Omega 6 Fatty Acids (GLA)
Deficiency of essential fatty acids has been reported in women with PMS. Omega 6
fatty acids in the form of linoleic acid, are converted into gamma linolenic acid (GLA)
and eventually into prostaglandins – hormone like substances – that control a variety
of physiological functions including hormone production and nerve transmission, both
particularly relevant in prevention of PMS. GLA from evening primrose or borage oil
has been shown to improve many symptoms including pre-menstrual headaches,
depression, irritability, and bloating. Use in conjunction with omega 3 fatty acids – see
Omega 3 Fatty acids (fish oil, flax oil)
Whilst there is a great deal of evidence for the use of omega 6 fatty acids in PMS recent
studies suggest the combination of omega 3 and 6 together is a more appropriate
recommendation. In fact it is likely that the supplementation of omega 6 fatty acids
alone could, in some circumstances, actually exacerbate the condition.
Approximately 70% of PMS cases are attributable to elevated oestrogen levels.
Methionine may facilitate the removal of excessive oestrogen in the body by promoting
its inactivation in the liver through the process of methylation. In addition, methionine
promotes the excretion of bile – the substance in which inactivated oestrogen is carried
into the gut where it is incorporated into faeces for removal from the body. As a
lipotropic factor, methionine also prevents the build-up of fat in the liver, a factor that
can promote hyperoestrogenism. Best results may be obtained when methionine is
combined with additional B6 and dietary fibre (fibre aids the removal of detoxified
oestrogen via the gut).
B6 has been widely studied for its effectiveness in the prevention of PMS symptoms,
despite the fact that this is a disorder with multiple causes. In one double blind, cross
over trial, 84% of the subjects experienced less of the symptoms associated with PMS
when taking B6 daily. B6 is required for hormonal balance as well as being involved in
brain chemistry and nervous system function, all of which are relevant to PMS. Some
women may have inefficient conversion of B6 into its active form, in which case the use
of its co-enzyme, pyridoxal-5-phosphate (P-5-P) may be advisable.
Several scientific studies have found that women suffering with PMS have significantly
lower magnesium levels compared with controls. Magnesium plays a key role in the
regulation of many hormones and neurotransmitters, therefore all categories of PMS
would benefit from supplementing magnesium.
It regulates aldosterone production (which causes fluid retention),
needed for balancing neurotransmitters in the brain (relieving mood swings),
helps regulate insulin production (reducing ‘sugar’ cravings and increased appetite),
reduces stress hormones which in turn prevents the breakdown of mood elevating
neurotransmitters in the brain (alleviates depression)
In a study undertaken by Japanese researchers l-theanine appears to be of value for
women with premenstrual syndrome. 20 women suffering with PMS were given 200mg
of L-theanine per day and were assessed using a distress questionnaire. Theanine
caused documented reductions in mental, social and physical symptoms associated with
PMS, and was significantly better than placebo.
Premenstrual Syndrome Summary
Nutrient/Herb Typical intake range
Omega 6 fatty acids (borage or EPO) 1 150 – 450mg GLA per day
Omega 3 fatty acids (fish or flax)2 1000 – 3000mg fish oil or equivalent per day
L-Methionine3 500 – 1000mg per day (away from food)
Vitamin B64 50 – 100mg per day
Magnesium5 200 – 600mg per day
L-Theanine6 50-600mg per day
Nuts and seeds
Minimise exposure to environmental oestrogens (e.g. plastics)
Minimise impact of stress (stress management techniques)
1. Some reports suggest GLA is contraindicated in epilepsy. Epileptics should use only under
2. Do not take in conjunction with anticoagulant medication
3. May be beneficial alongside acetaminophen, methotrexate and gentamicin.
4. It is advised to ensure adequate intake of vitamin B6, B12 and folic acid when taking high levels
of l-methionine. Persons with bi-polar (manic) depression should not take Methionine or SAMe.
Caution with schizophrenia, hepatic and renal failure – only under medical supervision.
5. Concurrent use with Parkinson’s medication under medical supervision only. Do not use high
doses during last trimester of pregnancy or lactation (may reduce breast milk production)
6. Do not use during pregnancy or lactation. Do not use with anxiolytic medication, or other drugs
that alter brain chemistry unless under medical supervision.