Premenstrual Syndrome


Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a collection of psychological and physical changes that occur before the menstrual cycle.   The changes may be severe enough to interfere with a woman’s normal function. 3 out of 4 women report experiencing at least one, if not many symptoms of PMS.

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is described as severe emotional and physical symptoms that end after menstruation begins.  2-10 percent of all women may suffer from PMDD.

For many years, PMS was not medically recognized an actual clinical condition.  Physicians told women suffering from PMS that the symptoms were not real, the women were then diagnosed with psychological disorders.  In the early to mid 20th century, women may even find themselves institutionalized.  Shock therapy may be administered on them. PMS has since been acknowledged by the medical community as a true medical condition. 

Cause of Premenstrual Syndrome

The causes of PMDD and PMSS are unknown, though some factors have been identified.  Hormone changes contribute to the psychological and physical changes experienced during PMS and PMDD.  When the fluctuations end (such as in the case of pregnancy and menopause), the symptoms of PMS and PMDD also cease.  

Research has shown that serotonin, a neurochemical that affects mood, may also have an effect in the disorders.  Women suffering from PMS and PMDD have a deficiency in serotonin, causing such things as food cravings, fatigue, and insomnia.

Other factors include depression, mineral or vitamin deficiency, a high salt diet, and excessive use of alcoholic and caffeinated beverages. 

Prevention of Premenstrual Syndrome

Lifestyle changes may help women minimize symptoms associated with PMS and PMDD.  These changes may incorporate a healthier lifestyle which includes establishing a regular exercise routine, eating a balance diet, managing stress, getting proper sleep, and using relaxation techniques that incorporate deep breathing exercises. 

How Premenstrual Syndrome is Diagnosed

Symptoms can vary from month to month, but cease after the period begins.  To be diagnosed with PMS or PMDD, a woman must

  • Experience symptoms starting between 5-10 days before the menstrual period begins.
  • Have symptoms for at least three consecutive menstrual cycles, which resolve within four days after the beginning of the menstrual period
  • Have symptoms that distract and interfere with a woman’s daily activities. 

The physician may ask the patient to keep a diary and record any signs or symptoms that the patient may experience as well as the dates in which they occur.  The dates of menstrual period are also recorded.  The physician will ask the patient to continue the record keeping for two complete menstrual cycles.  Next a physical and gynecological examination is preformed.  A psychiatric evaluation may be necessary to identify psychological symptoms such as depression in severe cases. 

Symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome

Women undergoing PMS and PMDD have reported symptoms such as the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Bloating
  • Breast tenderness
  • Irritability
  • Moodiness
  • Weight gain

Premenstrual Syndrome Treatment

The typical medical approach to PMS involves administration of prescription drugs.  Most of these drugs treat the symptoms of PMS and don’t prevent it.  Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS) including naproxen sodium and ibuprofen are used to reduce abdominal cramping and breast tenderness.  Oral contraceptives are prescribed to reduce or eliminate symptoms by inhibiting ovulation and stabilizing hormonal fluctuations.  Since research indicates those suffering from PMS and PMDD have a low level of serotonin, doctors prescribe selective serotonin re-uptake (SSRIs) such as paroxetine, fluxoetine, and sertaline to minimize symptoms such as fatigue, food cravings, and insomnia. Prolonged dependence upon these drugs can have adverse side effects though. 

Alternative practitioners address the imbalance, such as the excessive quantities of estrogen in the body could be caused by a liver dysfunction, which is addressed by limiting the intake of estrogen rich food and improving the woman’s exercise habits. 

Diet and Supplements

Women who suffer from PMS should have a diet high in complex carbohydrates and fiber and should have snacks between meals to stabilize blood sugar. 

The diet should be filled with as many green, and should incorporate organically grown vegetables.   as possible and low in contaminants such as additives.  Contaminants such as additives, environmental chemicals and drugs have been shown to increase the body’s level of estrogen, which causes a decrease in progesterone levels and initiating PMS.  Excessive estrogen can also happen from consuming a high amount of animal fats in the diet or deficiency of essential nutrients such as Vitamin B Complex, C, and E, which are important to get rid of the unnecessary, excess hormones. 

