Do I Have PMS?

No lab test can confirm if you have premenstrual syndrome. The best way to tell is to keep a daily diary for three months, noting when your symptoms occur and the beginning and ending dates of menstruation.

Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, is a series of physical and emotional symptoms that can occur each month before a woman's menstrual period. The symptoms can start anywhere from two to fourteen days before menstruation and usually end as the bleeding begins. Its cause is unknown, but PMS is probably related to changes in the levels of hormones, especially estrogen and progesterone.

More and more, allopathic doctors are acknowledging the benefit of several alternative therapies -- particularly nutritional therapy and relaxation therapies -- in treating PMS.

Nutritional Therapy for Premenstrual Syndrome

Nutritional therapists maintain that a nutritional deficiency or too much or too little of certain foods can trigger PMS in susceptible women. For many women, nutritional supplements and appropriate dietary restrictions effectively eliminate the monthly onslaught of symptoms.

Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) is one of the more commonly prescribed supplements for PMS treatment. Clinical research has shown that the overwhelming majority of women who take vitamin B6 supplements regularly significantly reduce their symptoms, including:

  • breast tenderness
  • mood swings
  • fatigue
  • headache
  • acne flare-ups

This vitamin is thought to perform several functions that alleviate PMS symptoms, such as helping produce serotonin (a mood-regulating chemical in the brain) and blocking the manufacture of the hormone prolactin (which is linked to breast tenderness). In addition, women with PMS symptoms may be deficient in vitamin B6.

Women with PMS also may have a magnesium deficiency. Supplementation with this mineral has been shown to relieve the symptoms of water retention and nervousness, among others. Other helpful supplements include:

  • calcium
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin C
  • vitamin D
  • vitamin E
  • chromium

In general, a diet rich in vegetables (especially leafy green vegetables), fruits, whole grains (with lots of buckwheat, millet, and barley but not much wheat), and beans is least likely to encourage PMS symptoms for most women. Drinking at least eight glasses of water per day can actually reduce water retention. Meals should be small, frequent, and spaced throughout the day to keep blood sugar levels in check. The following are some other specific suggestions:

  • Avoid sodium (salt) and alcohol, which deplete vitamins and minerals that keep PMS at bay and which also trigger water retention. Instead, eating asparagus and watermelon can encourage urination.
  • Eliminate sugars, which can also lead to water retention, block the absorption of needed vitamins and minerals, and contribute to hypoglycemia.
  • Limit dairy products, which inhibit the absorption of magnesium and contain arachidonic acids that can cause certain PMS symptoms.
  • Cut down on saturated fats, which may promote cramps, among other symptoms.

A naturopathic physician may prescribe supplementation treatment, such as taking magnesium and vitamin B6. Be sure to consult a physician before taking B6, however, as high doses may cause nerve damage.