PMS has been estimated to affect up to 90 percent of women of menstruating age. Symptoms can range from food cravings to depression. A nutritious diet and natural herbal solutions can help to alleviate a range of PMS symptoms.
Premenstrual Syndrome Symptoms
PMS stands for “premenstrual syndrome” and describes any symptoms that begin after ovulation and ease once the period starts. Symptoms can include fatigue, cramps, bloating, mood swings, food cravings, tender breasts, acne, headaches, and depression. Taking the contraceptive pill leads to higher levels of hormones in the body. If PMS symptoms arise whilst taking the pill it can be possible that it is may be causing the symptoms. See a doctor if this is a possibility.
Nutrition and PMS
Diet can be a big factor in controlling PMS symptoms. Drinking plenty of water and stopping or reducing the intake of saturated fats, hydrogenated fats, refined sugars, salt, caffeine and alcohol can help reduce the depressive effects. Cutting out caffeine can also alleviate painful breasts. Here a selection of foods that can help to balance hormones in the body and help to alleviate PMS symptoms:
- Flax seeds, soya yoghurt, miso and soy are plant oestrogens and help address and imbalances. Wheatgerm,brown rice, nuts and seeds contain B6 and zinc and can aid oestrogen and progesterone balance.
- Nuts also contain good fats that can lift mood and treat mild depression.
- Sesame seeds, broccoli, cabbage and other sources of calcium can prevent PMS. Research suggests that women with a greater intake of calcium from food sources had the least PMS symptoms.
- Brown rice, wholemeal bread and other whole grains provide a slow release of energy avoiding a quick release of sugar into the system that can aggravate PMS.
- Chickpeas, lentils and mung beans contain phyto-oestrogens that help to balance the hormones.
- Wholegrains, wheat bran and other foods rich in fibre helps to expel excess oestrogen from the body.
Herbal Remedies for PMS
Common menstrual problems respond well to self treatment, though medical advice should be sought in taking any prescribed medication. Here are some common herbal remedies for treating PMS:
- Nettle tea can reduce water retention, stop excessive menstrual bleeding, and treat anemia.
- Red clover tea can lower the effect of excessive oestrogen.
- Vervain tea relaxes the nervous system while strengthening the liver and spleen. Optimal liver function is needed to balance hormones in the body. Vervain tea is very useful in helping to ease PMS-related tension and mood swings.
- Licorice tea can reduce oestrogen and increase progesterone levels. Licorice should be avoided in the case of high blood pressure.
- Agnus castus (or chaste tree berry) is one of the most potent herbs for regulating female hormones and can help irregular and absent periods shortening a long cycle and lengthening a short cycle. The herb also treats bloating, breast tenderness, irritability and acne. Avoid agnus castus in the case of a family history of ovarian cysts. Tablets are available, and it is best to see a qualified herbalist for advice on dosage.
- Valerian has a calming effect on the mind and muscle-relaxing effect on the body and can help reduce nervous tension, backache and period pain and can be taken in decoction, powder and tablet form. Cramp bark has antispasmodic properties and relieves muscular cramps and spasms, helping to soothe period pain and cramps. The herb is also a sedative and calms nervous tension.
- Dandelion root or leaf tea contains potassium, vitamin A and iron and relieves bloating, water retention, muscle spasms, acne and anemia.
- Evening Primrose Oil has been promoted as being useful in treating breast tenderness and contains gamma-linolenic acid that aids in the body regulating pain and inflammation in the body. Research is conflicted as to whether evening primrose is beneficial for treating PMS.
- Saw palmetto has been used to treat premenstrual acne, aggression and increased body hair. Saw palmetto is believed to have an anti androgenic effect and has a powerful effect on hormones in the body.
Other herbs useful for treating PMS include birch leaf, chamomile, dong quai, fennel, ginkgo, lemon balm, raspberry leaf, uva ursi and St. Johns wort.
The symptoms of PMS such as cramps, depression and painful breasts can be treated naturally with herbal remedies such as agnus castus, valerian and cramp bark. The herbs should be selected according to the symptoms for effective treatments. A qualified herbalist is useful to help choose the right dose and essential for anyone with a complex medical history. Read Herbal Remedies for Anxiety for more advice on calming the body and mind with natural herbs.