of other mammals is structurally similar to our own, so our body can respond well and quickly to healing our own endocrine with animal glands.

There is, admittedly, a lack of rigorous scientific backing on the efficacy of glandular therapy. The most popular use is desiccated thyroid for issues of hypothyroid, which often even progressive medical doctors will recommend.

As this article is called “a clinician’s perspective,” I can tell you I have seen great results with glandulars to give a boost to hormone levels or restore a missing cycle. I usually use a blend that have material from the nucleus of adrenal, ovary and hypothalamus pituitary mixed together to treat female cycle complaints.

Again, they are only available through practitioners who utilize them, and they are generally for short-term use because they are so concentrated.

5. Magnesium

Magnesium is also needed to make your steroid hormones. It is often deficient in our diets due to soil deficiency and a lack of vegetables. We also have an especially high demand for it to calm our central nervous system, which tends to be way overstimulated in our modern world.

In women, magnesium levels fluctuate quite a bit. When hormone levels are higher, magnesium is lower. This is partly why we tend to crave chocolate before our periods; we replete magnesium through the cocoa. Choose high-quality 70% + dark chocolate though, not a Kit Kat bar that will further deplete your nutrients with all the sugar.

Magnesium can help with pre-menstrual headaches(5), sugar cravings, cramps and anxiety (6). I find that many young women, who have still developing hormones and sometimes pretty poor diets, suffer from severe cramps that could be very much improved with magnesium.

There are many types of magnesium. Magnesium citrate is a common type, but can move your bowels. If you don’t want this, consider magnesium glycinate, which is non-laxative, absorbable, and has some extra calming properties. The magnesium I take is a blend, and it seems to work for me. I usually recommend 400 mg in the evening.

I hope this helps give you some ideas for restoring your happy, healthy cycle!

Bridgit Danner, LAc, FDN

(1) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1978233/

(2) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26353411

(3) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24492414

(4) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11159568?dopt=Abstract

(5) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1860787?dopt=Abstract

(6) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10746516?dopt=Abstract

3 Natural Ways to Ease PMS

Dr. Laurie Steelsmith October 24, 2012 Dr. Laurie Steelsmith , Herbs , Supplements Email Print Twitter Pinterest Facebook

This post was most recently updated on December 3rd, 2016

Menstruation is the female reproductive system’s way of regulating itself. But for many women, this monthly function is associated with a group of all too familiar symptoms.

For one or two weeks prior to the start of each period, many women experience what’s called PMS, or premenstrual syndrome. The physical and emotional symptoms of PMS are often caused by hormonal imbalances. They include bloating and fluid retention, breast tenderness and food cravings. Mood swings–anger, anxiety and depression–may also be part of the mix.

Here are three natural remedies that may greatly improve a woman’s monthly outlook:

Chaste Berry. Chaste Berry (Vitex agnus-castus) has been used to support women’s reproductive health since ancient times. The berry contains antioxidants and has been shown to relieve discomfort associated with the menstrual cycle.

Red Raspberry Leaf. A traditional woman’s herb, red raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus) comes from the same shrub that produces raspberry fruit. It’s popularly brewed as a tea.

Magnesium. Magnesium helps support normal muscle contraction and relaxation.

How do you make your monthly cycles more comfortable? Share it with us in the comment section below.

Dr. Laurie Steelsmith

Laurie Steelsmith, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist who specializes in women’s health. She is the co-author of Great Sex, Naturally: Every Woman’s Guide to Enhancing Her Sexuality Through the Secrets of Natural Medicine and co-author of Natural Choices for Women’s Health: How the Secrets of Natural and Chinese Medicine Can Create a Lifetime of Wellness. Visit her website at www.DrSteelsmith.com.

Laurie Steelsmith, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic physician and licensed acupuncturist who specializes in women’s health. She is the co-author of Great Sex, Naturally: Every Woman’s Guide to Enhancing Her Sexuality Through the Secrets of Natural Medicine and co-author of Natural Choices for Women’s Health: How the Secrets of Natural and Chinese Medicine Can Create a Lifetime of Wellness. Visit her website at www.DrSteelsmith.com.

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If you’re like most women on earth, you have a hate-hate relationship with PMS. Seriously, what’s to like about premenstrual syndrome, with its ugly calling cards—mood swings, bloating, uncontrollable food cravings, and irrational crying jags?

All told, the condition describes a collection of more than 150 symptoms that can strike the week before your period, due to an imbalance of estrogen and progesterone levels. Compounding the hormonal plunge are factors such as stress, insufficient sleep, and unhealthy eating, says hormone researcher Lorraine Pintus, author of Jump Off the Hormone Swing.

But don’t automatically raid the medicine cabinet—no matter what your symptoms, you may be able to find a fix with these alternative therapies.

