Over 90% of women experience some symptoms of PMS at some point in their lives, with
a third of women saying that their symptoms seriously affect their lives, and 5 to
10% of women classing their symptoms as severe. There are over 100 recognised symptoms
which are considered to be part of PMS, although luckily most women only experience
a few at any given time. The symptoms include:
PMS is caused by fluctuating hormones, which are entirely normal. Some women experience
a reduction in seratonin levels as part of their symptoms, which helps to explain
some of the emotional-based symptoms. Many women find that recognising PMS symptoms
for what they are and anticipating them and planning for them helps them to manage
without needing medical assistance. However, if you are concerned, seeing your GP
may be useful if only to ensure that your symptoms are not caused by something else.
As always, if you are in any way worried, see your healthcare provider.
There is no cure for PMS (other than the arrival of your period, of course!), but
there are plenty of ways to help manage the symptoms and reduce their impact on your
daily life. There are some conventional drugs and even surgery which are used in
a handful of severe cases but, in terms of natural and home-based treatment, here
are some suggestions and recommendations:
A good balanced diet including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables helps keep many
women on an even keel, and reducing salt levels can ease bloating.
Vitamin B6 supplements can be useful in reducing irritability and mood swings, but
care should be taken not to exceed the RDA.
The swollen ankles, bloating and heavy breasts can be caused by water retention.
It’s important to keep drinking plenty of water, but natural diuretics such as herbal
teas with dandelion or nettle.
Gentle exercise can help improve seratonin levels and reduce symptoms, so a walk
in the fresh air might be just what the doctor ordered!
Chasteberry: Chasteberry (Agnus Castus), either as supplements or taken as a
tea, can be useful in all complaints which are caused by fluctuating levels of the
female sex hormones. Black and blue cohosh and raspberry leaf can also help.
Magnesium: Magnesium has been shown to help reduce bloating, weight gain and
breast tenderness. The body absorbs it better through the skin, so baths with Epsom
salts are a good way to improve your magnesium intake. If you do take supplements,
be careful not to exceed the RDA and see your doctor first if you have diabetes,
or heart or kidney problems.
Aromatherapy: Lavender, Rosewood, Ylang Ylang, Geranium, Bergamot and Palmarosa can
help with emotional symptoms such as irritability, tearfulness and mood swings.
The medical term for period pain is dysmenorrhoea, and it is caused in most cases
simply by the contractions of the uterus as it sheds its lining each month. Cases
of secondary dysmenorrhoea can be caused by other problem with the womb, and these
tend to occur more in your 30's and 40's so, if your periods get worse as you get
older, seeing your healthcare provider to rule out other causes may be advisable.
The pain is usually felt in the lower abdomen, but it can radiate to the lower back
and top of the legs as well. Some women also experience headaches, tiredness, light-headedness
and breast tenderness.
While anti-inflammatory painkillers like ibuprofen help many women, there are also
plenty of natural options to help you manage the symptoms:
Warmth: Many women find a source of heat on the affected area/s helpful, such
as a wheat bag, hot water bottle or heat patch. A hot bath may also be helpful. It
is believed that the heat interferes with the pain signals being sent from the nerves.
TENS: TENS stands for transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation. A TENS machine
is a small portable device which provides a small electrical current to the area
where you place it. They are said to work by interfering with pain signals which
are sent to the brain from the nerves, in a similar manner to how we believe heat
Massage: Localised massage to the lower stomach can help reduce the cramps.
A massage oil which includes lavender is a good idea, as there have been studies
which suggest that lavender can interfere with the centre of the brain which processes
Herbal Medicine: The following herbs, taken as supplements or in teas, may
help: Chamomile is an anti-spasmodic, relaxing muscles and helping to reduce the
intensity of uterine cramps, which is most effective when combined with Calendula,
better know as ‘pot marigold’. Calendula has been used medicinally since ancient
Egypt, and has a mild estrogenic action often effective in reducing menstrual pain
and regulating bleeding. Raspberry leaf is a popular uterine tonic, which can help
tone the uterus, regulate menstrual flow and reduce muscle cramps. Feverfew has been
traditionally used to help with labour pains due to its analgesic and muscle tension-reducing
qualities. Ginger has been shown to reduce period pains, and parsley can help to
regulate menstrual flow.