What is PMDD?
For many women, natural remedies for PMDD are preferred as a way of treating the debilitating pain associated with premenstrual dysphoric disorder. While drugs, such as antidepressants, are generally considered the treatment of choice, many women when contemplating how to get relief from the pain turn to natural remedies for PMDD.
While PMDD is a condition that is similar to PMS (premenstrual syndrome), it is much more serious and classified as a depressive disorder. It affects only about 2%-5% (source) of women who are in their childbearing years. The onset of the condition can occur at any time but generally starts at the average age of 26.
The condition is not limited to women of any specific culture, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.
What distinguishes PMDD from PMS is the severity of the symptoms. The symptoms of PMDD get so bad it affects daily activities such as work, social life, and relationships with other people.
What Causes PMDD?
The cause of PMDD is unknown. Speculations are that it is an abnormal reaction to hormonal changes during every menstrual cycle.
These hormonal changes may cause a shortage of serotonin in the brain which is also known as the “happy hormone”. Serotonin reduces depression which may explain why a deficiency may lead to moodiness and some other symptoms.
Lower levels of estrogen and progesterone that occur after ovulation and before the onset of the menstrual cycle may cause symptoms to appear.
Symptoms of PMDD
Some of the PMDD symptoms may be reflective of those symptoms associated with other medical conditions anxiety disorder, thyroid problems, or depression.
It is strongly advised to always consult with your medical practitioner to obtain a proper diagnosis.
Symptoms of PMDD generally appear the week prior to menstruation and stop a couple of days into the menstruation cycle. Symptoms include, but are not limited to:
- Anxiety (panic attacks)
- Binge eating
- Difficulty in concentrating/focusing
- Emotional sensitivity and crying
- Fatigue (severe)
- Food cravings
- Lack of control
- Lack of interest in anything that is normally enjoyed
- Moodswings that is extreme
- Poor self-image
Physical symptoms are:
- Breast tenderness
- Joint or muscle pains
How is PMDD Diagnosed?
PMDD is a mood disorder which means it cannot be diagnosed by performing blood tests or imaging tests. The doctor may ask about the patient’s medical history and any instances of mental health problems.
Blood tests may be done to eliminate any other health conditions such as thyroid problems, PMS, hormonal imbalance, premenstrual exacerbation PME), clinical depression, bipolar disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder.
Most commonly patients are asked to keep a journal of their symptoms over at least 2 months during their menstrual cycles. In order to diagnose PMDD, 5 or more of the symptoms associated with PMDD must be present, one of which must relate to the patient’s mood.
Natural Remedies for PMDD
While journaling your symptoms over the next couple of months, there are some things you can do to better cope with the intense symptoms of PMDD.
You can get some welcome relief from these natural remedies for PMDD:
Aromatherapy is the practice of using concentrated essential oils to enhance a variety of physical and mental health issues.
Oils popular for PMDD are chamomile, geranium, neroli, rose, clary sage, and lavender.
The health conditions that benefit from aromatherapy include:
- reduces physical pain
- improves sleep
- reduces stress
- lowers anxiety levels
- soothes aching joints and muscles
- boosts energy
- improves concentration abilities
- treats headaches
- relieves menstrual cramps
Aromatherapy products are available in a variety of forms such as inhalers, body oils, hot and cold compresses, topical applications, etc.
Practicing meditation on a daily basis is certainly one of the natural remedies for PMDD to consider that may indeed bring relief from the symptoms associated with PMDD.
Regular meditation helps a person relax, and the ripple effect is a reduction in the symptoms of PMDD, namely depression, anxiety, and pain. During meditation, you focus on your breathing which results in you relaxing and detaching yourself from your PMDD symptoms.
Getting some exercise is always beneficial to human health and can certainly improve PMDD symptoms also.
You don’t need a gym membership to get the required dose of daily exercise. Walking, running, cycling, power walking, swimming, participating in some sports, aerobic exercises, yoga, pilates, etc. are all ways to get the blood pumping that is good for heart health.
Getting 20 minutes of exercise at least 4 times a week is the bare minimum, but still better than no exercise at all.
Exercising 20 minutes a day have health benefits such as:
- keeping weight down as you burn more calories
- improves your mood as endorphins are released
- slows down aging
- improves mental health
If yoga is your preference, poses such as cat, cobra, and fish may be helpful in easing the cramps experienced during PMDD and PMS as well as reducing the pain and bloating.
4. Warm bath
Soaking in a warm bath to which you added some essential oil will not only relax you but also help to reduce anxiety, ease menstrual cramps and ensure a night of better sleep.
You may want to consider going to bed with a warm water bottle for further pain relief.
5. Menstrual products
There isn’t any proof that the menstrual product you use may exacerbate your PMDD symptoms.
