PMS Solutions – A Naturopath Perspective

  • Tara Andresen

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Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a collection of symptoms that are linked to a woman’s menstrual cycle and can start one to two weeks before the onset of menses.  These symptoms can range from physical complaints such as bloating, back and pelvic pain, fatigue, headaches, acne and breast tenderness.  Emotional and behavioral symptoms can include depression, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, mood swings and irritability or anger, insomnia, decreased concentration and food cravings.  Up to 85% of women experience at least one PMS symptom. Naturopathic treatments can be highly effective in reducing the severity of PMS symptoms.

The exact cause of PMS is still unknown, but several factors may contribute to the condition.  These factors in include hormonal fluctuations, serotonin fluctuations and a history of underlying depression.   A Naturopath will approach PMS with these factors in mind and work to balance progesterone, estrogen and serotonin to improve symptoms.  PMS is thought to be a relative imbalance of estrogen and progesterone, with estrogen either too high or progesterone too low.  Both physical and emotional symptoms tend to resolve by supporting progesterone and also improving estrogen and prolactin elimination.   Emotional symptoms also tend to improve with serotonin support.

There are several key PMS herbs but the most important one is called Vitex Agnus. It is commonly used to balance progesterone levels. This herb increases something called luteinizing hormone (LH) which then increases progesterone and reduces estrogen dominance.

Apart from Vitex, another key herb for PMS is Hypericum Perforatum.  Hypericum is supports serotonin synthesis and as a results helps to regulate mood fluctuations related to PMS.  In addition to Hypericum, other serotonin supporting natural compounds include tryptophan and 5-HTP.

In addition to Vitex, Hypericum, Tryptophan and 5-HTP, Naturopaths frequently prescribe certain vitamins and minerals in therapeutic doses to improve PMS.  For example, Vitamin B6 supports estrogen metabolism by the liver.  It also is a cofactor in the production of serotonin and dopamine for mood regulation.   Along with Vitamin B6, Magnesium is also an important PMS nutrient. Magnesium works to reduce muscle tension and as a result can improve cramping and pain related to PMS.

In treating PMS, naturopaths will commonly prescribe supplements but they will also recommend specific dietary changes that have been shown to reduce PMS symptoms.  For example, coffee consumption is associated with increased breast tenderness in some women and alcohol tends to worsen mood. In addition, there are foods that increase inflammation and bloating that should be avoided.

To find out more about how a Naturopath treats PMS, book your appointment with Dr. Andresen at one of her Toronto Naturopathic Clinics.