Natural PMS Cures Include:

Supplements
Introducing your new premenstrual superstars : vitamin E and essential fatty acids, per a study in Reproductive Health. Women who swallowed the two every day for six months saw major PMS improvements, possibly because both nutrients interact with prostaglandin receptors (prostaglandins are the hormones believed to cause fierce cramps). A daily multivitamin should supply you with the 15 milligrams of E you need, and you can pop a daily fish-oil capsule to get your fatty acids. (Also, a calcium-rich diet—one full of leafy greens, almonds, and yogurt—may help prevent many PMS symptoms. Aim for about 1,300 milligrams of calcium a day.)

Best For: mood swings, sore breasts, cramps, headaches, acne

Acupuncture
Finally, a kind of prick you can love. Research shows acupuncture is ace at treating PMS. One study found that acupuncture quelled symptoms in 78 percent of women. Though Western doctors still don’t quite understand how it works, they believe acupuncture may increase circulation and elevate endorphins, which enhance mood and alleviate pain. Most women experience PMS relief within 24 hours after a session, so depending on your reaction, you might get treated once a month in the week before your period.

Best For: cramps, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, nausea

Progesterone Cream
Because researchers believe most premenstrual troubles stem from out-of-balance estrogen and progesterone levels, many treatments aim to restore that equilibrium (one reason the Pill is often prescribed for PMS). Using a natural progesterone cream can have a similar effect, says WH advisor Frank Lipman, M.D., founder of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center in New York City. A few forms—including one made from wild yams (yes, really!)—are available OTC and can be applied daily to your inner thighs or lower abdomen before your period.

Best For: mood swings, cramps, anxiety, insomnia

Herbs
While some controversy remains over whether herbs can really cure health issues, science suggests the stuff might lighten your PMS load. The awesomely named chaste berry may stimulate your endocrine system to produce Beat PMS’s heinous hallmarks! more natural progesterone, which may cut your bloating, irritability, and achy-boob symptoms in half, says Katrina Schmell, a nurse practitioner at the University of Colorado Hospital. And evening primrose may help alleviate anxiety and cramps, while valerian root, an ingredient in many teas, may work as a muscle relaxer. (Schmell says to check with your primary-care provider before beginning any regimen.)

Best For: mood swings, sore breasts, cramps, bloating

Sweating and Stretching
Stop laughing. Mild forms of exercise can alleviate several gnarly PMS symptoms, says Gabrielle Francis, a naturopathic doctor, chiropractor, and acupuncturist in New York City. Working out not only releases pain-busting endorphins but also triggers dopamine (your natural source of pleasure and satisfaction) and serotonin (a depression and anxiety fighter). And doing hip and back stretches can increase blood flow to contracted uterine, abdominal, and lower-back muscles, easing the tension that leads to cramps. Francis recommends practicing daily yoga with moves such as child’s pose or happy baby during the week before your period to avoid PMS.

Best For: mood swings, cramps, anxiety, headaches

Natural Diuretics
Fluid retention, a particularly unsightly PMS signature symptom (“Um, these pants fit last week!”), builds up as a result of fluctuating hormones and can make you feel like an overstuffed sausage. Eastern doctors have believed for centuries that nutrients such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, and vitamins B and C act as natural diuretics, relieving big-time bloat. Western docs have recently caught on, advising patients to snack on bananas, fennel, tomatoes, celery, watercress, and citrus fruits pre-period, says Schmell. And think twice before you depend on your morning latte or a diet cola to get things, um, moving. Research shows that while caffeine might be able to slash fluid retention to potentially bring down bloating, it can also heighten your anxiety.

Best For: bloating

DIY Massage
It may not be as indulgent as the real deal, but self-massage can lessen your pre-period woes, as any kind of rubdown increases blood flow and eases muscle and mental tension. Some of the essential oils used in massage also make a difference, including lavender (a muscle relaxer) and geranium (an estrogen balancer). Francis advises using several drops of one type of oil in a handful of massage lotion and starting on your right side above your groin and massaging up to your waist in a clockwise motion. Once there, move to your left side and work down to your groin again. Do the massage for five minutes twice a day during peak PMS time, using moderate to deep pressure.

Best For: cramps, headaches, bloating

Magnetic Therapy
Sounds wild, right? But doctors have used pulsed electromagnetic field therapy (PEMF) to relieve depression and chronic pain, and now it appears magnets can do wonders for PMS, according to a study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. Women who wore small magnetic devices attached to the sides of their underwear two days before and then during their periods saw their symptoms improve significantly. In fact, a subsequent survey found that when some women used the magnets for a year or more, they continued to experience pain relief. Try MN8 ($45, ladycareusa.com) or Allay ($13, allaystore.com).

Best For: sore breasts, cramps, bloating, acne

Does “Man PMS” Exist?
Sure seems like it sometimes—but technically, only women suffer from PMS. However, men may have their own cyclical condition, one that’s been dubbed irritable male syndrome (no joke). The idea is that a man’s day involves a 24-hour testosterone swing, with the hormone dropping at night and spiking in the morning, says Gabrielle Francis, N.D. This explains why men (and especially, ahem, parts of them) wake up energized and ready to go, then lose steam throughout the day. In short, your guy is on a daily roller coaster, while you’re on a monthly one.

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