The possibility does however exist and may be worth your while to put your choice of product to the test.
Tampons can cause more cramping in some women, especially if they have sensitive skin. There are ingredients and chemicals in tampons and pads such as
- Dioxins and furans (byproducts of the bleaching process)
- Pesticide residue (found in products made with traditionally grown cotton)
- Plastics and plasticizers (linked to endocrine disruptions)
- Problematic coatings (paraffin (not biodegradable), polyethylene (plastic), polyethylene glycol ingredients (contamination concerns), and more. Source
Pads and tampons aren’t, as assumed by most users, produced from only cotton. They are generally made of rayon which comes from trees. Unfortunately, the end product is not as natural as one would like to think. The rayon is processed extensively before the end product emerges.
Even those pads and tampons made from conventional cotton are subjected to pesticides during growth. Using organic panties and pads is recommended.
Changing from pads and tampons to using menstrual cups may prove a viable option. Menstrual cups are shaped in the form of a bell and are reusable. Menstrual flow is collected in the cups when worn internally.
6. Eating healthy
Other natural remedies for PMDD are following a healthy diet and drinking lots of water. Watching what you eat can improve some symptoms of PMDD such as bloating, fatigue, and moodiness.
Salt is known to contribute to water retention and bloating. Cut down on your salt intake by using less salt and avoiding foods high in salt like salty snacks.
Sugary foods may bring about fluctuations in your blood sugar. This can lead to mood swings and aggravate feelings of fatigue.
Menstrual cramps may get more severe when prostaglandin levels increase. Foods to avoid in order to minimize any increase in prostaglandin levels include:
- Animal products (dairy products, fish, eggs, meat, poultry)
- Fatty foods (french fries, cheese, doughnuts, potato chips)
- Refined grains (pastries, white bread, cereals)
- Added vegetable oils (margarine, cooking oils, salad dressings)
Rather eat more foods high in complex carbohydrates
- whole grains (oats, brown rice, whole-grain bread),
- fruits (berries, mangoes, apples, oranges)
- vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, broccoli, etc.), and
- legumes (lentils, peas, beans)
When you eat foods from the above list you should notice an easing in menstrual cramps and also enjoy higher energy levels.
- eating smaller portions more often
- staying away from alcohol and caffeine
- limiting your salt intake
- avoiding salty snacks
- eating foods high in tryptophan. Low tryptophan levels can cause mood swings and increased sensitivity to pain. Foods high in tryptophan are tuna, peanuts, tofu, soy, turkey, oats, eggs, etc.
Do not forget to drink lots of water, at least 8 glasses a day.
7. Dietary supplements
While there is no conclusive evidence that supplements help with the symptoms of PMDD, they may be considered one of the possible natural remedies for PMDD.
It is of course much better to get vitamins, minerals, and nutrients from the foods you eat. There are times, however, when what we eat does not meet the daily recommended dosages. In order to maintain your health, you may consider dietary supplements.
Supplements, according to the Mayo Clinic, that may be beneficial include, but are not limited to:
- Calcium. In a clinical trial performed over a period of 3 months in 2005, a group of females was given 2 x 500 mg dosages of calcium supplement daily. Results show that depression, loss of appetite, and fatigue symptoms improved in those women who received the calcium when compared with those who were part of the placebo group. Calcium is naturally found in milk, cheese, and yogurt.
- Magnesium. Often referred to as the “miracle mineral” and “nature’s relaxant” magnesium relaxes the muscles of the uterus. It also reduces prostaglandins which is the cause of menstrual pain.
Taking 360 mg daily improves sleep, alleviates cramps and pains during the menstrual period, will ease breast soreness and bloating, and also lessen the chances of getting migraines.
Foods rich in magnesium are fruits, nuts, seeds, leafy green veggies, etc.
- Vitamin E and Fatty Acids. A study conducted over a period of 6 months in 2011 by Brazilian researchers found that women who received a supplement containing both vitamin E and a combination of linoleic acid, gamma-linolenic acid, oleic acid, and other polyunsaturated acids experienced marked improvements in their PMDD symptoms when compared to those who took placebos.
Other sources recommend taking a daily dosage of vitamin E of 400 international units (IU). It works by reducing prostaglandins which are known to be the cause of pain during the menstrual cycle. Good food sources of vitamin E are nuts like almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, vegetable oils, etc.
- Vitamin B-6. A clinical trial consisting of 76 students concluded that 40 mg of vitamin B-6 50 reduced the severity of the symptoms of PMS. When taking 40 mg of vitamin B-6 as well as 500 mg of calcium, the symptoms decreased even more.
Taking up to 100 mg daily can help you sleep better, ease fatigue, and lessen irritability. Vitamin B-6 is found in soya beans, tuna, peanuts, bananas, oats, chicken, turkey, pork, etc.
