An end to PMS?

Few things frighten me as much as Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). Wild animals, nasty unappreciative teenagers, aggressive wheat trade groups . . . you name it, I’ll take it head on.

But not a woman with PMS.

Few things can match the fury and wild emotional roller coaster ride of a woman’s monthly hormonal episode. So I found Susan’s comment to the Wheat Belly Blog so fascinating, a tantalizing description of PMS potentially . . . gone:

Among a few other health issues, one that was troublesome, but I thought, manageable was wicked PMS. I’m talking about relationship-threatening, everybody leave me alone, don’t even think about talking to me PMS, a full week every single month. It was easy to recognize, and it was usually the first temper tantrum each month that had my family, mostly hubby, running for cover. I would also be bloated, tired, and constipated.

When I bought your book two weeks ago, and started wheat-free, I actually didn’t even think about this part of my health. Guess what….NO PMS this month! A little edgy for a day or so, but work was hectic, and I sure wasn’t paying attention to the calendar.

At dinner tonight, I asked my husband and 14 year old if they had noticed PMS for the past week. The 14 year old is brutally honest, and would have come out with it. She said “no” right away. Hubby noticed the slight “edge” for two days, again attributing it to work.

I am simply amazed. Having accepted this as who I was for the last 30-something years, I am astounded that this simple change has made all the difference. My family thanks you, Dr. Davis! Stay tuned for the continuing successes I hope to have.

Isn’t that incredible?

Will this continue? Of 100 women with toxic-range PMS, how many will experience such relief? I really don’t know, since it is not something I have purposefully looked for.

But, if it holds true, why? What is in this thing that causes such extravagant emotional effects in sync with menstrual cycle? You will notice that, even with knowing about wheat gluten, gliadin, lectins, and amylopectin A, the effect of removing wheat is greater than the sum of the parts.

I believe it explains why, despite all we do know about this genetically-altered Frankengrain, there are things about it we still do not know . . . and new lessons being learned on all the wonderful things that happen when you say goodbye to it.

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Comments & Feedback...

  1. I wish I were that lucky. I don’t have pre-menstrual symptoms, but I do have terrible pains during the first 4-5 days of my week-long period. It’s been gradually getting worse for years, and nothing I’ve done has ever alleviated it. I just drink lots of tea and wait it out, hoping the worst of it passes on days I’m off work, because I’m useless.

    And, no, getting rid of wheat hasn’t changed a thing.

    • Dorothy S.

      @Jennifer Snow – Jennifer, I agree that eliminating wheat won’t solve everything, although it certiainly fixes a lot of things! I wanted to share a personal experience in case it helps you or others.

      A few years ago, I lost a about 40 lbs on a low carb diet. Although I noticed a lot of amazing health benefits I wasn’t even expecting, around the same time my periods started to get considerably worse (PMS itself was much better, but my cramps got to the point where I couldn’t leave the house for fearl I’d be caught out in public overcome with unbearable, buckle-over-in-the-fetal position type pain. I was about 38 years old at that time.

      After about a year of this, I was finally ready to go to the doctor about it, when I found out I was pregnant. At my first ultrasound it turned out I had two fairly large uterine fibroids. We suspected that might have been the cause of that awful pain. Hiowever, we were never were able to confirm it since I was no longer menstruating, and miraculously and mysteriously, after the birth my menstrual pain went away, fibroids notwithstanding, and hasn’t returned. (Thankfully they didn’t interfere with the pregnancy)

      To this day I don’t know for sure why the pain went away, and I have failed to look into it further, but recently I read something that made my jaw drop, regarding the estrogen-like hormones in commercially raised beef and poultry being a common cause of fibroids. Also something about how the estrogens in our own fat as we burn it could contribute to them as well. I can’t find either link at the moment. I will post if I do or maybe someone else has some info?

      In any case, I strongly suspect that suddenly upping my consumption of meat – of the commercial variety – might very well have been a source of the problem. By the time the pain started getting really bad, I had been low-carbing for nearly two years, and had burned a good 30 lbs of my own fat, with commercial red meat being a huge part of my diet, generally.

      If you haven’t seen a doctor about your pain, it could be worth looking into whether you have fibroids or maybe endometriosis.

      My big lesson learned was that this sure is a good argument for only eating animals who eat their natural diet!

