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Natural Medicines for PMS and PMDD

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One of the most common reasons women come to see me, aside from painful periods, is to help them navigate that often extremely challenging time prior to menses. It can feel as though that calm, collected human we recognised for the rest of the month disappears and is replaced instead by some sort of premenstrual gremlin- trust me, I relate. We might cry at the drop of a hate, we may get angered by things that may not have mildly irritated us a week ago, and we crave chocolate, consolation and our own company, all at the same time. We may experience headaches, swollen breasts, fatigue; the list goes on, and it’s not much fun.

As explored in the previous blog, PMDD is a more severe premenstrual disorder, and aside from hormonal dysregulation, sufferers often share a history of stress and trauma that may not be present in women experiencing PMS.

Both PMS and PMDD are best supported by a comprehensive, personalised treatment plan that looks at your unique causative factors and takes into account your diet, lifestyle and overall health picture. However, listed below are some of the natural medicine and lifestyle approaches we can use to make that time of the month a little less challenging.

  1. Calcium

Low levels of calcium have been associated with a range of symptoms experienced during PMS, including irritability and agitation.

When 33 women supplemented 1000mg/day of elemental calcium for 3 months, followed by 3 months of placebo, 73% of women reported a reduction in symptoms (especially pain and fluid retention). A further double-blind trial gave 1000mg of calcium a day or placebo to participants and the calcium supplements were found to reduce early fatiguability, appetite changes and depression in women with PMS.

Calcium is found in the plant kingdom in dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds (tahini and sesame seeds being one of the highest sources), oranges, soy products, legumes and fortified food products. For those looking to supplement, I like to use the plant-based marine sources of calcium, whilst ensuring that my vitamin D levels are optimum for absorption, and that I have sufficient vitamin K2 (found directly in Natto, or converted from vitamin K1 in the presence of a healthy gut microbiome.

2. Vitamin B6

As mentioned in the previous blog, GABA and serotonin both have important roles in mood and hormonally-provoked fluctuations in the level of these neurotransmitters can lead to mood symptoms we see in both PMS and PMDD. Vitamin B6 modulates the production of GABA and serotonin, as well as being critical for magnesium transportation in the cell membrane. A review of nine studies showed that B6 supplementation improved symptoms of PMS. Unsurprisingly, due to its role in the body, improvements reported included feelings of depression. It is important to note that appropriate dose of B6 supplementation is critical, due to risk of peripheral neuropathy; please consult your healthcare provider before initiating supplementation.

3. Tryptophan

As the precursor to serotonin, tryptophan depletion has been shown to increase aggression in women during the premenstrual phase. Supplementation with this amino acid at a dose of 6g/day from the time of ovulation until the third day of menstruation was shown to reduce premenstrual mood swings, tension and irritability in women with PMDD over a 3-month period. What’s not to love? However, it should be noted that those using medication to enhance serotonin MUST consult with their prescribing physician before self-administering tryptophan or 5-HTP.

4. Vitex agnus-castus

Whilst there are SO many more herbs available to assist with women’s health, and whilst Vitex may NOT be appropriate for everyone, it is one of the most famous and noticeably effective herbs we have at our disposal. Also known as Chaste Tree, this herb works as a prolactin inhibitor (which can indirectly increase progesterone) as well as a dopamine agonist.

One study of 1634 women with PMS given Vitex agnus-castus over three menstrual cycles found 93% of women to observe a decrease in the number of symptoms, with entire cessation in some cases. Improvements have been seen in irritability, mood alteration, anger, headache and breast fullness. Excitingly, Vitex agnus-castus has also been to be similarly efficacious as fluoxetine in PMDD.

Vitex is best taken at the same time each day, preferably before breakfast, and given a break of five days each menstrual cycle from the first day of your period. Vitex is best used for a 6 month period before giving at least a couple of months break, and recommencing only if required. For further assistance with selecting the right herbs and dosing regimen for you, ensure you speak to your naturopath or herbalist.

5. Address lifestyle factors

Optimising your diet, reducing caffeine intake, and addressing stress and trauma are pivotal parts of the PMS/PMDD jigsaw puzzle. Naturopaths can work with your unique case and assist you with diet and stress management using nutritional and herbal medicine, and helpful lifestyle practices. In addressing trauma, talking therapy can be extremely beneficial; whilst future therapies to keep an eye on include psilocybin and MDMA therapies, undertaken supervised in a controlled environment.

