Women's pain and discomfort from premenstrual syndrome may be lessened by diet changes and natural health remedies
Headaches, bloating, irritability, depression and fatigue are just a few of the unpleasant symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, which affects millions of women every month. But fortunately, PMS - though widely believed to be a result of changes in hormone levels during a woman's menstrual cycle -- is not entirely beyond a woman's control. Research shows that diet and nutrition play a significant role in the severity of PMS symptoms, and many women could ease their monthly bouts with discomfort simply by changing their diets or taking nutritional supplements.
Western society has made light of premenstrual syndrome on many occasions, with popular entertainers cracking jokes about women's wild mood swings at "that time of the month." But the truth is, PMS can be a difficult, sometimes serious, problem for women. Dr. Mary D. Eades, in her book, "Doctor's Complete Guide to Vitamins," estimates that as many as one-third of women suffer from PMS-related symptoms as their hormones fluctuate in the last week or two of their monthly cycle. While some women may experience these symptoms intermittently, about one in 10 experiences them every month, according to Eades. For about one in 20 women, PMS can become so severe that it causes general depression in daily life, according to New Choices In Natural Healing by Prevention Magazine. So why do some women suffer more than others, and what can these women do to stop PMS from interrupting their lives? The answer may be found in nutrition and natural health remedies.
Research suggests PMS symptoms arise more often in women with high levels of blood estrogen compared to progesterone. In "Foods That Fight Disease," Laurie Deutsch writes, "PMS could possibly be referred to as estrogen intoxication." However, there are a number of natural ways to deal with such an imbalance and prevent and overcome PMS symptoms. For example, licorice is believed to reduce estrogen levels while simultaneously increasing progesterone levels, creating a better balance. Soy can also help balance hormone levels, which is why far fewer Japanese women suffer from PMS than American women, according to Robert Haas in "Permanent Remissions."
Primrose oil, flaxseed oil, lavender, parsley, bee pollen and chaste berries, used widely in Europe, are other proven natural remedies that can ease common symptoms. Also effective is the Chinese herb dong quai, which has been called "nature's gift to women," according to Earl Mindell in "Secret Remedies." "It is a tonic for the female reproductive system, and helps regulate the menstrual cycle, especially the imbalances which are responsible for some of the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome," Mindell writes.
Increasing evidence shows premenstrual syndrome might also be triggered by dietary deficiencies in certain vitamins or minerals, especially magnesium. "Magnesium deficiency is strongly implicated as a causative factor in premenstrual syndrome. Red blood cell magnesium levels in PMS patients have been shown to be significantly lower than in normal subjects," write Michael T. Murray and Joseph L. Pizzorno in the "Encyclopedia Of Natural Medicine." In "A Physician's Guide To Natural Health Products That Work," Dr. James Howenstine writes, "Many women with (premenstrual syndrome) have high sugar and high dairy fat intakes, both of which lower magnesium values in the blood. Supplemental magnesium appears to be a necessity, particularly in persons who are getting little magnesium from their water." PMS-sufferers are also frequently deficient in calcium, zinc and B-vitamins, particularly vitamin B6, and can often benefit greatly from supplementation.
Besides nutritional supplementation, women can help prevent PMS by making changes to their diets. Eating more foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like fatty fish and green leafy vegetables, is important since omega-3 deficiencies have also been linked to PMS. Dr. Stephanie Beling, in "Power Foods," recommends women who suffer from PMS try eliminating meat and dairy products from their diets while increasing intake of fruits and vegetables. Overall, the healthier a woman's diet and lifestyle, the less likely she is to suffer from discomfort from PMS.
Besides eating right, many women also benefit from relaxation and meditation techniques. Denise Foley, author of "Woman's Encyclopedia," suggests that women looking to alleviate PMS and increase overall health follow a regime that includes "meditation, drinking eight to ten glasses of water a day and switching to a low-fat, low-sugar diet, with very little alcohol and no caffeine."
Many women accept premenstrual syndrome as a fact of life and merely suffer through it, but there are many natural remedies available to help prevent and treat the aches and pains of PMS. Like all health issues, it just takes the recognition that you can help control the way you feel by giving your body what it needs.
Magnesium sulphate and other anticonvulsants for women with pre-eclampsia
Some women have high blood pressure with protein in their urine during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia). Most women with mild pre-eclampsia give birth without problems. However, severe pre-eclampsia can cause problems with the liver, blood clotting etc, and some women have fits (eclampsia). These problems can cause severe difficulties for the babies. Sometimes mothers and babies die because of these problems, particularly in low-income countries. This review showed magnesium sulphate reduced the number of women having fits but did not improve the babies' health. The magnesium sulphate had side effects for the mother, mostly flushing.
Magnesium sulphate more than halves the risk of eclampsia, and probably reduces the risk of maternal death. It does not improve outcome for the baby, in the short term. A quarter of women have side effects, particularly flushing.
Magnesium sulphate for preventing preterm birth in threatened preterm labour
Magnesium sulphate given to women who go into labour too early does not prevent their babies being born too soon and is associated with an increased risk of the baby dying.
Even short-term postponement of birth when labour begins early (before 37 weeks) can help improve outcomes for babies, as the woman can take steroid drugs to help develop the baby's lungs in a short time. Magnesium sulphate is one of the drugs used to try to stop the uterus contracting in women who go into labour too soon. The review of trials did not find that magnesium sulphate, given to women who go into labour too soon, reduced the risks of the baby being born early or developing serious health problems. More babies died when women took magnesium sulphate.
Over 2000 women were recruited into the 23 included trials. Only nine trials were rated of high quality for the concealment of allocation. In the magnesium sulphate versus control (all studies) no difference was seen for the risk of birth within 48 hours of treatment for women given magnesium sulphate compared with controls when using a random effects model (relative risk 0.85, 95% confidence interval 0.58-1.25, 11 trials, 881 women). No benefit was seen for magnesium sulphate on the risk of giving birth preterm (less then 37 weeks) or very preterm (less then 34 weeks). The risk of death (fetal and paediatric) was higher for infants exposed to magnesium sulphate (relative risk 2.82, 95% confidence interval 1.20-6.62, 7 trials, 727 infants). There were only two fetal deaths, both in the magnesium sulphate group in one study. The six other trials reported there were no fetal deaths. No differences for total paediatric mortality were shown in the six trials with data.
No beneficial effect was seen from using magnesium sulphate on the risk of other neonatal morbidity. A non-significant reduction in the risk of cerebral palsy was reported at follow up at 18 months corrected age.
Magnesium sulphate is ineffective at delaying birth or preventing preterm birth, and its use is associated with an increased mortality for the infant. Any further trials should be of high quality, large enough to assess serious morbidity and mortality, compare different dose regimens, and provide neurodevelopmental status of the child.