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Vitamin B6 and PMS: Is there a connection?

Laura Harcourt

Written byLaura Harcourt

Ms Roopa Navani

Reviewed byMs Roopa Navani

lady smiling at camera
If you’re experiencing PMS, you might wonder whether vitamin B6 could alleviate your symptoms. Discover its impact and potential side effects in our article.
Navigating the ebbs and flows of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can feel like you’re riding an emotional rollercoaster. From mood swings to physical discomfort, various PMS symptoms can easily disrupt your daily life.

Because of this, there’s recently been growing interest in the role of vitamins and, among these, vitamin B6 has emerged as a promising option.

In this article, we’ll take you through some of the key research behind this vitamin, outlining which PMS symptoms it can support and how you can incorporate more of it into your diet.

But first, let’s start by taking a look at what both vitamin B6 and PMS are individually.

What is vitamin B6?

Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that’s important for metabolism, normal brain development, and keeping your nerves and immune system functioning correctly.1 It’s naturally present in foods such as:1,2
  • fish
  • potatoes
  • soya beans
  • oats
  • peanuts
  • bananas
While you should be able to get all the vitamin B6 you need from your diet, it’s also available as a dietary supplement, often in the form of pyridoxine.1

What is PMS?

PMS refers to the physical and emotional symptoms you may experience on the days leading up to your period.5

If you regularly have symptoms around the time of menstruation, you’re not alone – up to nine in ten women of reproductive age experience several PMS symptoms that vary from mild to severe.6

While these symptoms can vary widely from person to person, they often include:5,7
  • abdominal pain
  • appetite changes
  • back pain
  • headache
  • tender breasts
  • changes in sex drive

Vitamin B6 as a PMS treatment

Vitamin B6 plays a big role in over 100 enzyme reactions, including the production of serotonin and dopamine – two important neurotransmitters involved in mood regulation.1,8,9,10 It’s for this reason that some scientists have studied its potential use as a PMS treatment11

However, the research into this area has produced mixed results. While some studies have shown some promising outcomes, others have found little to no benefit.

For example, some older research from 1999 found that taking 50–100mg of vitamin B6 per day could likely help with PMS symptoms and PMS-related depression.11 A 2012 study also found that vitamin B6 helped improve PMS-related symptoms like anxiety, food cravings, water retention, depression and mood swings.12

However, women in a placebo group also had improved symptoms, suggesting the vitamin’s effectiveness could partly result from a placebo effect.12

While the NHS also recognises vitamin B6 as a supplement that could help with PMS, they also acknowledge that there’s currently limited evidence to support its use.7 More quality research is needed to confirm its true role in PMS management, as well as the correct dosage.

Taking more than 200mg of vitamin B6 in one day, for example, could lead to severe side effects, such as losing feeling in your arms and legs (known as peripheral neuropathy).2 This will usually improve once you stop taking the supplements, but in a few cases when people have taken large amounts of vitamin B6 for longer periods, the effect can be permanent.2

You should consult your GP before taking any more than the recommended dose – currently 1.2mg per day for women.2

Additional vitamins and supplements that may help with PMS

As well as vitamin B6, several other vitamins and supplements may help alleviate your PMS symptoms. These may include:
  • calcium: research suggests that calcium supplementation may reduce PMS symptoms such as anxiety, depression, mood swings, water retention, and physical discomfort13,14,15
  • magnesium: a 2021 study found that magnesium helped reduce the severity of PMS-related cramps, headaches, back pain, depression, irritability, and abdominal pain16
  • vitamin D: research suggests that women with PMS may have lower vitamin D levels and that supplementation may relieve their symptoms including inflammation and mood disturbances17,18
  • omega-3 fatty acids: research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the severity of PMS symptoms19
  • vitamin E: a 2022 meta-analysis showed that vitamin E supplements could help reduce period cramps20
While all of these vitamins are important for normal bodily functions, research as to whether it can help with PMS specifically is limited and more research is needed.

Other remedies for PMS

PMS symptoms can also be improved by using natural remedies and making some lifestyle changes. For example, these may include:
  • regular exercise: several studies have found that regular exercise, including aerobic exercises can potentially help decrease symptoms of PMS21,22,23
  • dietary changes: some women find relief from PMS by modifying their diet, such as eating a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and healthy fibre24,25,26
  • stress management techniques: practices such as meditation, yoga and deep breathing can all help reduce stress, which may help ease your PMS symptoms27-32,
  • herbal supplements: some people use traditional herbal remedies, such as Vitex agnus-castus and evening primrose oil, to alleviate PMS. However, more robust research is needed to confirm their effectiveness.33-36 Please speak to your GP before trying any new supplements and also read the patient information leaflet before use.

