Mood swings, bloating, an insatiable craving for chocolate? For most menstruating women these are the inevitable signs that your monthly period is looming.
But how could taking PMS supplements help?
Did you know more than 90% of women admit to dealing with PMS symptoms before or during their period?1
But despite its popularity, there’s very little to like about PMS.
In fact, for many women (approximately 1 in 20 to be precise) symptoms are so severe that they make daily life difficult.2
So, what can you do to make it go away?
In reality, most women tend to reach for painkillers and accept period pain and mood swings as unwelcome, monthly companions.
There’s little else you can do, right? Maybe not.
Firstly, if your monthly symptoms are severe or feel irregular, seeking medical advice is essential.
But, if you’re looking for a natural way to manage milder symptoms, the good news is vitamins for PMS could help.
Here, we share a range of the best PMS supplements and why you may want to consider herbal remedies for period pain.
What is PMS?
PMS (premenstrual syndrome) is the collective name given to the range of symptoms women experience in the weeks before their period.
PMS symptoms are triggered when oestrogen and progesterone levels begin dropping in the lead up to menstruation.
This can lead to a variety of emotional and physical symptoms.
Common PMS symptoms include:3
- Mood swings and irritability
- Tiredness (but also problems with sleeping)
- Bloating or stomach cramping
- Breast tenderness
- Change in sexual feelings
- Spots and greasy hair
- Change in appetite
But what makes the above symptoms PMS is the timing of when they appear – usually five days to two weeks before your period starts.
And you can expect relief to come when you start menstruating, or shortly after.
However, it’s important to note, every woman is different.
The exact symptoms experienced, and their severity, can vary hugely. They usually even differ for the same woman from month-to-month.
- PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome and describes symptoms experienced in the lead up to a woman’s period
- PMS symptoms generally appear around five days to two weeks before your period starts
- Every woman is different, but common symptoms include tender breasts, headaches, bloating, feeling tired, cramping and irritability
- Read our article, ‘What happens during your menstrual cycle?’ to find out more
What are menstrual cramps?
Menstrual cramps (also known as period pain) are a type of tummy pain experienced as part of a woman’s monthly cycle.
Sometimes this pain is dull and constant, but some women get much sharper spasms.
It’s a more vigorous tightening in the muscular wall of the womb during menstruation that causes period pain.
These contractions are helped along and intensified by the release of hormone-like chemicals called prostaglandins.
When we get injured, prostaglandins are produced at the site of the injury.
Similarly, when the womb lining starts to shed at the start of your period, the release of prostaglandins triggers uterine contractions. This can cause period pains.
Evidence shows women who experience painful periods tend to have higher concentrations of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins in their blood.
However, sometimes (but less commonly) period pain is down to an underlying medical condition.
For example, endometriosis, fibroids and pelvic inflammatory disease can be a cause of menstrual cramps.
- The term ‘menstrual cramps’ describes pain felt in the lower abdomen around the time of menstruation
- One cause is the release of pain-provoking chemicals called prostaglandins
- The more prostaglandins that are released, the greater the intensity of the contractions, and the more painful the stomach cramps
- Alternatively, an underlying medical condition may be the cause of period pains
- Read more about ‘What causes period cramps?’
How to manage period pains
Some months, period pains will cause you minimal bother. Other months they can be pretty debilitating.
Many women choose to manage period pains with painkillers.
And maybe a hot water bottle or a warm bath for additional comfort. Sometimes gentle exercise can also help.
In the remainder of this post, we’ll also be introducing some PMS supplements that could aid with reducing the severity of PMS symptoms.
However, if you’re regularly struggling with very intense menstrual cramping, it could be a sign of an underlying condition.
If you get life-hindering period pain, don’t suffer in silence – seek the advice of a healthcare professional.
- Many women take painkillers to manage period pain, but lifestyle changes can also lead to benefits
- For example, a hot water bottle or a warm bath can help, and also gentle exercise
- Seek medical advice if you get intense period pain as it could be a symptom of an underlying medical condition
- Our article, ‘5 reasons for irregular periods’ makes interesting additional reading
9 best PMS supplements
If only there was one magic vitamin for periods.
Instead, there are various herbal remedies for PMS and which one works for you will depend on your symptoms and your own unique biology.
Here, we outline nine common supplements to help you to understand what’s available – from evening primrose oil to magnesium for PMS.
Evening primrose oil
If you’re curious about the benefits of evening primrose oil, PMS is likely to be driving your interest.
It’s an herbal remedy that many women credit with reducing PMS symptoms.
Although there isn’t compelling scientific evidence to support its use as a treatment for PMS generally, it could help with reducing breast pain connected with the menstrual cycle.
