Like 90% of menstruating women, I experience PMS.
I think I get every PMS symptom in the book: irritability, digestive upset, anxiety, bloating, cramps and fatigue. Over the past few years, as I’ve pushed 40, I’ve endured an uptake in migraine symptoms before my period — and a few months ago, the PMS migraines were becoming impossible to manage.
As anyone who gets migraines will tell you, they are a full-body experience, replete with dizziness, nausea, vision changes and pain. My most recent bout had involved pain radiating down the entire right half of my body — from my head, down my neck and back, all the way to my toes. I was having difficulty performing day-to-day tasks and couldn’t sleep comfortably.
Desperate not to repeat something like that again, I scoured the internet for solutions. Over-the- counter painkillers were somewhat helpful, but I was looking for something that would prevent my PMS-related migraines in the first place — preferably something natural. I’d already tried yoga, meditation, exercise and a balanced diet, but they weren’t doing the trick. I was also wary of trying any supplements that weren’t medically proven to combat the issue.
Enter magnesium. Medical studies have shown that many women are deficient in this mineral, and that this may be linked to PMS. A 2007 study published in Clinical Drug Investigation found that women who took magnesium supplements toward the end of their cycles (from the twentieth day to the start of the next period) had a marked decrease in PMS symptoms.
As someone who has well-managed but pretty severe irritable bowel syndrome, I was a little hesitant to try magnesium supplements, because I know they sometimes cause loose stools and diarrhea — after all, magnesium contains natural laxative effects. However, I did some research, and it sounded like most digestive upset happens when large doses are consumed.
Still, I took precautions and took a moderate 250 mg of magnesium, which is the same amount the participants in the Clinical Drug Investigation study consumed. I also made sure to increase my intake slowly, starting with every other day, and increasing to daily, especially as my period drew closer. Luckily I didn’t notice any change in my digestion.
After the first month of supplementing with magnesium, I didn’t notice a major shift in PMS symptoms, but I did notice a few changes. There was still a fair amount of moodiness (just ask my poor family!) and bloating, but perhaps a little less of the other symptoms. I also had a headache, but not a full-fledged migraine.
Nonetheless, I was hesitant to attribute this effect to magnesium supplementation, because my PMS symptoms vary from month to month anyway. I thought perhaps I was just having a better month for some random reason. The second month was similar — fewer symptoms, and no migraine, but definitely feeling “PMS-y.”
It was the third month when it started to feel as though something was shifting. Although I knew my period was coming, based on the calendar, I had virtually no PMS symptoms to alert me of that fact. I experienced some irritability, but it was less than usual. I had no bloating, headache, digestive issues, and hardly any cramps at all.
Excessive magnesium can have negative side effects for some consumers (those with kidney disease must be especially careful), but for me there was no harm in taking the supplements, and it seemed to me that it actually helped.
Another study I found, published in the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, concluded that magnesium supplementation that includes vitamin B6 shows even more promise for PMS management than just magnesium alone, so I may try that next. Hey, maybe I can get rid of my PMS mood swings for good!
I recommend trying out magnesium if you experience bothersome PMS symptoms, and definitely if they include migraines. As always, you should consult with a medical professional before you begin a supplementation program. Your healthcare provider can check for a deficiency, let you know about any potential concerns (e.g. interactions with medication), and help you determine if magnesium supplementation is right for you.
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