    • Three months with no change is pretty indicative that it’s not the wheat that was causing the problem. It is not a magic cure for any and all ills. From what I can tell, I’m actually highly tolerant of wheat proteins (compared to most people, anyway). I’m just enormously fat. So I’ve eliminated almost all carbs from my diet, not just wheat. The weight is slowly diminishing, and I’ve shown some improvement overall (aches and pains decreasing, digestive system behaving better), but nothing dramatic.

      I don’t expect there will be any drama, really, because I was never really “sick”. I’ve always been amazingly healthy given how fat I was.

      • That’s right, Jennifer: Wheat removal does not constitute a cure for all human illness.

        You can fall down the stairs and break your leg. You can develop pneumonia. You can develop bone cancer that has nothing to do with wheat.

        But what if wheat elimination reduced the burden of disease and obesity by, say, 60%? I know of nothing that even comes this close.

        • Heidi P.

          I’ve been wheat-free for 5 months now, and this month I had the most regular, mundane (yea) period ever. Less cramps, way less PMS. A lot changed for me as I rounded the 4 month mark. I don’t know that my experience is all from the wheat removal, but I am guessing it took a while for my metabolism to right itself?
          Also had great weight loss and energy at the beginning, then about 2 1/2 months of less energy and a weight plateau – both of which ended a at about month 4, adding to my hypothesis… :)

          • Hi, Heidi–

            That’s a bit of an unusual response. Nonetheless, I’ll take it!

            Have you considered the seasonal variation in vitamin D status? This can enter into the picture, as well.

    • Yeah, that would be unusual, Lorraine. We can hope, but I don’t think I would be optimistic about this one, since wheat elimination, if anything, tends to drop estrogen levels, not increase as would be necessary to relieve hot flashes.

  2. jenna

    I have suffered from horrible PMS and cramping since I was 11 years old. Tea (caffeine) makes PMS / cramps a lot worse. I try to avoid it the week before my period and I replace it with a ton of water. And believe me, this is coming from a person who drinks cappuccinos in the morning and hot tea all day long. When I do drop my caffeine intake I won’t have cramps, get my period, then think, “oh, it’s here, I can have a cappuccino.” As soon as I drink it the cramps come raging back, and that is not an exaggeration!

    Taking B complex also can relieve cramps / PMS. Try this, good luck!

    • Don’t ask me why, but I have the opposite response to caffeine–it’s about the only thing that helps alleviate my symptoms. During my period is the only time I pursue caffeine as a result–I just drink water the rest of the month because I don’t really experience the other stimulant effects of caffeine (well, until my heart starts racing–it doesn’t ever make me feel alert/energetic like it seems to do for some people).

      I think part of the reason for this is that if I only drink water during my period (or in the two days before), I bloat up. A lot. Caffeinated, sugared water (e.g. tea, Pepsi) seems to get handled in a normal manner, however, and it helps keep me from getting constipated which contributes to the cramping and pain.

      The very best thing I’ve ever found (and this is going to sound bizarre) is chai tea with vanilla ice cream in it. The only (mostly) painless period I’ve ever had in the past few years was a result of drinking quite a lot of that. However, I’m not going to take that much sugar any more, so I’ve been looking for a substitute.

      This month I tried drinking tea with coconut oil in it, and it really helped clear up my dehydration/cramping/constipation. It also *ahem* gave me the scoots, but I think that’s because I drank too much of it at once due to feeling lousy. If I stretch the dosage out more in the future, it should help.

      • Wacky. But I won’t pose as an expert in female problems including PMS.

        I hope you find the answer. Tea with coconut oil would be a novel solution!

        • It is wacky, indeed. I think it’s largely the result of several relatively asymptomatic problems (aside from the obesity, which is pretty durn obvious) stacked on top of each other, so I have to do something about all of the issues before I’ll start seeing improvement.

  3. Julie

    Have you seen your doctor and asked if its Endometriosis? My sister eneded up having a full hysterectomy at 26 because of this utterly disabling condition.
    I have had a TCRE, because of excessivly heavy periods, it worked wonders. (Trans Cervical Re-section of the Endometrium).

