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Premenstrual Syndrome

This is a collective term for a variety of symptoms that occur each month before the start of a period. These can include tension, irritability, mood swings, depression, aggression, clumsiness, anxiety, crying spells, fatigue, sleeping difficulties, headaches, vertigo, faintness, abdominal bloating, sore breasts, acne, or craving for sweets.

These symptoms are related to four different types of PMS - identified by Maryon Stewart of the Women's Nutritional Advisory Service - A,B,C,D - and are primarily caused by imbalances in the female hormones. It has been found that women who suffer from PMT tend to have low levels of blood Magnesium and Vitamin B6.

Type A - Anxiety: This is thought to be due to rising oestrogen levels prior to a period giving rise to anxiety, irritability, nervous tension and mood swings. A deficiency of B Vitamins and a high fat diet are thought to be implicated in this condition.

Type B - Bloating: Symptoms are: water retention all over the body but especially the breasts, ankles, abdomen and waist. Again rising oestrogen levels are thought to be the culprit. In this case, again, lack of B Vitamins exacerbates the problem and too much salt in the diet.

Type C - Cravings: especially for sweet and starchy foods, and caffeine. This is a result of Interaction between the female hormones, blood sugar and adrenaline. Treatment involves balancing blood sugar levels so that hormonal balance can be re-established.

Type D - Depression: Oestrogen levels affect the status of the brain chemical Serotonin which is involved in balancing mood and good sleep. Treatment involves balancing Serotonin levels; which is why the anti-depressant Prozac is being prescribed for this type of PMT (because it raises brain levels of Serotonin). There are, however, more natural ways of raising serotonin levels effectively (see below).

Treatment Tips

Diet and Nutrition

General: a whole-food diet, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and good quality lean proteins.

Type A - increase your intake of foods containing B vitamins, and institute a high fibre, low-fat diet. Take a daily supplement of B Vitamins, a good daily multi-vitamin and mineral supplement, and Calcium and Magnesium in a ratio of 2:1.

Type B - Again increase B Vitamins, Calcium and Magnesium and reduce salt in your diet. Evening Primrose Oil has been shown to help with breast tenderness and water retention. Take 6-8 500mg capsules a day for at least four months.

Type C - Increase B Vitamins, Calcium and Magnesium, Zinc and Chromium which balances blood sugar levels by influencing the production of insulin. Take 200mcg daily

Type D - Increase B Vitamin intake. Increasing levels of Magnesium has been shown to help with insomnia, anxiety and period pains (take 250mg twice a day) Serotone (5HTP) is a natural supplement which raises Serotonin levels. Alternatively, you can increase your intake of Tryptophan (an amino acid which Is a precursor of Serotonin) rich foods - turkey, chicken, eggs, cottage cheese and avocados are rich sources.

Herbal Wisdom

Agnus Castus and St John's Wort (Western Herbalism), and Don Quai (Chinese Herbal Medicine).

Agnus Castus - is a hormone regulator and tonic for the nervous system. It is used for PMS: mood swings, depression, water retention and breast pain. Avoid if taking progesterone or other hormone treatments. You are advised to consult a qualified herbal practitioner.

St John's Wort - raises serotonin levels which helps to alleviate the mild to moderate depression associated with Type D PMS. Consult a qualified herbal practitioner and do not take if you are taking prescription anti-depressants, progesterone or other hormone treatments.

Dong Quai - (Angelica sinensis) or Chinese Angelica is known as the "women's ginseng". Used for: painful periods, low blood pressure and anaemia. Consult a qualified chinese herbal physician.

Other Herbs:

  • Camomile, linden flower or skullcap for nervousness
  • Sage, fennel or marshmallow for breast pain
  • Parsley or dandelion for water retention.
  • Take the above as herbal teas

Other Treatments

  • Natural Progesterone is sometimes prescribed where low progesterone levels are indicated. Consult a qualified medical practitioner who specialises in complementary medicine.
  • See the Doctor File.

Lifestyle:

  • Regular aerobic exercise, relaxation and yoga have all been shown to help in regulating PMS

See Also:

In summary the following complementary therapies are used in the treatment of PMS:

Acupuncture, Aromatherapy, Breathing Techniques, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Herbal Medicine, Homeopathy, Naturopathy, Massage, Nutritional Therapy, Osteopathy, Relaxation Techniques, Reflexology, Shiatsu, Yoga.

You are recommended to seek advice of a qualified health practitioner. To find a qualified practitioner in your area look in the Practitioner Directory.

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