Vitamin E and Fatty Acids May Ease PMS
Study Suggests Supplement May Provide Relief for Symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome
By Denise Mann
WebMD Health News
Jan. 19, 2011 -- A
supplement containing Vitamin
E and essential fatty acids may help reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome
(PMS), Brazilian researchers report in Reproductive Health.
Of 120 women with PMS or the
more severe premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), those who took 1- or 2-gram
capsules of vitamin E and a combination of gamma linolenic acid, oleic acid,
linoleic acid, and other polyunsaturated acids daily showed marked improvements
in their PMS symptoms at six months, compared to women who received dummy
The capsules were provided
by the Brazilian supplement company Hebron Farmaceutica.
The women who received the
higher 2-gram dose of the new supplement showed greater improvements in PMS
symptoms than those who received the lower 1-gram dose, the study shows.
PMS symptoms were assessed
over six menstrual cycles using the Prospective Record of the Impact and
Severity of Menstruation (PRISM), a standardized tool that measures PMS
symptoms and their intensity.
Precisely how these supplements
combat the symptoms of PMS is not fully understood. But the researchers
speculate that the essential fatty acids may affect production of chemicals
called prostaglandins, which, in turn, reduce the effects of the hormone
prolactin. Too much prolactin or an abnormal response to this hormone may cause
The physical and emotional
symptoms of PMS symptoms can range from the mild to severe; they usually begin
five to 12 days before menstruation and disappear once menstruation starts.
"The results of the
current study present some evidence in support of the use of essential fatty
acids in PMS patients," conclude researchers who were led by Edilberto A.
Rocha Filho, MD, of the Federal University of Pernambuci in Recife, Pernambuco,
The new supplement was safe
and the fatty acids did not raise women's total cholesterol
Potential PMS Remedy
"A lot of women don't
like to talk about PMS because it is the brunt of bad jokes, but PMS symptoms
are no joke and can range from the annoying, like acne and bloating, to serious
mood and sleep disruptions," says Donnica Moore, MD, president of Sapphire
Women's Health in Far Hills, N.J. "PMS is a serious medical problem that
affects a majority of women to varying extents."
"This PMS remedy in the
new study can't be interpreted as a cure, but it is a very promising option for
women with PMS," she says. "The only cure for PMS is menopause."
Other PMS treatments include
which stop ovulation, exercise, antidepressants,
calcium and vitamin D supplements, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications, Moore says.
"Some women respond to all of the above, and some don't respond to
More PMS treatments are
needed, agrees Samantha Meltzer-Brody, MD, director of the perinatal psychiatry
of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Center for Women's Mood
treatments only help half of women with PMS, which means that the other 50%
continue to struggle. So anything that shows a promise, such as essential fatty
acids, and has minimal side effects, would be a useful contribution," she
Women who think they may
have PMS should keep a daily mood-rating diary and follow their moods for two
months consecutively, she says. "Really track how your mood fluctuates and
correlate it with your menstrual cycle."
The first step is to make
lifestyle changes such as eating a healthy diet and taking a daily
multivitamin, exercising, minimizing caffeine intake, and getting good sleep,
These may help minimize PMS
symptoms. Also, "Talk to your doctor about available options, which would
include oral contraceptives and antidepressants," Meltzer-Brody says.
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