Vitamin B6: Helpful for Relieving PMS and Menstrual Cramps?
After so many decades of living with excruciating menstrual cramps, I've developed some tricks and habits to at least stave off or curb the worst of it all. Mind you, I am imperfect and keeping up certain regimens can be expensive and time-consuming. However, it does seem like diet and supplements can be crucial tools in managing symptom flares associated with endometriosis, including cramps and pelvic pain during menses (not to mention PMS, as well).
The connection between B6 and estrogen
Awhile back, I noticed most supplement formulas I was trying for PMS and bad menstrual pains contained vitamin B6. I started to wonder why that was - what is was about that particular vitamin that was considered especially helpful for menstrual pain and PMS.
I did some reading up and discovered that B6 is useful in breaking down and metabolizing estrogen in the body. As estrogen is a significant factor in both fueling menstrual cramps and PMS, as well as a driver behind reproductive disorders such as endometriosis, adenomyosis, and fibroids, anything that can break estrogen down and eliminate its excess presence in the body probably will benefit those suffering from these diseases. In particular, it would seem that B6 helps take the most toxic and powerful forms of estrogen and convert them into gentle and less potent forms of estrogen in the body.
Supplementing with B6
I do know that when I supplement more with B6, those months I do tend to get less PMS and less crampy periods. However, it can be tricky to supplement with Vitamin B6 simply because it's possible to take too much of it, which can result in nerve-like symptoms like tingling and numbness in the fingertips and toes; So I am wary of taking too much and causing other adverse issues. When I do supplement, I tend to take it only during the luteal phase of my menstrual cycle, which is the two weeks leading up to my period. Or sometimes, mostly the week leading up to my period. And I don't take my other multivitamin so as not to overdo it or double dose the B6.
What the research shows
I Googled to see if there were any peer review studies on B6 and reproductive issues in women and found two related specifically to PMS. One study compared the effects of three different groups of participants during a trial of supplementation: those who took Magnesium supplements, those who took Magnesium with B6, and those who took a placebo. While all three groups experienced improvements in their PMS, the group that took Magnesium with B6 experienced the best results.1
Another study from all the way back in 1989 had 63 women between the ages of 18 and 49 years-old take either a placebo or vitamin B6 supplements for three months. The research found that those who took B6 experienced significant alleviation in the more emotional side effects of PMS and menstruation (i.e., depression, irritability, and fatigue), but not the physical side effects such as cramps, headaches and breast tenderness.2
Of course, this study is dated and had complicating factors (some women were on hormonal contraceptives or didn't take the supplements as they should have). Additionally, though both studies show that B6 does have promise in helping relieve some of the symptoms associated with PMS and menstruation, this isn't specific to women who have diagnosed diseases such as endo, which can complicate things.
My take on vitamin B6
Nonetheless, if taken modestly and with the care and consent of a medical professional, B6 could be a potential tool in one's arsenal for period-related pain and side effects. Just make sure to talk with your doctor. At least for me, I find it somewhat helpful.
Have you heard about the new tampon technology currently being tested to detect endometriosis?