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What is PMS?

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is an extremely common disorder of women that occurs previous to the menstrual cycle, producing a wide range of physical and emotional symptoms. In fact, up to 75% of women experience some type of PMS. The symptoms typically start a week previous to the start of the monthly cycle and stop within the first 2 days of beginning the cycle. The symptoms tend to re-appear monthly and may vary in intensity from month to month. PMS tends to be most common from the late 20’s to the early 40’s.

Women who suffer from PMS exhibit a wide variety of symptoms that can interfere with their life and range from mild to severe. The symptoms can be either mental/emotional or physical. Some of the mental/emotional symptoms include: mood swings, fatigue, irritability, food cravings, depression, anxiety, difficult concentration, insomnia, feeling overwhelmed and anger. Some physical symptoms include: tender breasts, cramping, fatigue, bloating, headaches, acne, changes in stool patterns, cramps, back pain, joint pain, swelling and weight gain.

Some women may suffer from a very severe form of PMS, called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder or PMDD. As many as 50% of woman with severe PMS actually suffer from PMDD. This disorder includes severe mental/emotional symptoms of depression, hopelessness, irritability, anxiety, tension, low self-esteem, weepiness and anger, which all resolve at the onset of the menstrual cycle. The symptoms of PMDD occur through most of the cycles of the year and cause a significant interference of these women’s lives.

The exact cause for all women who suffer from PMS is not known. There are many theories about the causes of PMS; however, as every woman is different, it is more likely that PMS is a combination of different causes for each woman. It is commonly thought that a fluctuation in hormone levels prior to the onset of menses play a major role. Some hormones that are thought to be out of balance are also those that are out of balance in depression, such as serotonin. Other triggers for PMS include: underlying mood disorders, stress and poor lifestyle and eating habits.

There are no tests or exams that diagnose PMS or PMDD; it is a clinical diagnosis. However, in order to establish a baseline before treatment or a pattern to the symptoms, a symptom diary may be advised. Women who see a doctor for the concern of PMS or PMDD may get a full physical including their yearly pap. Some women with severe enough symptoms may get a psychiatric evaluation.

Conventional Treatment

Much conventional treatment is aimed at symptomatic therapy. Often the first line of therapy conventionally is NSAIDS or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen. This may help with aches and pains, breast discomfort, including cramping, headaches, joint and back pain. In order to decrease swelling and bloating, diuretics may be prescribed.

There are some medications that are prescribed to decrease the severity of ongoing PMS symptoms. Oral contraceptive pills or birth control pills are given to decrease the severity of PMS symptoms. OCP’s suppress the body from ovulating which in turn decrease fluctuations in hormones which may contribute to PMS symptoms. Other hormone therapy that can be prescribed is progestins, such as Depo-Provera. This is given in injection form. This can also stop ovulation. However with both of these therapies, the probability of increasing PMS symptoms is possible.

In severe cases, anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medication is prescribed. The most common anti-depressants that are prescribed for PMS are selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxtine (Paxil) and sertraline (Zoloft). Most often, these drugs are taken daily, however, for some women; they are taken 2 weeks prior to menstruation.

Homeopathic Treatment

Homeopathy provides effective and gentle treatment for women suffering from menstrual disorders, including symptoms of PMS, without harmful side effects.

Homeopathic medicines are made from natural substances and are prepared so that they are entirely non-toxic. In the United States, the Food and Drug administration or FDA regulates the manufacture and sale of homeopathic remedies. Homeopathy improves health by gently promoting the body’s innate capacity to heal and restore balance.

Homeopathy can work rapidly, sometimes providing relief from painful cycles in minutes to hours. Homeopathic remedies can help stabilize moods, decrease discomfort of painful menses, help with fatigue, headaches, bloating, digestion, aches and pains, swelling , sleep, and concentration. Homeopathic medicines are gentle and cause no side effects. They also will not interact with any medications or hormones and are safe to use during pregnancy.

Homeopathy works on a very deep level, and does not just mask your symptoms, but helps re-balance your system and hormones for good. Because homeopathy is holistic in nature, if you are suffering from other chronic problems, such as allergies, migraines, anxiety, depression or fatigue, these issues can also be helped with homeopathic treatment.

Other Treatments

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and diet may also be helpful in the treatment of PMS. Vegetables in the cruciferous family, including brussel sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, bok choy and turnips, are especially important to include in the diet. They contain a phytonutrient that helps stabilize estrogen metabolism in the body. Decreasing pro-inflammatory foods, such as processed, sugary foods and alcohol may also decrease overall inflammation in the body and burden on the liver, which is used to process hormones. Drinking plenty of water and decreasing salt can also help with swelling, bloating and digestion. Naturally increasing endorphins can also help stabilize symptoms of PMS. Women who exercise through the month tend to have less intense PMS symptoms. Mediation and relaxation techniques can also calm the mind and increase natural endorphin levels.

There are several supplements such as herbs and vitamins that can also help with symptoms of PMS. The herb Vitex agnus castus can help balance the hormones, while herbs like Avena, Passiflora, St. John’s Wort and Kava Kava can help stabilize moods. Supporting the liver with supplements like Taraxicum, Milk thistle and Curcumin can also help with the metabolism of hormones. Other supplements that help support the metabolism of estrogen are Calcium D-Glucarate and Diindolylmethane (DIM). B-vitamins help stabilize moods and support the liver, and vitamin B6 is especially helpful in mood changes such as depression in women suffering from PMS on oral contraceptives. Finally, a calcium deficiency can exhibit symptoms similar to PMS in women. A combination of Calcium and Vitamin D may help decrease the severity of PMS.