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How to Tackle PMS | Balance

Arguably the greatest difference between men and women, outside of women having a disproportionately greater amount of common sense, is their hormonal profile.

Men’s hormonal profile is essentially a fairly consistent level of testosterone which plays a role in the presentation of male traits, behaviours, body shape and composition.

Women’s hormonal profile is best described as a rollercoaster ride of oestrogen and progesterone; responsible for female traits, behaviours, body shape, composition and menstrual cycle (albeit there’s one or two other important hormones involved in this too).

The menstrual cycle is a roughly 28-day cycle in which levels of hormones fluctuate to ultimately produce an egg which is able to be fertilized and, when this happens, bish bash bosh 9 months later you have yourself a very small human being.

However, the menstrual cycle (and more so menstruation itself i.e., the period) is not always a fun roller coaster to be on and can, for many women, have a whole host of horrible changes to both their physical and mental state.

What is Pre-menstrual Syndrome (PMS)?

This not so fun time of the month / cycle is referred to as PMS and starts roughly a week before your period is typically due.

Common physical symptoms of PMS include breast tenderness, headaches, musculoskeletal pain, abdominal swelling, swelling of extremities, and weight gain.

Common psychological and or behavioural symptoms of PMS include depression, changes in appetite, fatigue, mood swings, irritability, sleep disturbances, tension, social withdrawal, and poor concentration.

Obviously, not the most fun in the world.

What’s almost worse is realizing that around 90% of regularly menstruating women will experience these symptoms. On top of that, most are left to their own devices to deal with it simply because there is a frustrating lack of information (and harmful misinformation) out there for managing PMS.

The past several decades has however seen an ever-increasing interest in tackling PMS symptoms, with researchers finding more and more means of mitigating symptoms.

From yoga, to mindfulness and even acupuncture, the list of treatments, therapies and strategies available that can alleviate PMS symptoms continues to increase.

One of the stalwarts of research focus in tackling PMS has been the use of various and complimentary forms of supplementation. In this article we’re going to give a breakdown of the “big hitters” that you may want to consider adding to your stack if you ever find yourself dealing with this wretched array of symptoms.

The supplementary supplement guide to tackling PMS

Here’s a quick overview of the main supplements found to be effective at reducing the severity and or frequency of PMS symptoms;

Magnesium is essential for the brain’s synthesis of dopamine (the “pleasure” neurotransmitter). A deficiency of dopamine (an imbalance) can lead to overwhelming anxiety. Studies have found that women who suffer with PMS have lower concentrations of magnesium possibly suggesting that it may play a key role in the presentation of PMS symptoms. Supplementation of magnesium has been shown to significantly improve PMS symptoms.

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Similar to magnesium, calcium concentrations have been reportedly lower in women who experience PMS. Insufficient levels of calcium may negatively impact the production of serotonin (the “happiness” neurotransmitter). When supplemented, it has been found that calcium not only helps improve overall mood state in women experiencing PMS but also reduces water retention and bloating!

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Omega 3 fatty acids have been found to be an effective supplementary treatment in reducing the symptoms of PMS. Scores for depression, nervousness, anxiety, and lack of concentration have all been found to be lower following omega 3 supplementation. Supplementation has also been shown to improve other symptoms of PMS including bloating, headache and breast tenderness.

Omega 3s play an important role in managing mood and sleep quality (thanks to their role in brain cell function) as well as in the synthesis of serotonin. They are also a potent anti-inflammatory agent and so can ameliorate some of the pain associated with PMS.

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Like the other minerals we’ve mentioned, zinc levels have also been found to be significantly lower in women with PMS. Whilst the mechanisms surrounding how zinc may be of benefit are not fully understood, fixing the deficiency does have a beneficial impact on PMS symptoms.

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Vitamin D plays a highly diverse role in the human body and there may be several possible reasons as to how it can be beneficial to those suffering with PMS. One of the primary mechanisms of benefit may be in vitamin Ds regulatory role in calcium turnover and ensuring that concentrations of calcium never get too low or too high.

Women with higher intakes of vitamin D have been found to have a significantly lower risk of developing PMS. Supplementation with vitamin D is the most practical and safe way of achieving adequate intakes consistently.

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It has been found that women with higher levels of dietary intake of vitamin B have much lower risk of developing PMS than those with lower dietary intake. Vitamin B plays an important role in the production of serotonin and deficiency can result in mood disorders. An in-depth review paper concluded that supplementation with vitamin B6 in particular relieves overall premenstrual and depressive symptoms.

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Chasteberry (vitex agnus-castus)

Out of all the herbal supplements on the market, the most convincingly effective for treating PMS appears to be chasteberry. Researchers have suggested that this may be down to chasteberry’s impact on hormonal properties, a possible estrogenic effect, it’s agonistic (activating for lack of a better word) effect on opioid receptors and even it’s phytochemical content. Supplementation appears to be beneficial to those affected by moderate to severe PMS symptoms.

“Baby” or low dose aspirin

Lower dosages of aspirin have been used to significantly reduce the impact and pain of menstruation related cramps and migraines. Whilst some have questioned the use of low dose aspirin in impacting menstrual cycle regularity and fertility, these have been debunked in previously published pieces of work. You may want to consider daily dosages of 80mg however it’d always be advised to speak to your respective healthcare provider / GP first.

Concluding Remarks

PMS is a condition that most women have experienced and or are affected by. It can be a truly miserable time with more severe cases of PMS even leading to bouts of depression and anxiety. Whilst the research world is still working towards a more evenly distributed amount of work focused on women, there has been a great deal of study conducted in the past few decades and women may finally have some answers to the questions PMS proposes.

Instead of suffering through several weeks of the month women can now incorporate a whole range of strategies and interventions to put PMS in its place. Supplementation may be particularly promising and certainly an avenue worthy of exploration!

We’d recommend developing your own PMS protection stack; several complimentary supplements to take that can help reduce, if not fully mitigate, your PMS symptoms.

One of our favourites is a daily combination of magnesium (250mg), zinc (45mg) and omega 3 (1g); these three are particularly great at kicking PMS’ butt!

Let us know what you think and if you give this stack a whirl; we’d love to hear how it’s helped your training, nutrition and daily life!

Balance is Northern Ireland's leading nutritionist and dietician coaching team. We work with everyone from Olympians to office workers to help them achieve their nutrition and diet related goals.

Get in touch with us today to discuss how we can help you;

- Beat binge eating

- Lose weight and keep it off

- Take your sports performance to the next level and reach your full potential

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