  4. Regarding the emotional side of PMS (or PMT as we say over here), I find that I am calmer generally which makes me (slightly) less snappy than usual at that certain time. I noticed this around the time I dropped my carbs, which of course would include a reduction in wheat. I wondered whether the extra fat in my diet also had an effect. I think generally my vitamin uptake is probably better because I eat fewer starches and more fat. That’s my theory anyway.

    • Ah, JJ: The momentum builds!

      I like wheat elimination a whole lot better than antidepressants, pain meds, and the other agents used to blunt the discomfort.

  5. After 3 months grain-free, I realized my PMS symptoms had disappeared…to the point that my period sneaks up on me…it is amazing and I’m so grateful.

  6. olivia

    I’ve had virtually disabling menstrual problems for 30 years – terrible cramps, heavy blood loss over 10 days or so, PMT bad enough to make everyone run for cover. In February I stopped carbs (wheat particularly). Nothing changed, in fact, things got worse and I started to despair. But, as the lbs dropped off (58 of them so far), things began to improve and the last 2 months have been magic. No PMT, no bloating, no indication that my period was on it’s way – and only 4 – 5 days of light bleeding. It took it’s time, and I hope it continues as it has made such a difference!

  7. Bex

    I’m hoping the same rings true for me – have eliminated grains and dairy for a month, gone hardcore paleo, and this last period was pretty grim, PMT wise. I was snappier, my 3 day long, pre-menstrual groggy headache was worse, and lasted 4 days, and my cramps got worse towards the end of my period. Most odd….
    Will be gutted if it’s not getting better within 3 or 4 months!

    • Hi, Bex–

      I wonder if you are among the few experiencing a prolonged wheat withdrawal effect and it may all get better with patience.

      Please let us know what happens over a longer timeline.

  8. Ailu

    I dunno, do you think perhaps it might be an inadvertent reduction in soy products? Many wheat products also contain soy. I was a vegetarian for years, ate a lot of soy and ended up with endometriosis, fibroids, and debilitating breast pain. When I eliminated carbs (and thus soy) all my horrible PMS symptoms went away. I didn’t realize it was the soy, until a year later when I invited a vegetarian friend to dinner and for her sake, added Tofu to the dish. All the PMS symptoms came back upon me with a vengeance, and didn’t subside until a month later.

    Dr. Davis, bought your book a few days ago, and have to say, it is exceptional not only for the research, but your bright wit shines thru as well. If you are up to the task sometime in the future, I’d love to see you tackle soy. – Perhaps we may discover that it is even more evil than modern wheat! :-)

    • Hi, Ailu-

      I do believe there are people who respond in peculiar ways to soy. There are also problems with dairy, both lactose intolerance and allergic/immune reactions. Nuts can be a problem for some people.

      I do believe, however, that wheat stands apart as the worst of the worst in the majority of people, an effect so large and daunting that, more than any other factor I believe, is responsible for the obesity and diabetes crisis we now face . . . all while we are told to eat more “healthy whole grains.”

  9. Cate

    Yep, I can sing to this tune too — I’m not a miracle case as I’ve never had particularly bad periods, but I’ve always had what I considered normal cramping. I don’t think anywhere close to some of the horror stories I’ve heard described.

    But post-wheat, they’re all gone. I’ve also been more or less paleo, but that’s been off and on, whereas been off wheat for about a year. I can’t remember when it stopped, but it did. And the pattern changed for me. Shorter, a bit less intense, and now I always get a really clear little ‘warning’ — instead of cramping, a day of v mild spotting, a day off, then a period for 3 or 4 days. Usually without pain. Cool stuff.

    I also used to get joint pain during my period, uncomfortable and woke me up in the middle of the night (linked to what later became a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis, which is COMPLETELY KICKED to the curb now unless I accidentally get some wheat in my system), and that’s gone too.

    Cool stuff. I have to stop myself evangelising too often to women complaining about periods…

  10. Henk Poley

    Could it be the add vitamin D that you recommend, or maybe iodine from eating more fish or for example seaweed containing salads? Both of these have been shown to reduce hormonal related problems (especially the iodine for women).

    • In my office practice, it’s probably a combination of the diet and vitamin D.

      However, in the females reporting improved PMS symptoms here and Facebook, where I have not been talking much about vitamin D, I believe it’s the diet.

