Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is the cyclic recurrence of symptoms that occur approximately 7 to 10 days before menstruation begins, and disappear shortly after the onset of the menstrual flow. Symptoms are often triggered by hormonal shifts, and afflict an estimated 80% of all women, with 10% to 20% of these women having symptoms that are incapacitating. The causes of PMS are not yet fully understood, but are thought to include deficient levels of beta-endorphin or serotonin. Genetic factors may also play a contributing role.

Chinese medicine treatment for PMS

Treatment and prevention involve the use of acupuncture and herbs, along with nutritional and lifestyle counseling. A complete program of improved diet, adequate exercise, and stress reduction practices, along with acupuncture and Chinese medicinal herbs, can correct imbalances and bring long-term relief.

Acupuncture is endorsed by the National Institute of Health for the relief of premenstrual pain. In addition, it is a very effective treatment for rebalancing hormone and neurotransmitter levels, thus reducing the symptoms of PMS.

Herbal medication works along with acupuncture to improve hormonal and neurotransmitter balance.

Dietary and nutritional counseling are helpful in providing relief from PMS. Keeping blood sugar levels stable reduces mood swings, while the avoidance of foods and substances that exacerbate symptoms is necessary for women debilitated by PMS.

Symptoms of PMS

Premenstrual syndrome symptoms may include:

  • Increased appetite
  • Food cravings
  • Headaches
  • Mood changes, such as depression, anger, irritability, anxiety
  • Insomnia
  • Abdominal bloating or cramping
  • Constipation
  • Acne or other skin problems
  • Depressed immunity post-ovulation
  • Palpitations
  • Pelvic pain
  • Brain fog or poor concentration
  • Clumsiness
  • Breast tenderness
  • Backaches
  • Weight gain
  • Changes in libido

Western medical treatment for PMS

Western drug therapy for PMS primarily includes hormonal medications and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

SSRIs are used for the treatment of severe PMS; they can be prescribed for use on a continuous basis, or only when symptoms are expected to occur.

Oral contraceptives are commonly used to reduce the symptoms of PMS.

Progesterone support has been used for many years, but with little evidence of its efficacy.

Gonadotropin-releasing hormone agonists can be useful in severe forms of PMS, but have significant side effects.

Diuretics have been used to reduce water retention.

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs, e.g. ibuprofen) are used for pain or cramping.

Clonidine treats women whose PMS symptoms coincide with a steep decline in serum beta-endorphin levels, on a monthly basis.