Saturday, 27 May 2017

PMS – Pre-Menstrual Syndrome – How to cope

PMS—premenstrual syndrome—is a blight on the lives of many women of reproductive age and their families. I know, because I was one of them.

For a lucky few, the symptoms are hardly noticeable. For others it is like world war three, turning a usually stable woman into a psychotic manic depressive for one or two weeks every month. Characterised by excessive mood swings, temper tantrums, unreasonableness, depression, PMS has been responsible for women attacking their partners and children and even committing suicide and murder. So although men may snigger at it, and others take it with a pinch of salt as an excuse for bad behaviour, it is not a subject to be taken lightly.

Worse, many women have no idea that it is their monthly cycle which is affecting them so badly. Even when I had been diagnosed with PMS I still did not recognise that the reason I was feeling so bad was because of those pesky hormones. Under the influence of PMS I have smashed a window with my bare fist, attacked my husband, nearly killed my 5 year old daughter, considered killing myself. You get the picture.

So what changed my life?

Surprisingly, it was a book by Adelle Davis written in the 1970s called Let’s Get Well. Working on the principle that many of our common ailments are caused by bad nutrition, she uses research to suggest that a lack of certain vitamins and minerals can lead to all sorts of physical problems. With regard to PMS (or premenstrual tension as she calls it) she cites a study (page 221) which showed "starting approximately ten days prior to menstruation, when the ovaries are the least active, the blood calcium drops steadily and progressively. Such a calcium decrease results in premenstrual tension, nervousness, headaches, insomnia, and mental depression . . . Crimes of violence committed by women take place mostly during this period." She went on to advise taking tablets containing calcium and magnesium, and a vitamin D supplement.

So I thought, ‘What have I got to lose?’ Out I went and bought calcium and magnesium tablets, and they also contained vitamin D. Within an hour or two of taking them, the symptoms disappeared. It was as if a fog suddenly cleared, and I became normal. I felt better, I no longer had uncontrollable rages. Wow! Flushed with this success, I reported back to the doctor, who laughed. (She'd been no help in any case!) That was back in the eighties. Today, the benefits of calcium and magnesium in treating PMS are more widely recognised. And magnesium seems to be the real goodie here.

“Zinc, calcium, and magnesium are three of the most important minerals essential for good health. Magnesium aids in the absorption of calcium by the body, while zinc actively supports the body’s immune system. Women of all ages benefit immensely from the intake of magnesium. Besides keeping osteoporosis at bay, magnesium health benefits in women include relief from symptoms of menopause and premenstrual syndrome (PMS). It also minimizes the risk of premature labor.” –
So how much calcium should we take? Doctor Adelle Davis recommended that we should take half magnesium to calcium. So, if we take a supplement*, it should contain, say, 400 mg. calcium and 200 mg. magnesium. It might contain more or less, but the ratio should be the same.

Not to be overlooked is the benefit of Vitamin B6. “The B6 vitamin is needed for proper brain development and function and to make the hormones serotonin and norepinephrine which affect mood.” – 

The NIH [National Institutes of Health] also considers vitamin B6 "possibly effective" for alleviating upset stomach and vomiting during pregnancy, symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (including breast pain and depression) and behavioral disorders in children with low levels of serotonin (a brain chemical involved in regulating mood).”

In Britain, the government have recommended no more than 50 mg of B6 daily.

If you are taking any medication or have other health issues, consult a doctor before taking supplements.

As for me, I take a calcium and magnesium tablet every day, as well as B6, even though I am long past the menopause. Why? Because I find even now that if I don’t, within a day or two, I start to go down, become irritable, and depressed.

My mother also suffered from severe osteoporosis, and two of my daughters showed very low bone density on a scan. Meanwhile, my bone density showed 120%, way above what it needed to be, which is excellent news.

So benefits all round.

Of course, not every woman responds to the same therapy. In the event of severe depression, seek the help of a qualified doctor.


* Just so you know, I found one ‘own brand’ calcium/magnesium supplement from a well-known British health food chain to be totally ineffective. 

Evelyn Tidman is the author of historical novels, available on Amazon.


  1. You can fix all this with just one natural ingredient. Maca

    1. Never heard of it, Hannelore, but it is worth knowing about. Thank you.