  11. Rachael

    “Few things can match the fury and wild emotional roller coaster ride of a woman’s monthly hormonal episode.”
    Pretty sure you could have said this in a less insulting, less exaggerating way.

  12. Laura

    I was mis diagnosed with IBS last November, after numerous non conclusive tests from my run of the mill gp. I was the typical healthy woman that could everything in any quantity and keep a healthy weight, althougt underweight for the standard population. I did of course eat gluten and processed foods in equally amounts to healthy alternatives, and I had just started to cut out the wheat and introduced meat after being mostly vegetarian for 6 years. In general I just ate probably less than the average. I was 100 lbs after two kids and fit without even trying, genetics?.
    Then one day we went out for dinner, fish and chips and then hot chocolate and a brownie. After that sleepless and painful night, I became lactose, gluten and probably sugar intolerant, ex. Coke. I believe my intestines were damage from fish??and enjoyed all the typical symptom related with abdominal discomfort . I lost 10 lbs during next few month after that dinner and since, I just become that person that needs eat mostly non processed food, probiotics and has the typical sympoms if I do not take care of what I put in my body. There is one good thing from all this, my PMS symptoms are almost gone. I think it has to do with a dairy as well as gluten free diet.

  13. denize jandro

    I did a search on this topic on your blog to see if it had helped anyone else. One week wheat free and Pms was mostly gone. The joint pain is still around, but I will give it some time. The depression from being hungry (and not wanting to eat junk) is gone. I have had a few cravings that I was able to ignore ; that hasn’t happened in a long time.

  14. Janice

    My PMS is always bad. My family can see my period coming, long before I even realize it! Cranky and irritable, do not come near me is right! Even going just low carb and having bread once in awhile, I was miserable to be around! Just cranky all of the time! And after reading the book, I now know why!!!!
    I’ve only been wheat free for 5 days now, but I am bery excited to see if it changes for my next cycle.

  15. Naomi Rozak

    @Jennifer Snow, consider reading the book, “What your doctor may not tell you about premenopause” by John R. Lee MD. This books deals with the symptoms just about every woman you talk with is experiencing and the bottom line can be that we are being overloaded with high estrogen from the environment and the food we eat and even by our doctors in an attempt to balance our hormones. Eating well does often help symptoms but sometimes we need to supply something our bodies are lacking due to the extreme environmental stress they are going through. If you don’t read the book, perhaps google “natural progesterone cream” and read up on it. Progesterone is a hormone widely overlooked that balances the force of estrogen in our systems. it’s supposed to naturally be there but unfortunately we just don’t produce it anymore the way we should, or if we do, estrogen is in such high dominance that the progesterone doesn’t have a chance. There are a variety of reasons for the symptoms we experience but at least you could eliminate hormonal imbalance as one of them. ;)

  16. Laura

    I have had the worst PMS symptoms for more than 15 years. At least one day of the month I was unable to work, lying in bed and popping painkillers like they were chocolates. I had see many gynocologists and all had done many exams and said I was fine and didn’t have any major related causes of concern such as endometriosis or cysts.
    for 15 years I had every month very painful cramps, extremely heavy period, headaches, joint aches, bloating, gases, diarrhea and of course really bad humor.
    after reading your book I quit wheat and for the first time in my life my PMS symptoms are greatly diminished (I would say an improvement of 90%). Thank you!

  17. Bryna

    Hi Jennifer,

    I’m in the same boat as you. I get terrible menstrual cramps about a week before my period and the whole week I’m on it. I only have relief every other two weeks! I’ve tried everything under the sun (including various brands of birth control that made me waaayyy too emotional and “unbalanced”). I am also hoping that going wheat-free completely eliminates them. However, since going wheat free hasn’t worked for you, consider taking Krill Oil (fish capsule) and/or Chaste Berry Herbal supplement. I take both every day and they have really helped (also exercise helps, but sometimes you need something that can take away the pain enough to get out of bed to start exercising!) I take Nature’s Way EfaGold Krill Oil (a capsule every day preferably after the meal with the highest fat content so it can be absorbed–I take it usually after dinner and during my period, I take two per day. With Chaste Berry, I’ve taken different brands, usually found at my local health food store. I take one pill in the morning after breakfast. Both can be a bit expensive, but well worth it in the end! Also, Krill Oil is a great antioxidant and helps with joint pain and extra heart health. Also, my doctor who suggested Chaste Berry warned that it makes women extra fertile. Hope this helps!