I hope you found this information beneficial; for information on the services I offer click here, or drop me an email at Camilla@CamillaClare.com 💕

2 Comments

  1. Fabiana

    Thank you Camilla, great post!

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Camilla Clare Naturopathy
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Matt Gussin
Matt Gussin
16:41 22 May 21
I've had a pretty horrid time with gut and fatigue problems for over two years and in this time, I have seen countless... doctors, naturopaths, gastroenterologists, Chinese medicine practitioners and so on...Some of which told me to stop my vegan diet, so this was when I searched for a vegan Naturopath and found Camilla.Camilla has been nothing but outstanding since our first contact. She is the first person in my health journey who I feel is genuinely invested in my health and has worked tirelessly to help and provide answers. She is always quick to reply to my lengthy emails and although currently at the early stages of my treatment, every piece of advice and treatment given has been based off facts and logical reasoning.I really recommend Camilla. I have felt very comfortable with her from day one and you will get someone who is knowledgeable, passionate but most importantly, will do her utmost to help you through any problem.read more
Sophie Smith
Sophie Smith
02:36 22 May 21
I would without a doubt recommend Camilla to anyone looking for a naturopath. She is so warm, caring, knowledgable and... helpful. I sought Camilla’s help to work on my severe PMS, heavy and painful periods and PTSD and mental health. From the moment I saw her she went above and beyond and is always there to help whenever I have any questions or concerns. I have just started my treatment plan and feel confident that I will see an improvement with my concerns.Thank you so much Camila xread more
Laura Harper
Laura Harper
02:59 07 Apr 21
I have been working with Camilla for a couple of months now with the aim of treating and managing hair loss, stress,... and anxiety. Camilla's process is incredibly thorough and informative and it has been amazing to not only feel better, but learn SO much in the process. My treatment plan has been very manageable, and Camilla has always made sure I understand why we are doing things rather than just telling me. This ​has really helped me to feel more in control and kept me committed to the lifestyle changes. Prior to working with Camilla, I felt a pretty overwhelmed with information, none of which I could be certain was true or even relevant to my symptoms whereas Camilla's process is so personal, and completely tailored to the individual.Camilla has been so kind, and understanding and has made the whole experience as comfortable and easy as possible. I have been shocked by how quickly I began to feel positive changes, and cant wait to see them continue!read more
Millie Guest
Millie Guest
02:45 04 Mar 21
Camilla is an incredible naturopath. I was recommended by a friend. I was struggling with my energy levels and needed... help to figure out why. The consults were thorough and in-depth and camilla made me feel super comfortable the whole way through.I had bloods done which confirmed i was low on iron as she had predicted. She wrote me an amazing in depth treatment plan, which included when and how to take my supplements with loads of tips & tricks on how to get the most out of them and include more into my diet. She also gave me loads of great recipes to cook to help with my iron intake.It has been over a month into treatment and i feel super energetic and full of life again. It was exactly what i needed to help get back to myself.I couldn’t recommend her enough. If you’re struggling with anything her in-depth knowledge in her field will help you.Thankyou camilla.read more
Sophie Farrelly
Sophie Farrelly
03:42 29 Dec 20
Camilla is very knowledgeable, helpful and has a wonderful nature. She’s caring and goes above and beyond to help. I... can’t recommend her enough. Thank you!read more
J D
J D
02:07 06 Nov 20
Highly recommend. Camilla is a delight, very passionate and committed to getting clients back to their best!
Vivian Ruth
Vivian Ruth
09:03 28 Oct 20
I’m so grateful for the treatment that I received from Camilla. My results improved within a month!! She is very... attentive, knowledgeable and caring. I highly recommend her for everyone!!read more
Chloe Compton
Chloe Compton
10:20 24 Sep 20
I had several online consultations with Camilla. She was a pleasure to work with and very knowledgeable. Her treatment... plan has really helped me and improved my skin condition. Highly recommend.read more
Lilla Magyari
Lilla Magyari
11:16 01 Sep 20
Camilla is an amazing Naturopath! Her knowledge and enthusiasm is absolutely fantastic! She helped me a lot in the past... and still does whenever I need. You can count on her 100%. I only can recommend her!!! 💚 🌱 💚🌱💚🌱💚🌱💚read more
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