There's nothing pleasant about "that time of the month"--for both the women who struggle with it and the men in their lives who go along for the ride.
And, let's face it: It can get pretty bumpy no matter which seat you're in.
Now, researchers think they've found the secret to a smoother monthly journey-- and it's not in a pricey new drug... but in some easy-to-find supplements that have been around for ages.
Brazilian researchers recruited 120 women between the ages of 16 and 49 who had been diagnosed with premenstrual syndrome.
Since between 80 and 97 percent of all women battle the mood swings, irritability, pain and even depression that make up PMS, they shouldn't have been too hard to find.
The volunteers were divided into three groups: One got 1 gram of a supplement containing vitamin E, gamma linolenic acid, oleic acid, linoleic acid, and other polyunsaturated acids, one got 2 grams, and the third group was given mineral oils as a placebo--and all were told to take their pills every day.
Then, the women were asked to use a standardized measuring system, the Prospective Record of the Impact and Severity of Menstruation (PRISM), to rate the symptoms they experienced and their intensity over a six-month period.
By the three-month mark, all three groups showed some improvement--although those taking the placebo had the smallest change.
And at six months, the differences were even more pronounced: The women on the placebo went back to their pre-study levels of pain and distress, while those taking the supplements showed dramatic improvements.
The women who took the biggest dose got the biggest boost, reporting an average drop in PRISM scores from 98 all the way down to 28, according to the study in the journal Reproductive Health.
If this holds up to further study, it would be a huge leap forward for the millions of women who either aren't taken seriously by their docs--"it's just the cramps, it'll go away"--or, even worse, are given risky off-label drugs.
Many women are even given Prozac for PMS--despite the fact that it doesn't do a thing for half the women who try it and puts them all at risk for side effects that can make a case of the cramps feel like a tummy rumble.
In one study of Prozac for PMS, a third of the women who took the higher dose of the drug dropped out because of those side effects, which can include sexual problems, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, bleeding problems and stomach pain.
Did you catch that last one? The treatment that's supposed to end one form of stomach pain... can actually leave you with another.
That's a Big Pharma approach if I've ever heard one.