It is also a good idea during severe bouts of PMS to supplement with additional nutrients such as:

VITAMIN B6 (pyroxidine):

 Vitamin B6 serves a natural muscle relaxant to reduce the cramps that are associated with PMS.  It can also act as a diuretic relieving other PMS symptoms such as breast tenderness, fluid retention, and swelling.  B6 should be consumed daily, in between quantities of 200-400 mg, and can be supplemented through the entire month.  Do not exceed the recommended dosage of B6 since it can cause inflammation of the nerves. 


 Magnesium will help soothe the nervous system and alleviate symptoms such as irritability, nervousness, depression, and anxiety.  Magnesium also contains characteristics that reduce cramping and lower back pain associated with PMS. 


200 -600 IU of Vitamin E has been shown to reduce breast tenderness and is beneficial in treating cramps and fibrocystic breasts. 


30 -60 mg has been show to minimize irritability and depression. 

Herbal Remedies

CHASTEBERRY (Vitex agnus-castus):

These small fruits have been an herbal remedy used for PMS symptoms since the ancient Greco-Roman times. 

Researchers found that chasteberry’s mode of action are on the female sex hormones.  Chasteberry helps keep hormones in balance during the menstrual cycle, increasing production of luteinizing hormone and stopping the release of follicle-stimulating hormone.  This leads to a shift in oestrogen-progesterone ratio, which results in less available estrogen to exaceberate PMS.

In a yearlong study, women with PMS were administered two modes of treatments, 175 milligrams a day of chasteberry extract or 200 milligrams a day of Vitamin B6, a popular supplement that reduces PMS symptoms.  Chasteberry outperformed B6. 

Women with severe depression should stay away of chasteberry, as research has suggested that PMS related depression is caused by excess progesterone, the very thing that chasteberry raises. 

CHINESE ANGELICA (Angelica sinensis):

A popular ancient Chinese remedy, Chinese angelica has been used to various symptoms of PMS, notably menstrual cramps.  Many women take twice daily, Chinese Angelica should not be used if pregnant.

EVENING PRIMROSE (Oenothera biennis):

Native American women have used evening primrose for pre-menstrual and menstrual symptoms for centuries.  Take a capsule every day until symptoms come up.

STINGING NETTLE (Urtica diocia):

Stinging nettle is a traditional liver tonic that is often used to rid the body of toxins. It relieves PMS symptoms by processing estrogen slowly, reduces bloating, and breast tenderness.  Stinging nettle can be consumed in tea. 

RASPBERRY (Rubus Idaeus) :

Raspberry is a popular pregnancy tonic that can quell the symptoms of an irritable uterus. 

SKULLCAP (Scutellaria lateriflora) and VALERIAN (Valeriana officialins) – Both herbs are tranquilizers that can help decrease the nervous tension and irritably of PMS

Soya products, peanuts, and legumes – Tofu and soya products contain weak plant estrogens that can limit the uptake of estrogen into the body. 


  1. Bratman, S. The Alternative Medicine Ratings Guide: an expert panel rates the best treatments for over 80 conditions, Prima Health A Division of Prima Publishing (1998)
  2. Brown, L. Alternative Medicine, NTC/Contemporary Publishing (1999)
  3. Deepak Chopra, M.D. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide, Celestial Arts (2002)
  4. Duke, J. The Green Pharmacy: Herbal remedies for common diseases and conditions from the world's foremost authority on healing herbs,Rodale Limited (2003)
  5. Nancy Allison. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Body-Mind Disciplines, The Rosen Publishing Group (1999)
  6. Servan-Schreiber, D. The Encyclopedia of New Medicine: Conventional & Alternative Medicine For All Ages, Rodale International Limited (2006)


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