8. Herbal supplements
There is almost no scientific proof that herbal remedies for PMDD are effective.
Even so, there are women who tried a herbal supplement as one of the natural remedies for PMDD options and were happy with the results.
- Chasteberry: According to NCBI, a randomized clinical trial where 41 women who suffered from PMDD were treated with chasteberry, found relief from physical symptoms.
Chasteberry contains many different types of flavonoids which can affect hormone levels in the body, namely progesterone, prolactin, and to some extent also the levels of estrogen. When the production of prolactin is reduced, it may ease breast tenderness (cyclic mastalgia).
- Evening primrose oil is another herbal supplement some claim helps with relief from PMDD symptoms.
Even though evening primrose oil may be the most-studied herbal treatment for PMS/PMDD, there is not much conclusive evidence of its effectiveness.
Some clinical trials show that EPO does have some benefits for a variety of health conditions, including PMS symptoms. Daily dosages varied between 500 to 1,000 mg of EPO daily.
- St. John’s wort. 3 different studies on how effective the St. John’s wort plant is to treat depression yielded mixed results. There is, however, some support that St. John’s wort is better than a placebo to treat mild to moderate depression. The herb is often referred to as mother nature’s antidepressant.
St. John’s wort is available in different forms such as capsules, liquids, and tea. The dosage used in the various studies was 300 mg, 3 times a day. It is advised you consult with your medical practitioner regarding the dosage as this herb can interact with other medications and render them less effective.
- Ginkgo biloba L. A randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial was conducted in 2007/2008.
The 2 groups of students who participated were either given ginkgo tablets which contained 40 mg leaf extracts 3 times daily or a placebo during their menstrual cycle from the sixteenth day to the fifth day of their next cycle.
After a period of 5 months, both groups experienced a marked decrease in their overall PMS symptoms. In the ginkgo group, however, the decrease in the severity of the symptoms was much more.
It can therefore be concluded that taking 40 mg of ginkgo 3 times a day is better at reducing symptoms than taking a placebo. The symptoms that benefit from ginkgo include fatigue, bloating, and insomnia.
NOTE: There are instances where herbal remedies, when interacting with any prescription medications, can give rise to side effects that may be serious. Before adding herbal supplements to your diet consult with someone qualified for guidelines on how to take them and how much.
A single-blind randomized clinical trial involving 30 volunteers was performed to ascertain the effectiveness of acupuncture regarding anxiety and depression symptoms associated with PMDD.
The 30 volunteers were either assigned to an acupuncture group or a sham acupuncture group. Making use of the Hamilton Anxiety (HAM-A) and Hamilton Depression (HAM-D) Rating Scales the symptoms were evaluated.
On evaluating the results, it was found that both groups experienced reduced anxiety and depression symptoms; the reduction in symptoms in the acupuncture group was however more significant, suggesting using acupuncture as a treatment for anxiety and depression symptoms may work.
10. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is defined as “a type of psychotherapy in which negative patterns of thought about the self and the world are challenged in order to alter unwanted behavior patterns or treat mood disorders such as depression.”
Evidence that supports CBT in the treatment of PMDD symptoms such as moodiness and anxiety was reviewed. It appears applying CBT in trying to manage the symptoms of PMDD needs further studies before the effectiveness of CBT can be conclusive.
11. Homeopathic remedies for PMDD
“Homeopathy is a system of therapy that relies on a detailed analysis of an individual patient’s symptomatology in order to identify a medicine with matching characteristics.
If this medicine is then given in minute doses, it is said to act as a stimulus to the body’s own healing processes and to eliminate the symptoms, and hence the disorder.” Source
- Bovista lycoperdon. If you are prone to having loose stools prior to the start of menses, Bovista may be a great help in curbing diarrhea. It may also be advantageous in getting relief from bloating, water retention, and swelling.
- Bryonia. Apart from Conium, Bryonia is also frequently used for easing breast tenderness which is characterized by swollen breasts and sharp pain that with movement gets worse. Bryonia may also help in passing stool that is dry and hard.
- Calcarea carbonica. If you’re looking for a natural remedy for PMDD symptoms such as headache, water retention, tender breasts, and feeling overwhelmed Calcarea may be just what you need. Other symptoms that also may benefit from this natural remedy include fatigue, feeling cold, and a craving for sweets.
- Carbo veg. The remedy of choice for bloating. It offers immediate relief from abdominal bloating when excessive gas from eating causes heaviness and distension in your belly.
- Chamomilla. Similar to sepia, chamomilla works best for the symptoms of irritability, especially when you have to talk to people but would rather avoid any communication. The irritability may cause you to use abusive language which may sever relationships. Rather take some chamomilla and keep your relationships healthy.
