Ken Babal, staff nutritionist, Erewhon Natural Foods, Los Angeles on the use of nutritional therapy as an alternative treatment for premenstrual syndrome (PMS):
Well, actually nutrition, in my mind, is the most logical and maybe the only approach to PMS. Orthodox medicine has very little to offer there other than hormone therapy. This is a nutritional problem. Liver function is often involved, because it's the liver's job to break down and dispose of estrogen once it's performed its work in the body.
And, of course, the things that hurt the liver — too much fat, too much sugar, alcohol, drugs, food additives and so on. We've done studies of women with PMS and sure enough, they were eating this typical American diet with all of those junk foods and refined ingredients in them. So we assess liver function. There are some nutrients that are very important. The big three are magnesium, vitamin B6 and essential fatty acids.
Magnesium is required for muscles to relax. When we have menstrual cramping, you know, the muscles contracting, we need magnesium to help it relax. B6 helps with the mood by affecting neurotransmitters in the brain. It also happens to be a bit of a diuretic, which can help with some bloating during menstruation. Essential fatty acids oppose the saturated fats in animal products. Too much saturated fat in the diet can contribute to inflammation and pain and cramping.