Herbal Remedies for PMS
What's popular -- and what the research shows -- about herbal remedies for PMS.
Conventional Treatments for PMS
SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) include antidepressants like fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem), sertraline (Zoloft), and paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva). They work by adjusting the brain's use of serotonin, a chemical that regulates mood and behavior.
Sanfilippo considers SSRIs to be the most effective therapy for the emotional/psychological symptoms of PMS -- in cases that are more acute.
Supplements like calcium, magnesium, and vitamin B6 are also a consideration, and for severe symptoms, such as in premenstrual dysmorphic disorder, he likes to prescribe a birth control pill.
Before Sanfilippo prescribes anything, however, he first recommends to patients that they avoid eating refined sugar and exercise more. "Treatment is lifestyle," he says.
Hormones, Vitamins, and Minerals for PMS
Correcting hormonal imbalances is the goal of treatment for PMS, says Uzzi Reiss, MD, a Beverly Hills, Calif., gynecologist who runs a center for PMS.
Reiss abides by diet and exercise as antidotes to PMS -- along with bioidentical hormone therapy and magnesium.
Views differ on how bioidentical hormones, which are said to have the same structure as a woman's own hormones and are made from natural sources, compare to synthetic versions of those hormones. The FDA has warned that bioidentical hormones aren't proven to be safer or more effective than chemical versions.
There is some data that oral magnesium supplements may help with PMS symptoms, including mood changes and fluid retention. Vitamin B6 may also be helpful in treating PMS-related breast pain.
Before Reiss recommends hormones, especially to younger women (whose estrogen and progesterone stores are ample), he starts with a patient's diet. It is often the easiest change to make, and it is his first line of defense against PMS, he says. He's concerned about hormones in milk and meat, as well as eating too much sugar.
"If a person is ready to be calm, eats right, exercises, the solution will be much faster than for somebody who is nervous all the time, is overweight, and eats badly,'' Reiss says.