Almost all menstruating women experience one or more symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) in the lead up to their monthly period. Period pain (sometimes referred to as dysmenorrhoea) is also common, affecting around half of all women. Around one in ten affected women experience severe premenstrual symptoms. Luckily, a number of herbal and nutritional ingredients may help to relieve or prevent the symptoms.
Research suggests that taking vitamin E every day for at least three menstrual cycles may lessen some premenstrual symptoms, including food cravings and mood problems. In addition, taking it a couple of days before the period and during the first few days of blood flow may reduce period pain and lessen blood flow.
Maintaining adequate intake of calcium from supplements or low-fat dairy products may help to reduce the risk and severity of PMS. In clinical research, taking calcium supplements over several monthly cycles has resulted in improvements in period pain and premenstrual symptoms such as mood problems, fluid retention and impaired concentration.
In clinical studies, magnesium has shown benefit for several premenstrual symptoms, including mood swings, fluid retention and migraines. Research also suggests that it is more effective than placebo at addressing period pain.
In traditional Chinese medicine, the herb dong quai has traditionally been regarded as one of the most important herbs for female reproductive health. It has been used to address a range of menstrual problems, including irregular cycles, period pain, and feelings of debility during menstruation. It is also often used to relieve symptoms of menopause.
Preliminary research suggests that taking grape seed extract may help to relieve symptoms of premenstrual fluid retention. In one study, 61% of women experienced improvements in fluid retention, abdominal swelling and weight gain after taking grape seed extract during the two weeks prior to their period for two menstrual cycles, and 79% of women experienced improvements after four cycles. This study was not placebo-controlled, and more research will be required before these results are confirmed.
Krill oil and Fish oil
Omega-3 fatty acids from both fish oil and krill oil have been used to aid the management of PMS and period pain, however, there is some evidence that krill oil is more effective at reducing emotional symptoms such as feeling stressed or overwhelmed and some physical symptoms such as breast tenderness and joint pain. Both sources of omega-3 appear to be similarly effective for other physical symptoms, such as bloating and abdominal cramps.
Research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2011 suggests that women whose diets contain large quantities of the B-group vitamins B1 (thiamine) and B2 (riboflavin) may experience fewer PMS than women with lower dietary levels. Furthermore, in a study involving 556 women, taking 100 mg of vitamin B1 daily for several cycles led to significant reductions in period pain, which persisted even after supplementation finished.
Taken in similar doses, vitamin B6 may also help to relieve premenstrual symptoms, including premenstrual depression and other mood problems.