Premenstrual Syndrome

For 3 weeks out of every month, you're energetic, upbeat and even-tempered. Then it happens. A week before your period begins, your mood swings from depression to irritability to downright anger. Your breasts become tender, your abdomen swells and your pants fit like sausage casings. You feel lethargic, have trouble concentrating and crave junk food.

For millions of women, these symptoms subside just as menstruation begins. They are the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

But you don't have to succumb to these symptoms. A great deal has been learned in recent years about PMS and doctors can recommend an array of traditional and complementary remedies to help reduce your symptoms.

Exact cause unknown

Doctors once thought that PMS was "all in your head." They now know that symptoms are real, not imagined. In fact, it's estimated that 30 percent to 40 percent of women have symptoms severe enough to impair their daily activities. About 7 percent have a form of PMS so disabling that it has its own psychiatric designation — premenstrual dysphoric disorder.

No one knows for sure what causes PMS. Some believe it's caused by chemical changes in the brain. Fluctuating hormones also may play a role. Low levels of vitamins and minerals have been associated with some symptoms. So has eating a lot of salty foods, which may cause fluid retention, and drinking alcohol, which may cause mood and energy level disturbances. It's possible all these factors contribute to some degree.


There is no diagnostic test for PMS. To help determine whether you have it, your doctor may ask you to keep a daily chart for several menstrual cycles and record which symptoms you have, their severity, when they occur during your cycle and when they subside.

Nondrug treatments

Treatment depends on identifying which symptoms are most distressing and working to eliminate them. That usually requires a combination of therapies. Here's a start.



If lifestyle strategies don't reduce your symptoms within 2 to 3 months, your doctor may suggest one or more of these medications.

Complementary remedies

How can you possibly sort through all the hype about complementary treatments when research is minimal at best? To make sense of it all, we sorted through some treatments and arranged them into three categories based on available information and their potential to help.

What works

What may work


This too shall pass

PMS symptoms range from mild to severe. If you find yourself on an emotional roller coaster one week every month, talk with your doctor about the array of traditional and complementary remedies now available.

Natural Treatments:

Getting the right nutrients can make a big difference in whether you suffer monthly symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. Here's what some experts recommend.




Disclaimer: This information is intended as a guide only.   This information is offered to you with the understanding that it not be interpreted as medical or professional advice.  All medical information needs to be carefully reviewed with your health care provider.


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