A Fresh Approach To PMS

Q: I have heard that there are natural treatments for PMS. What are the simplest methods of treating this problem?

A: If you suffer from the most common of the 100-plus symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)—headaches, irritability, breast tenderness, bloating, depression, and food cravings—natural therapies can help. Herbs such as chaste-tree berries (Vitex agnus-castus), black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), and wild-yam root (Dioscorea villosa) have proven effective. So too have PMS supplements that contain evening primrose oil (3 grams per day), vitamin E (400 to 800 IU per day), vitamin B6 (3 grams per day), magnesium (250 mg one to three times per day), and calcium (800 mg per day in supplement form, plus calcium from your diet).

Getting regular exercise and making sound dietary choices can also help ward off unwanted PMS symptoms. Simply walk away from your house each day for 15 minutes, then return to accomplish the recommended 30 minutes a day.

For a healthy anti-PMS diet, try the three-two-one plan: Each day eat three 1-cup servings of vegetables, two pieces of fruit, and one whole grain (1 cup of brown rice, oats, or barley). In addition, add a tablespoon of fresh-ground flaxseeds to your daily diet. To keep in check any sugar and alcohol cravings that may contribute to PMS, eat a protein food at breakfast within one hour of rising. I often suggest drinking a blended protein drink made with diluted dark fruit juice, 1/4 cup frozen blueberries, and a serving of protein powder. Other healthy options include organic beans, eggs, cottage cheese, tofu, and fish.

This month "Ask The Expert" is written by Catherine Downey, ND. She is currently the associate dean of clinical and graduate medical education at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine, and is on the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians board of directors. Until 1998, Downey practiced medicine on the island of Kauai in Hawaii.