Many promote the use of certain vitamins and minerals for the treatment of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), but controlled studies supporting the use of nutritional supplements are sparse.

There is some literature suggesting that the recommended dose of calcium (600 milligrams twice a day) can help to relieve mild to moderate symptoms of PMS. While it is unclear exactly how calcium works, it appears that levels of calcium regulating hormones fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle.

The data on whether magnesium is useful in treating PMS are limited and uncontrolled. One study did not show a magnesium deficiency in women with PMDD versus controls or a benefit after magnesium supplementation. On the other hand, another study suggested that magnesium supplementation (250 mg) can be helpful for PMS, so we can not make any robust conclusions about the efficacy of magnesium at this time.

Trials of vitamin B6 supplementation have yielded conflicting results, and high doses of vitamin B6 may cause neurological symptoms when taken over prolonged periods of time. Myo-inositol (a member of the vitamin B complex family), was no more effective than placebo in treating PMS in one study.

As part of a healthy lifestyle, women should be taking vitamins and/or supplements, particularly calcium. However, vitamin therapy does not seem to be the answer for women who have severe premenstrual symptoms.

Laura Fagioli Petrillo, MD

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Nemets B, Talesnick B, Belmaker RH, Levine J. Myo-inositol has no beneficial effect on premenstrual dysphoric disorder. World J Biol Psychiatry. 2002 Jul;3(3):147-9.

Quaranta S, Buscaglia MA, Meroni MG, Colombo E, Cella S. Pilot study of the efficacy and safety of a modified-release magnesium 250 mg tablet (Sincromag) for the treatment of premenstrual syndrome. Clin Drug Investig. 2007;27(1):51-58.

Thys-Jacobs S, Starkey P, Bernstein D, Tian J. Calcium carbonate and the premenstrual syndrome: effects on premenstrual and menstrual symptoms. Premenstrual Syndrome Study Group. Am J Obstet Gynecol 1998;179(2):444-52.