Within evening primrose oil is gamma-linolenic acid (or GLA), which is an omega-6 essential fatty acid.
As women suffering with breast pain are more likely to have low levels of GLA in their blood, regularly taking an evening primrose oil supplement may help reduce breast discomfort.4
Another example of a classic PMS supplement.
This extract from the borage plant, is another rich source of the fatty acid, GLA.
Consequently, this supplement can offer similar benefits for relieving breast tenderness as evening primrose oil.
In fact, starflower oil contains about twice as much GLA as evening primrose oil.5
Handpicked content: 4 starflower oil uses & benefits
Omega-3s, or more specifically docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA),are commonly found in PMS supplements.
These unsaturated fatty acids play important roles in various aspects of our health, and this appears to extend to helping with reducing symptoms of PMS.
For example, one study found a reduction in the severity of depression, anxiety, lack of concentration and bloating in women taking omega-3 as part of a trial.6
Another study suggested taking fish oil could be more effective than ibuprofen in reducing period pain.7
Handpicked content: 10 of the best omega-3 & fish oil supplements
Blood calcium levels are often lower in women suffering with symptoms of PMS.8
Research shows that increasing calcium intake with supplements could help to reduce the severity of menstrual pain.
In addition, it could help to curb other PMS symptoms from bloating to emotional symptoms, such as mood swings, and anxiety.9
This particular member of the B vitamin family plays a vital role in creating neurotransmitters – the chemical messengers that carry information between your brain cells helping to control your emotions.
This includes, for example, mood-regulating serotonin. As a result, a daily dose of B6 could help improve low mood and irritability symptoms.10,11
An important role of this vitamin is making red blood cells, which can help to prevent certain types of anaemia.12
Consequently, if you have particularly heavy periods, increasing your intake of B12 can support with the replenishment of red blood cells.
In addition, when B12 is combined with fish oil, it may also contribute to relieving period pain.13
Handpicked content: 9 of the best B12 supplements
Are you considering taking magnesium for period cramps? The good news is it may actually help.
During the week before your period, your magnesium levels naturally fall.
This can contribute to the appearance of some unwanted PMS symptoms.14
For example, lower levels of magnesium are linked to constipation, which could lead to the bloating and abdominal discomfort experienced with PMS.
Adding a magnesium supplement can help redress this imbalance.
Research also suggests a regular top up of magnesium could help to alleviate PMS-induced stress and anxiety.15
Similar to calcium, studies also show that lower levels of vitamin D are common in women suffering with premenstrual symptoms.
As a result, maintaining a healthy level of vitamin D could help to reduce the risk of PMS.16
The anti-inflammatory properties of vitamin D also mean it could make menstrual cramps less severe.
A high dose could decrease the production of prostaglandins, helping to weaken one of the main reasons why you’re getting cramps.17
Handpicked content: 12 of the best vitamin D supplements
Vitex agnus castus (or chasteberry)
The fruits of the Vitex agnus castus plant (also known as chasteberry) have a reputation for helping with hormonal well-being, making it a recognised PMS supplement.
It’s believed taking this supplement could encourage an increase in the production of progesterone. This can help to offset oestrogen dominance, creating a better hormone balance.18
A study by the BMJ, concluded that where there isn’t an underlying condition causing PMS symptoms, agnus castus is an effective herbal remedy for PMS.
More than half of the women taking part in the trial reported a 50% or greater improvement in PMS symptoms.19
- There are a number of natural remedies linked to reducing the monthly side effects of menstruation
- Vitamin supplements can help rebalance cyclical variations in certain nutrients e.g. calcium, magnesium and vitamin D.
- Vitamins B6 and B12 and omega-3 fatty acids can also provide helpful support in counteracting some of the symptoms of PMS
- In addition, some PMS supplements have a long history of helping women manage certain PMS symptoms, including evening primrose oil, starflower oil and agnus castus
Conclusion: Could PMS supplements be your saviour in times of menstrual need?
Whether you suffer from low mood the week before your period or menstrual cramps, these monthly discomforts are common and experienced to some degree by most menstruating women.
There may not be a cure for the monthly side effects of menstruation, but women shouldn’t feel they have to simply live with PMS.
As cyclical fluctuations in certain nutrients seem to contribute to the worsening of symptoms, boosting your intake of vital vitamins and minerals may lead to a welcome reduction in PMS.
In addition, there are a number of herbal remedies that many women turn to for support with the reduction in PMS symptoms.
For more advice on how to look after your health, check out our article on 8 of the best multivitamins for women.
Last updated: 21 July 2021