BotanicalsStress and Relaxation

PMS No More! Master Your Hormones

Nutrients from broccoli, berries, and beyond deliver hormone-balancing action

What is PMS?

Whether it’s a sore back or shorter fuse, a lower energy level or a bigger bra size, a migraine or an upset belly, many women can tell when “that time of the month” is near. And those suffering from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) are not alone: almost half of all women are affected by any number of the 300 plus symptoms of PMS.[1]

As tempting as it may be to hide under the covers for a few days out of every month, there are fortunately other ways to endure (and thrive) through the monthly dip in hormones naturally seen in the menstrual cycle.

3,3′-diindolylmethane (DIM), the estrogen tamer

The healing power of Brassica vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and kale comes in large part from the phytochemical indole-3-carbinol (I3C), which naturally breaks down in the gut to a constituent known as 3,3′-diindolylmethane (DIM) (pronounced “dim”).[2] Consumption of cruciferous vegetables is associated with a reduction of inflammation,[3],[4] decreased risk of cardiovascular disease,[5],[6] and even lower risks of certain types of cancer.[7],[8],[9] DIM also supports healthy hormone metabolism and detoxification, and thus can be helpful in alleviating a number of hormonal issues in women.

DIM supports healthy hormone metabolism and detoxification, and thus can be helpful in alleviating a number of hormonal issues in women.

There are different estrogen metabolites in the body, some of which are more estrogenic and potentially harmful, while others are likely more protective.[10] DIM’s primary virtue with regard to women’s health comes from its role in helping the body strike a safer balance of the “good estrogen” (2-hydroxy-estrone) with the “bad estrogen” (16-alpha-hydroxy-estrone).[11],[12] DIM also has anti-estrogenic activity, competing with estrogen for binding sites on cells and reducing proliferation,[13] and may thus reduce the risk of certain hormone-sensitive cancers.[14],[15] (It is important to note, however, that DIM supplements should not be used by pregnant women.[16])

Balancing estrogen types and levels can be beneficial in alleviating the symptoms not only of PMS, but also of benign breast ailments such as fibrocystic breast disease.[17] DIM in particular supports this aim when synergized with chaste berry.

Vitex, the progesterone booster

The herb chaste berry (Vitex agnus-castus), or vitex, acts on the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis (the “axis” referring to these three main players that send out hormones dictating the female monthly hormonal cycle). Vitex increases the production of luteinizing hormone (LH), a hormone produced by the pituitary gland to trigger ovulation and raise progesterone levels.[18],[19]

Vitex shifts the body’s estrogen to progesterone ratio in favor of progesterone, thus combating PMS.

By supporting LH production, vitex shifts the body’s estrogen to progesterone ratio in favor of progesterone, thus combating PMS.[20],[21],[22] By directly binding to dopamine receptors, furthermore, vitex helps lower prolactin levels,[23],[24],[25] which in turn can help mitigate breast pain, irregular menstrual cycles, and infertility.

Pyridoxal-5-Phosphate (P5P), the serious relaxer

Vitamin B6 is a highly-studied nutritional intervention for the management of PMS. This is likely because vitamin B6 status has significant influence on the production of the calming neurotransmitters serotonin and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which mitigate depression, anxiety, and pain perception.[26] In fact, these neurotransmitters require pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P5P), the active form of vitamin B6, for their production.[27] It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that a review of nine clinical trails on P5P representing over 900 patients concludes that P5P is of benefit in treating the symptoms of PMS, including depression.[28]

When it comes to troubleshooting PMS, B6 appears to combine particularly well with magnesium.

Magnesium, the muscle soother

In a study exploring the combined effects of B6 and magnesium, participants were divided into three groups: one group received received placebo, the second received magnesium, and the third received a combination of magnesium with vitamin B6. The mean PMS scores decreased significantly in the magnesium group, but even more dramatically in the magnesium plus vitamin B6 group.[29]

Magnesium is perhaps best known for its effects on easing muscular tension.[30],[31] Because the pain associated with menstrual cramps is caused by the cramping of the muscle fibers in the uterus, magnesium has been a long-time friend to menstruating women, helping to ease this cramping.[32] Magnesium also has well-documented effects on mood, both in the context of PMS and in general,[33] and has been shown to help alleviate the emotional symptoms of PMS. As a substance that supports vasodilation, or relaxation, of the blood vessels, magnesium may even prevent menstrual migraines.[34] Magnesium has also anecdotally been said to decrease sugar and chocolate cravings.[35]

Chromium, the sugar balancer

Chromium is well known and celebrated in medicine for its effects on stabilizing blood glucose (sugar) levels.[36],[37] It has also been shown to have positive effects on improving insulin sensitivity and menstrual regularity in women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a condition often associated with poor sensitivity to insulin.[38],[39]

In a small study done with women suffering from premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a severe form of PMS, a short-term course of chromium supplementation was shown to improve menstrual cycle-related mood symptoms like depression.[40] Another study found significantly lower blood levels of chromium (as well as calcium, copper, and manganese) in women with PMS than non-PMS-experiencing healthy controls.[41]

Diet and lifestyle for PMS control

As with many (if not all) health conditions, PMS can be radically improved through simple changes in diet and lifestyle.

It’s likely no surprise that smoking increases the likelihood of PMS, especially in adolescents,[42] making PMS yet another reason (in the list of many) to quit smoking. Alcohol consumption has also been associated with an increased risk of PMS.[43]

Nutrition plays an essential role in easing the hormonal imbalance of PMS and its associated symptoms. Reducing or eliminating processed foods, sugars, refined carbohydrates, and dairy products is a great place to start in managing PMS.[44] Watching salt intake prior to and during menstruation can also help ease water retention and bloating.[45] Eating plenty of vegetables and high fiber foods also helps support the body’s ability to conjugate and eliminate toxins and excess estrogen.[46]

Finally, exercise is a must for just about any woman suffering from PMS, and has been shown to alleviate many of the symptoms.[47],[48]

Through nutritional support, herbal medicines, and simple lifestyle changes, PMS doesn’t have to be a monthly prison sentence. It is possible to heal and enjoy steadier hormonal and emotional health.

 

Click here to see References

, , , , , , ,
Less Circus, More Zen at School and Beyond
Adapt and Thrive

Related Posts

Menu
Pin
Share
Tweet
Share
More