Natural health: premenstrual syndrome

My PMS seems to be getting worse as I get older. Is there a natural remedy you could recommend? 
Natural health: premenstrual syndrome
Vitex agnus-castus. Picture: Stock image

Q1. My PMS seems to be getting worse as I get older. When I was a teenager my mood would dip just before my period. I'm now in my early 30s and get depressed and irritable during the two weeks before my periods. This means I feel normal only half of the time. Is there a natural remedy you could recommend? 

A. There are a number of factors at play when it comes to PMS, particularly as we enter our 30s and 40s. Often the progesterone-oestrogen ratio can become out of balance  — a significant factor where depression and irritability are concerned.
Calcium and magnesium are important nutrients supporting the oestrogen-progesterone balance, along with muscle and nerve health. Cal-M from G & G Vitamins is a highly bioavailable instant drink powder made from calcium, magnesium and organic cider vinegar, where one teaspoon contains 164mg calcium and 12.6mg magnesium. Cal-M is available from its website at, where 100g of powder costs €12.28.

The liver is an often-overlooked organ when it comes to hormone health, but plays a crucial role in the regulation of sex hormones, adrenal hormones, and thyroid hormones. Support your liver using herbs such as milk thistle and dandelion root.
Another hormone-specific herb many women find useful in treating symptoms such as
fluid retention, weight gain, acne or spots, mood swings, anxiety, depression, and weepiness is Vitex Magnus castus (also called Chasteberry or Monk’s Pepper). 
Agnus castus can balance physical and emotional pre-menstrual symptoms along with cycle regulation (heavy or light flow, intermittent bleeding, unusually short or long cycles).  
Many women use Agnus castus to help with fertility, particularly where follicular ovarian cysts, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), fibroids, and endometriosis are underlying issues. It can also help to rebalance hormonal health after use of hormone-based contraception, such as the pill. A surprising health recommendation when it comes to regulating pre-menstrual mood imbalances is dark chocolate. Good quality dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao content contains vitamins B6 and E, along with the minerals calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

Q2. I am an 83-year-old woman. I've been suffering from diarrhoea for a number of years. My clothes used to be a size 16, now I wear a size 10. I am careful to avoid fruit and high-fibre cereals. I take medication but it doesn't always work. What would you suggest?

A. Chronic diarrhoea is something that you should go and talk to your doctor about. There are a number of conditions where diarrhoea is a symptom, so it is a good idea to get to the root cause of this issue as soon as possible, not least because this will mean you are not absorbing nutrients well at all and may, in fact, be quite deficient in key vitamins and minerals.
The most common conditions causing diarrhoea and weight loss (along with other symptoms such as abdominal cramping, pain, rectal bleeding, and sometimes ulceration) are Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. 

These fall under the category of inflammatory bowel disorders due to the inflammation and irritation present in the gastrointestinal tract. Ask your doctor to determine if you have an IBD or another underlying condition or autoimmune disorder triggering the diarrhoea. You could also ask your doctor to recommend a specialist to test for deficiencies and determine if supplementation will help.

Zinc supplementation is not only important in boosting the immune system and repair of the damaged intestinal cells — but also removes free radicals from the bloodstream, which have been shown to contribute to inflammation and cell damage in Crohn’s disease. Failure to absorb iron and folic acid can also lead to anaemia, but you should only supplement these two if your levels are low.

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