Thank you to my nutrition professor who first taught me about vitamin B6 for PMS. It is a miracle medicine for premenstrual irritability, weepiness, and fluid retention.
I still remember B6 as the eureka moment in my natural hormone journey. I thought “Wow! Now here is something.” Natural medicine just got serious. Suddenly, I had much higher expectations of period health. It is possible—indeed, it is expected—to have periods that arrive smoothly, and without symptoms.
PMS is common, but it’s not normal.
The big question is: Why does B6 work so well? How can we have a magic bullet, when we don’t yet fully understand what PMS even is?
What Is PMS?
Our current understanding is that premenstrual syndrome results from a complex interplay of GABA, serotonin and a progesterone metabolite called allopregnanolone, (ALLO). ALLO has a calming, valium-type effect on the GABA receptor. Swedish researcher Ericka Timby found that the GABA receptors of PMS-sufferers are less sensitive to ALLO than normal. Receptor resistance may be caused by serotonin deficiency, chronic inflammation and things yet to be discovered. GABA stimulation can be enhanced with low-dose natural progesterone, and this works for some women, but unfortunately not for all (possibly because they use too much).
B6 Relieves PMS
The activated form of B6 (P-5-P or P5P) works at almost every aspect of the PMS story. It even works for severe PMS (called PMDD). P5P is essential for the synthesis of steroid hormones, particularly progesterone. It’s involved in the manufacture of the key neurotransmitters: both GABA and serotonin. B6 also promotes anti-inflammatory prostaglandins, and assists with the healthy detoxification of estrogen. It also reduces histamine, which is a common cause of PMS.
B6 is found in foods like fish, poultry, and nuts. But my experience is that most people need a supplement. The active form (P5P) is best, and please get advice before taking more than 50mg per day. (High doses can cause nerve damage.)
Other Serious Cures for PMS:
- The wonderful herbal medicine Vitex (Chaste tree) has done very well in clinical trials. Vitex stimulates the ovaries to make more progesterone, and lowers prolactin. I advise you to use this herb under guidance, because it is powerful treatment. It increases luteinizing hormone (LH), so should not be combined with fertility drugs, and is not appropriate for some types of PCOS. Vitex should not be given to young teens, or used for more than nine months continuously.
- Rhodiola and other adaptogen herbs alleviate PMS by preventing the depletion of progesterone and ALLO by stress. Stress hormones are steroid hormones. They’re sister hormones to estrogen and progesterone. So stress, even early in the cycle—weeks before the period—can translate into PMS later on. The period is the report card of the cycle.
- Magnesium works together with B6 to manufacture progesterone. Magnesium also calms the nervous system. The best form is magnesium glycinate because of the additional benefits of glycine itself. Glycine is a calming neurotransmitter, and is also involved in estrogen detoxification.
- Ensure healthy intestinal flora so that they can do their job of escorting estrogen metabolites from the body. Healthy gut bacteria also enhance GABA activity. Please avoid antibiotics for the sake of your hormones.
- Cut back on alcohol because it depletes the body of ALLO. Women shouldn’t have more than five standard drinks per week.
- Avoid inflammatory foods like sugar, gluten and A1 milk because chronic inflammation interferes with the GABA receptor.
For more information on PMS, please also see:
- The PMS Solution
- The Curious Link Between Estrogen and Histamine Intolerance
- Chapter 8 of Period Repair Manual
Yours in Health,