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UC study supports use of nutrients in treatment of PMS


Findings from a new study offer a way forward for women seeking choice in how they safely manage premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Around 20 to 30 per cent of women suffer from PMS each month, with some experiencing an even more severe form known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Hormonal treatments or anti-depressants are commonly prescribed to alleviate the debilitating symptoms of PMS.

To date, there has been little research into the efficacy of other potential treatment options, such as multi-nutrient treatments. Christchurch clinical psychologist Dr Hāna Retallick–Brown has addressed that shortfall in a recent PhD study, conducted at the University of Canterbury (UC). Her findings indicate that nutrients offer a viable, safe treatment option for women suffering from PMS.

Supported by UC Psychology Professors Julia Rucklidge and Neville Blampied, her study collected data on women with PMS over three menstrual cycles to compare the efficacy or otherwise of a micronutrient formula of blended vitamins and minerals versus a single nutrient (vitamin B6). Eighty women took part, recruited largely from within the Canterbury region using social media advertising and poster promotions.

She found that women taking either formula experienced comparable benefits through reduction in PMS symptoms though the women taking the multi-nutrient formula rated their quality of life as better at the end of three months of treatment. After three cycles, 72 per cent of women in the multi-nutrient group and 60 per cent of the women in the vitamin B6 group were in full remission from PMS symptoms. Both formulations were equally safe, with few or no side effects detected.

“I was surprised by the results as I had expected that the multi-nutrient formula would prove significantly better than a single nutrient treatment,” she says. “Although we saw a trend towards this in the subgroup of women with PMDD, the sample size was not large enough to confirm the superiority of multi-nutrient treatment.”

The study, published in January 2020, points to the value of pursuing further research into the use of nutrients to treat PMS, particularly PMDD, as well as exploring what more can be done to enhance nutrient formulas.

“This is a topic important to many women within New Zealand and around the world.”

Dr Retallick-Brown, who finished her Diploma in Clinical Psychology in February 2019, plans to continue developing her skills in clinical work, currently in the field of mental health and health based psychology.

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