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Calcium may be the key to taming premenstrual pain

Calcium from sources such as milk may reduce PMS symptoms in some women  
August 25, 1998
Web posted at: 12:22 p.m. EDT (1622 GMT)

From Medical Correspondent Dr. Steve Salvatore

NEW YORK (CNN) -- For men ... and women, PMS may be one of medicine's most misunderstood conditions.

But for estimated 30 million women who regularly suffer the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, like Anne Maillard, PMS is not myth.

"When a woman has PMS, it's like she's in an altered state," Maillard said. "It's like, you know, someone speaks to you and you just snap at them."

Many women try to combat the symptoms of PMS with over-the-counter pain remedies. But a new study says a natural alternative, calcium, may be the best answer.

The research, funded in part by the maker of Tums, a popular antacid and calcium supplement, studied more than 400 premenopausal women across the United States.

"Within three months, there was a 50 percent reductions of symptoms," said Dr. Susan Thys-Jacobs of St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital. "Symptoms such as mood swings, tension, headaches and cramping were all alleviated with calcium."

Calcium may be taken in supplement form if necessary  

Food cravings also dropped by half, and water retention decreased by more than one-third.

Researchers don't know exactly how calcium reduces the physical and psychological symptoms of PMS, but they have discovered another calcium-PMS link. PMS may be an early warning sign for osteoporosis, the so-called brittle bone condition that affects millions of women, especially after menopause.

"We've never really had a marker for this bone loss," Thys-Jacobs said. "Now I think we have it.

"Now we have a premenstrual syndrome that is manifesting as a calcium deficient state.

She recommended women take in at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium a day. That translates into three to four glasses of milk, or three to four yogurts a day.

But when that's not possible, doctors recommend calcium supplements.

"Choose a chewable tablet; stay with that tablet," Thys-Jacobs said. "If you have premenstrual symptoms you should see an effect within two to three months."

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