According to University of Maryland Medical Center, women who have premenstrual syndrome (PMS) experience a variety of physical and emotional symptoms that occur each month from 2 to 14 days before their menstrual cycle. The symptoms usually disappear once the cycle begins. PMS may begin at any age and ends after menopause. Approximately 75% of women experience PMS to some degree, with 20% - 50% finding that symptoms disrupt their daily activities, and 3% - 5% becoming incapacitated. PMS is often accompanied by the following signs and symptoms:

  • Abnormal bloating and weight gain
  • Breast swelling, tenderness
  • Mood swings
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Skin disorders
  • Changes in appetite, food cravings
  • Headaches, backaches, cramps
  • Inability to concentrate, loss of interest in usual activities, confusion
  • Although the exact cause is unknown, several theories exist, including estrogen excess and progesterone deficiency, low blood sugar, vitamin B6 deficiency, and disregulation of prostaglandins.

Implement the following lifestyle changes to reduce PMS:

  • Exercise moderately 30 to 45 minutes daily, 4 days a week
  • Eliminate trans-fatty acids, high fructose corn syrup and processed foods in general
  • Eat calcium rich foods, including beans, almonds, and dark green leafy vegetables (such as spinach and kale).
  • Eat fewer red meats (unless grass fed) and more lean meats, cold-water fish, soy (only if properly fermented!! Only sources in typical stores in the US are miso or tempeh)
  • Use healthy cooking oils, such as coconut and grapeseed oil. Use olive oil only for low heat cooking
  • Drink caffeine in moderation, no more than 12 oz of caffeinated beverages daily, and NO soda
  • Drink 6 - 8 glasses of filtered water daily.
  • Eliminate all potential food allergens, including dairy, wheat (gluten), soy, corn, preservatives and food additives. Your health care provider may want to test for food sensitivities.

Most of our patients think that PMS is normal, and part of life. They often consume both over-the-counter (OTC) medications and prescriptions to handle the symptoms. Consumption of excessive amounts of OTC medications do have risks and side effects. (Check out our newsletter for the details.) If the above lifestyle changes do not relieve your PMS symptoms, acupuncture and herbal medicine can be a very effective solution to this syndrome.

A review of research found 7 out of 8 controlled studies (involving 807 women) showed that therapeutic effects of acupuncture were superior to other methods (i. e. Western medicine or Chinese herbs).

A separate study regarding debilitating PMS symptoms found the success rate of acupuncture in treating PMS symptoms was 77.8%, whereas it was 5.9%. in the placebo group. The positive influence of acupuncture in treating PMS symptoms can be ascribed to its effects on the serotoninergic and opioidergic neurotransmission that modulates various psychosomatic functions. “The initial positive results of PMS symptoms with a holistic approach are encouraging and AP should be suggested to the patients as a method of treatment.”

[1] Chae Y, Kim HY, Lee HJ, Park HJ, Hahm DH, An K, Lee H. The alteration of pain sensitivity at disease-specific acupuncture points in premenstrual syndrome.J Physiol Sci. 2007 Apr;57(2):115-9. Epub 2007 Mar 24.

[2] Yu JN, Liu BY, Liu ZS, Robinson V. [Evaluation of clinical therapeutic effects and safety of acupuncture treatment for premenstrual syndrome]. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2005 Jun;25(6):377-82.

[3] Habek D, Habek JC, Barbir A. Using acupuncture to treat premenstrual syndrome.Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2002 Nov;267(1):23-6.