- Conium. When breasts become tender due to enlargement, swelling, and pain, it is time to bring out the conium. Conium is widely preferred as one of the best natural remedies for PMDD symptoms such as breast tenderness. As the pain gets worse when breasts are touched and hardness sets in, you cannot go wrong in taking conium.
- Folliculinum. A study, involving 23 women, was conducted to describe the homeopathic treatment of PMS. Some of the symptoms at inclusion were abdominal bloating, weight gain, irritability, aggression, and tension. Folliculinum was the preferred homeopathic medicine prescribed. The symptoms at inclusion, when measured at follow-up visits of 3-6 months later were significantly less, leading to the conclusion that homeopathic medicines have a positive impact on symptoms of PMS
- Ignatia. Best homeopathic treatment for premenstrual women who experience depression, anxiety, and mood swings where the mood quickly changes from happy to sad.
- Lachesis. A popular choice of homeopathic treatment when premenstrual women experience symptoms such as irritability, headaches, adversity to tight-fitting clothes, prone to fits of jealousy, suspicion of everyone, pain in various parts of their body, and talkative. All these symptoms usually clear up once menses begins.
- Lilium tigrinum. Typical symptoms that Lilium tigrinum may help with include sensitivity, irritability, anxiety, and rage which “force” people who come in contact with the premenstrual woman to “walk on eggs”.
- Lycopodium. If you crave sweets and have an exceptional appetite, and experience digestive issues such as bloating and flatulence that are at their worst during late afternoons and in the evenings, Lilium tigrinum may just be your best option for relief.
- Nux vomica. This homeopathic medicine is generally prescribed when a woman experiences symptoms of extreme fatigue, anger, irritation, lower back pain, and overindulges in food, coffee, and alcohol which aggravate issues.
- Pulsatilla. Generally, women tend to get a bit more sensitive and also more inclined to cry about the littlest of matters. Pulsatilla is a popular choice of a homeopathic treatment that takes the edge off to reduce sensitivity and is also helpful in easing feelings of bloatedness, depression, anxiety, weepiness, temper tantrums, moodiness, and headaches.
- Sepia. The best homeopathic remedy that is most commonly recommended for PMS and PMDD. Sepia is produced from the fluid found in the ink sac of the cuttlefish. Women who experience next-level irritability, anger, don’t want to do work, prefer to be alone, etc. will benefit most from sepia.
- Silicea. Silicea is excellent for treating constipation. Women sometimes find it difficult to pass stool before menses starts. Silicea makes expulsion easy so no straining is necessary in order to pass stool.
Homeopathy may be one of the natural remedies for PMDD that can provide sufficient relief from the symptoms associated with PMS and PMDD.
It is, however, always wise to first discuss changes in treatment with your medical practitioner before embarking on treatment options that may interfere/interact with other prescription drugs.
12. Sleep better
Getting a good night’s sleep is not only vital to good health, but it is also vital in allowing us to operate to our full potential when we’re awake.
A good night’s rest benefits our immune system, it strengthens our heart, prevents weight gain, increases productivity, improves memory, and energizes us.
In order to ensure better sleep, there are a few things we can do by either eliminating some bad habits or decreasing the effect that certain habits have on our ability to sleep well.
According to various sources, the best things you can do to sleep better are:
- go to bed at the same time every night; allowing for at least 7 hours of sleep, but not more than 8 hours.
- be mindful of what you eat and drink a couple of hours before bedtime. Avoid large meals, alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine.
- refrain from taking naps during the day
- take part in some physical exercise daily but not close to bedtime
- manage stress levels by taking time to relax with either a book, listening to music, or taking a warm bath/shower.
- keep the bedroom at a cool temperature and free from light and noise.
- if needed, take a melatonin supplement to fall asleep quicker.
Inadequate amounts of sleep carry with it both long- and short-term consequences such as memory issues, mood changes, weakened immunity, diabetes risk, low libido, lack of concentration, high blood pressure, weight gain, risk of heart disease, and poor balance.
Some PMDD symptoms include anxiety, depression, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts, which are also linked to sleep deprivation.
If you suffer from PMDD, it is vital for you to get a good night’s rest.
Natural remedies for PMDD may not be adequate in providing sufficient relief from the symptoms of PMDD.
PMDD’s treatment generally is antidepressants. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Zoloft, Celexa, or Prozac are the first choice. Antidepressants, when used for the treatment of PMDD, slow the reuptake of serotonin. Serotonin is a substance found in the brain and intestines and can affect a person’s mood and manifest in physical symptoms.
When your PMS symptoms are so severe it makes it hard to function normally, you may be one of the unfortunate few that have PMDD. Get professional help by contacting your doctor.
You are encouraged to talk to your doctor before taking dietary supplements. Any mention in this article of a specific product does not represent an endorsement of that product.