Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a recently described problem. Although the history of symptoms that occur around the menstrual cycle is ancient, it is likely that modern-day women, with increased demands and stresses, changes in nutrition, and new careers that take them away from their natural cycle and their connection to the home, garden, and nature, are particularly susceptible to such symptoms. Women might think about these symptoms as a call of the womb and the moon to be more attuned to their female cycle. It may not be easy, but I believe it is possible for women to stay connected to their female cycles and still be active and productive in the outer world. This may require more care in regard to nutrition and a supplement program that counteracts stress while supporting the female organs and hormone functions. Stress (and being out of touch with emotions or not following their true emotions) is definitely a big factor in women’s premenstrual symptoms.
The current medical theories about PMS or, as it is sometimes termed, premenstrual tension (PMT), relate it to an estrogen-progesterone imbalance, particularly reactions to the increased estradiol levels. During the second half of the cycle, after ovulation, progesterone levels normally rise, while estrogen levels also rise slightly. These changes can influence water retention, causing some fullness of the uterus and other body tissues; this seems to be exaggerated premenstrually with the relatively deficient level of progesterone. Many of the symptoms, such as bloating, breast swelling and tenderness, fatigue, headaches, emotional irritability, depression, back pain, and pelvic pain, are probably a result of the water retention and subsequent emotional tension. Other hormonal and physiological factors, or effects on the immune system, may contribute to the problem as well. Less common symptoms include dizziness, fainting, cystitis, hives, acne, sore throat, joint pains and swelling, and constipation.
Low progesterone levels seem to be the main factor in PMS symptoms. Why progesterone levels may be low has not yet been determined, but many women seem to respond to treatment with progesterone in the second half of their cycle, from just after ovulation to the usual time of menstruation. A common treatment is to use vaginal or rectal suppositories containing progesterone (or even topical progesterone) once or twice daily. The newer treatment is oral, micronized progesterone that is not destroyed by the gastrointestinal tract or broken down by the liver. Usually, however, progesterone therapy is not needed, because most women will respond to a nutritional and herbal approach to treating PMS. Many nutrients are needed, but probably the two most important ones are vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and magnesium. B6 helps to clear water through a diuretic effect on the kidneys. Usually 50–100 mg. once or twice daily will be effective. A complete B vitamin supplement is also necessary to prevent these higher amounts of B6 from causing imbalances of other B vitamins. It has been theorized and shown in some studies that magnesium deficiency within the cells is also correlated with some of the PMS symptoms. Supplementing magnesium at amounts equal to up to one and a half times the calcium level, that is, about 800–1,200 mg., is helpful in reducing some PMS symptoms. Zinc is also an important mineral here.