Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, is a recurrent condition of discomfort before and during menstruation affecting approximately 1 in 3 women in the United States. PMS can begin in adolescence, but it is most severe for women in their 40’s. Symptoms disappear at menopause. There is no definitive explanation of the causes of the disease. It is not due to excessive estrogen levels, deficient estrogen levels, discontinuation of estrogen therapy, deficient progesterone, vitamin deficiency, insulin resistance, or electrolyte imbalances.
Modern medicine sometimes prescribes the “heavy artillery” of antipsychotic medication for PMS. While rare cases require antidepressant medication, but the primary documented effect of low-dose antidepressants such as fluvoxamine (Luvox) in PMS is to increase the incidence of “caffeine craziness” in women sensitive to caffeine. Progesterone, the principal component in birth control pills, is also frequently prescribed, but study of 5,891 women found it to be of limited or no benefit. Most women benefit from a natural, nutritional approach. Several supplements relieve symptoms of PMS without risk of serious side effects.
Calcium is the simplest and least expensive intervention for PMS. A clinical study involving 497 women at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital in New York found taking 1,200 mg of calcium carbonate daily led to a lessening of fluid retention, food cravings, and pain after 3 months. Calcium is effective without limitation by age, height, weight, use of oral contraceptives, or length of the menstrual period.
Calcium carbonate is least absorbed form of supplemental calcium, and in this case, its lack of bioavailability is a good thing. The calcium in calcium carbonate forms “soaps” that trap excess estrogen and cholesterol, giving the body a chance to rebalance itself. After three months, however, rely on calcium-rich foods, such as arugula, Chinese cabbage, dairy products, mesclun, and turnip greens. Prepare vegetables with a minimum of salt.
Q. My period is brown. Will calcium help?
A. Brown blood is usually "dead" blood, that's taken a relatively long time to flow. It's typically not a sign of anything other than that the blood has oxidized. Calcium will not change this.