Premenstrual Syndrome ("PMS") is an illusive disorder that is characterized by psychological and physical symptoms. It affects women 1 to 2 weeks before their menstrual cycle with symptoms including headaches, breast swelling and tenderness, insomnia, fatigue, nervousness, anxiety, irritability, depression, water retention and pain.
One cause of PMS is a hormone imbalance - excessive estrogen and inadequate progesterone levels. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is also an important factor. In addition, fluid retention affects blood flow, reducing oxygen in the uterus, ovaries and brain.
PMS occurs commonly, and controversy abounds as to its proper treatment. Over the past two decades, large-scale clinical studies have linked PMS with deficiencies in various vitamins and minerals. Other studies, as the following suggests, have pinpointed specific vitamins and minerals in alleviating PMS symptoms.
Women who experience premenstrual symptoms usually have hypercalcemia, or calcium deficiency brought on by an increase of estrogen. Recent studies have confirmed that additional intake of calcium, a recommended 1,200 mg daily have significantly reduced the symptoms of PMS. As a group of women stated their symptoms reduced 48% with the calcium supplement compared to the 30% of women who took a placebo.1
A magnesium deficit in the red blood cells is also believed to be a contributing factor to PMS. Many nutritionists advocate increasing magnesium intake to relieve PMS symptoms because magnesium is an enzyme cofactor in calcium utilization and an important component of PMS treatment. A 3-month pilot study conducted in 2007 found that a 250 mg magnesium tablet significantly decreased PMS effects by one-third.2
Daily intakes of B-6 can relieve PMS symptoms. A study compared the effects of vitamin B6 with the use of a placebo and results showed a significant decrease in symptoms of PMS.3 (It is recommended that only 100 mg of vitamin B-6 be taken daily for premenstrual symptoms as any dosage above 200 mg can cause adverse side affects ranging from nerve damage, to upset stomachs and headaches.) Researchers who conducted the study suggested that pyridoxine might improve PMS by influencing serotonin and dopamine synthesis the hypothalamus that affect moods and behavior. Pyridoxine is not the active form that the body can use as it needs magnesium to convert it to pyridoxal-5-phosphate.
Currently, doctors prescribe medications for certain symptoms of PMS such as Xanax, for the overall calming effect of PMS, and Prozac for depression and mood swings, common medications that are highly addictive. As a more cost efficient and safer way of reducing symptoms without the side effects of prescription drugs would be a calcium-magnesium supplement with vitamin B6.