​Taking the pain out of PMS

May 23, 2022

From back and lower abdominal pain, to bloating, breast tenderness, irritability and mood swings, the symptoms of PMS are varied. Here we look at some of the natural treatments for PMS – symptom by symptom.

Help with PMS cramps

Possibly the most common symptom of PMS are menstrual cramps around your abdomen and associated lower back pain. These happen when the muscles of your womb contract and relax to help shed built-up lining.

Some women experience intense abdominal cramping, for others the pain is much milder. Factors associated with more intense pain include having a heavy menstrual flow, being under the age of 20 or just starting your period, and having an overproduction of or sensitivity to prostaglandins, a type of fatty acid that can have a hormone-like effect, especially on the womb. Endometriosis can also cause incredibly painful cramping.

For mild to temporary cramps, heat in the form of a hot water bottle or heat pack can help. One study found that heat therapy was as effective at treating menstrual pain as NSAIDSs [1].

Herbal teas can also help with menstrual cramps. Research shows that chamomile tea increases urinary levels of glycine, which helps to relieve muscle spasms. Glycine also acts a nerve relaxant [2]. Try sipping two cups of chamomile tea per day a week before your period. Pukka do an amazing Three Chamomile Tea .

And much research has been done on Agnus castus, a medicinal plant also known as Chaste Tree or Chasteberry. Extracts of the Agnus castus fruit have a long tradition of use in helping with both emotional and physical symptoms of PMS, including cramps. Try A.Vogel’s Agnus Castus Oral Drops . A licensed herbal remedy, it may prove especially helpful for women who have particularly heavy or painful periods, and those with shorter cycles.

Bloating as a result of PMS

If you suffer from bloating, following a ‘PMS diet’ can help. Consisting of wholegrains for energy and fibre, fresh fruit for a source of natural sugars, vegetables for a nutrient top-up, nuts – preferably plain, for protein and because they’re a great source of healthy fat, and oily fish and flax seeds for a boost of omega-3s, the so-called PMS diet may help enormously with the symptoms of PMS.

Eating smaller but more regular meals will also help with feelings of fullness.

Balancing your hormones to reduce PMS

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) can help to regulate hormonal imbalances associated with PMS. Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA) is an important EFA that is metabolised in the body into hormone-like substances that help to regulate chemical imbalances. Evening Primrose Oil is a rich source of GLA (10%) but richer still is Borage Oil or Starflower Oil at up to 23%. It’s not something we can source from food so you would need to take it in supplement form.

Mood swings and your cycle

Vitamin B6 can be helpful for fatigue and emotional PMS symptoms such as low mood, irritability and mood swings.

Other important nutrients for emotional symptoms of PMS include magnesium, chromium and iron. Magnesium may help to regulate your cycle, reducing irritability, low mood and tiredness.

Regular exercise can also help as it stimulates the release of endorphins, which can help to reduce pain and lift your mood.

Menstrual migraines

Keep headaches to a minimum by drinking plenty of water. A magnesium supplement can also help here. Significant research has shown that people with migraines often have lower levels of magnesium than those without them. One study found that regular intake of magnesium reduced the number of migraine attacks by over 40% [3], and another, that daily magnesium supplements can also prevent menstrual-related migraines.

[1] Heat therapy for primary dysmenorrhea: A systematic review and meta-analysis of its effects on pain relief and quality of life - PMC (nih.gov)

[2] Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future - PMC (nih.gov)

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK507271/