Supplements for PMS

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is one area in which medicine has made great strides. Not only have researchers and clinicians come to acknowledge that women's symptoms stem from a real condition, there have also been a number of efforts to find effective approaches to symptom relief. Two recent reports indicate that calcium and magnesium may be added to the growing list of PMS remedies.

One of the studies, which was conducted at 12 medical centers across the nation, involved 497 women between the ages of 18 and 45, all of whom had a history of PMS. They were randomly assigned to two groups; one was given 1,200 mg of calcium daily and the other received a placebo. The women took the assigned pills for three menstrual cycles and noted their symptoms in a PMS diary. There was no difference in symptoms between the two groups at the end of the first cycle. However, at the end of the third cycle, those who took calcium reported significantly fewer symptoms in most major categories -- mood swings, depression, swelling, bloating, and cramping. The only symptom that calcium supplementation failed to improve significantly was food cravings.

In the other study, which took place in Great Britain, 54 volunteers, ages 18-50, followed a similar routine -- taking the assigned pills and filling out PMS diaries. In this case, the participants received 200 mg of magnesium or placebo daily. Like the participants in the calcium study, they reported no improvement during the first cycle. However, by the end of the second cycle the participants noted significant improvement in symptoms of water retention -- weight gain, swollen limbs, and abdominal bloating -- although magnesium had no effect on cramping, mood, or food cravings.

These reports suggest two remedies that are worth trying for women with PMS. Calcium appears to offer more benefits and has the added advantage of contributing to bone density during the years before menopause. Magnesium may be helpful to women who suffer primarily from water retention. In either case, the treatment may take a few months to become fully effective.

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