Nutritional factors in the etiology of the premenstrual tension syndromes

J Reprod Med. 1983 Jul;28(7):446-64.


The premenstrual symptom complex many women experience in a moderate to severe form can be divided into four subgroups. Because there is more than one syndrome and nervous tension is one of the most common symptoms, the term premenstrual tension syndromes (PMTS) is used. The most common subgroup, PMT-A, consists of premenstrual anxiety, irritability and nervous tension, sometimes expressed in behavior patterns detrimental to self, family and society. Elevated blood estrogen and low progesterone have been observed in this subgroup. Administration of vitamin B6 at doses of 200-800 mg/day reduces blood estrogen, increases progesterone and results in improved symptoms under double-blind conditions. Women in this subgroup consume an excessive amount of dairy products and refined sugar, and progesterone may be of value in them. The second-most-common subgroup, PMT-H, is associated with symptoms of water and salt retention, abdominal bloating, mastalgia and weight gain. The severe form of PMT-H is associated with elevated serum aldosterone. Vitamin B6 at high dosage suppresses aldosterone and results in diuresis and clinical improvement. Vitamin E helps the breast symptoms. Methylxanthines and nicotine should be curtailed and sodium limited to 3 gm/day. PMT-C is characterized by premenstrual craving for sweets, increased appetite and indulgence in eating refined sugar followed by palpitation, fatigue, fainting spells, headache and sometimes the shakes. PMT-C patients have increased carbohydrate tolerance and low red-cell magnesium. Adequate magnesium replacement results in improved glucose tolerance tests and decreased PMT-C symptoms. Deficiency of the prostaglandin PGE1 may also be involved in PMT-C. PMT-D is the least common but most dangerous because suicide is most frequent in this subgroup. The symptoms are depression, withdrawal, insomnia, forgetfulness and confusion. In ten PMT-D patients the mean blood estrogen was lower and the mean blood progesterone higher than normal during the midluteal phase. Elevated adrenal androgens are observed in some hirsute PMT-D patients. Two PMT-D patients with normal blood progesterone and estrogens had high lead levels in hair tissue and chronic lead intoxication. This subgroups needs careful medical attention when the symptoms are severe. Therapy should be individualized according to the results of the evaluation.

MeSH terms

  • Diet
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnesium Deficiency / complications
  • Premenstrual Syndrome / diagnosis
  • Premenstrual Syndrome / diet therapy*
  • Premenstrual Syndrome / etiology
  • Vitamin B Deficiency / complications