    One more thing– if you don’t take one or the other (or both–I think both is best) consistently, you will cramps your next period. And it will take about 3 months for them to start working. It won’t be instant magic, but taking them consistently may greatly help you. It did for me and I was MISERABLE (vomiting, fainting, agony!)

  18. Andrea

    Since I have started eating a more primal diet, aka “wheat free”, for only 3 weeks, I have realized that all of a sudden my mood swings are gone! I am supposed to be PMSing this week and I feel fine. I usually am argumentative, irrational, cranky, and just unpleasant to be around. None of that anymore! It’s so liberating! I have been begging doctors for PMS help and had no such luck. I took supplements and vitamins religiously, that did not touch it. Only going wheat free did it for me.

  19. Anne

    I read Dr. Davis’ book 6 weeks ago and have been following a wheat free diet since. The first week was a bit tricky, but now I love it, and my family as well as I am back to cooking all different new recipes all the time.

    I have yet to lose any weight (sigh) but am not really very overweight so perhaps that is why. I would like to lose 10 lbs that have crept up the last decade or so..

    However, I have not had PMS or cramps at all with my periods. It is INCREDIBLE!! I have my entire life dreaded getting my period as I would cry (every single time) 2 days before, be super cranky and irritable. I have now had 2 periods since beginning my wheat free life, and ZERO pain, ZERO crying, ZERO PMS. So thankful to be on this wheat free journey, and can’t wait to see what else is in store!

    BTW people are telling me that I look great and that my skin is glowing :)

    Best,
    Anne

  20. Renee

    I started a grain free diet a little over a month ago and have had one period during this time. For the first time in years I did not have any cramps at all and had minimal mood swings. It was amazing! I am still struggling with heavy bleeding since my tubal this year and wish that would get better but no cramps is a start! I actually gave into some wheat foods yesterday at a family meal and paid for it overnight. My legs ached horribly all night and included a headache. I assume it was the wheat because I haven’t had pain like that since before I started this diet. I have also lost 8 lbs and have more energy. I have hit a plateau but I think I need to cut back on my sugar intake. I am so excited at how much better I feel!

    • Dr. Davis

      The poisonous effects of wheat can show themselves in so many myriad ways, Renee. Stop the poison and wonderful things, including effects on hormones and PMS, happen!

  21. Amanda

    I wish I’d have this experience! I’ve had my TOM 4 times since starting WB (currently dealing with it), and honestly, my symptoms are just as bad as ever. Ah well, at least you allow a bit of dark chocolate in the lifestyle.
    -Amanda

  22. ketokd

    Its true! Since going low carb/keto my pms symptoms are pretty much nonexistent. Since I can remember, and especially in the last few months, my pms symptoms were downright dangerous for my emotional/mental health…and I was often suicidal. Since going keto, I still get alot of cramps but no mood swings! Was able to exercise a bit as well. Going low carb has done wonders for my bipolar symptoms as well..but I wouldnt say that Im cured. Weight loss or not, I couldnt imagine living any other way.

  23. I always, always thought I was just doomed, as a woman, to hate everyone for a week out of every month. When I stopped eating wheat it was purely for vanity reasons (clearing up my acne, losing some weight)… and then I magically stopped PMSing just like the blog talks about. I thought it was a fluke but it’s happened every month since I stopped eating wheat. I even wrote a blog about it – http://bit.ly/1bP3w5L

    For me, it didn’t just cure PMS, but I’ve found that my periods have been so easy. Has anyone else experienced that? I don’t get cramps anymore (and my cramps used to ruin me) or nausea or bloating. It makes me wonder if something I took for granted as unavoidable (terrible periods and PMS) was caused by wheat, what else was it doing to my body, you know?

  24. JoEve

    I have been perimenopausal for the past decade. It has been very unpleasant, to put it mildly.

    Since eliminating wheat from my diet 2 months ago, my hot flashes and night sweats ceased. My mood swings are gone. My family members are starting to realize that they don’t have to tiptoe around me anymore.

    Also, the psoriasis I’ve had for 30 years is nearly completely gone.

    It feels like some sort of miracle.