The final say

As already mentioned, PMS can cause a wide variety of symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

While vitamin B6 has been shown in some small sample sizes to improve some of these symptoms, such as anxiety, food cravings, and low mood, more research is required to confirm these findings and determine its true role in PMS management.

Several other vitamins and supplements, including calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin E may also alleviate PMS symptoms. Therefore, it’s important to sustain a healthy, balanced diet rich in all of these vitamins.

Making certain lifestyle changes can also positively impact your PMS symptoms – from performing regular exercise to managing your overall stress level with yoga and mindfulness therapy.37

However, if you experience severe PMS symptoms and find that these techniques aren’t helping, make sure to consult your GP for advice.

Sources

  1. Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin B6: Fact sheet for healthcare professionals [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 23]. Available from: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-HealthProfessional.
  2. NHS. Vitamins and minerals - B vitamins and folic acid [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 23]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-b.
  3. Maroufi, M., Marofi, M. The efficacy of vitamin B6 for treatment of premenstrual dysphoric. Ann Gen Psychiatry. 2006; Vol 5 (Suppl 1), S306. https://doi.org/10.1186/1744-859X-5-S1-S306
  4. Masoumi, Seyedeh Z., et al. Effect of Combined Use of Calcium and Vitamin B6 on Premenstrual Syndrome Symptoms: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Journal of Caring Sciences. Vol. 5, no. 1, 2016, pp. 67-73. https://doi.org/10.15171/jcs.2016.007 .
  5. Gudipally, PR., et al. Premenstrual Syndrome. National Library of Medicine. StatPearls Publishing; 2023. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK560698.
  6. Chumpalova, P., et al. Prevalence and clinical picture of premenstrual syndrome in females from Bulgaria. Ann Gen Psychiatry. 2020;19:3. doi: 10.1186/s12991-019-0255-1.
  7. NHS. PMS (premenstrual syndrome) [Internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 23]. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pre-menstrual-syndrome.
  8. Noah, L., et al. Effect of magnesium and vitamin B6 supplementation on mental health and quality of life in stressed healthy adults: Post‐hoc analysis of a randomised controlled trial. Stress and Health. 2021;37(5). https://doi.org/10.1002/smi.3051.
  9. Sheffler, ZM., et al. Physiology, Neurotransmitters. National Library of Medicine. StatPearls Publishing; 2023. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK539894.
  10. Sato, Kohji. Why Is Vitamin B6 Effective in Alleviating the Symptoms of Autism? Medical Hypotheses, vol. 115, 2018, pp. 103-106. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mehy.2018.04.007.
  11. Wyatt, KM., et al. Efficacy of vitamin B-6 in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome: Systematic review. BMJ. 1999;318(7195):1375–81. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.318.7195.1375.
  12. Ebrahimi, E., et al. Effects of magnesium and vitamin B6 on the severity of premenstrual syndrome symptoms. Journal of Caring Sciences. 2012(4):183–9. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4161081.
  13. Shobeiri, F., et al. Effect of calcium on premenstrual syndrome: A double-blind randomized clinical trial. Obstetrics & Gynecology Science. 2017;60(1):100. https://doi.org/10.5468/ogs.2017.60.1.100.
  14. Arab A., et al. Beneficial Role of Calcium in Premenstrual Syndrome: A Systematic Review of Current Literature. International Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2020; vol. 11. https://doi.org/10.4103/ijpvm.IJPVM_243_19.
  15. Kia, Afsaneh S., et al. The Association between the Risk of Premenstrual Syndrome and Vitamin D, Calcium, and Magnesium Status among University Students: A Case Control Study. Health Promotion Perspectives. 2015; vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 225-230. https://doi.org/10.15171/hpp.2015.027.
  16. Yaralizadeh, M., et al. Effectiveness of magnesium on menstrual symptoms among dysmenorrheal college students: A randomized controlled trial. Int. J. Women’s Health Reprod. Sci. 2020;10:2-17. Available from: https://www.ijwhr.net/pdf/pdf_IJWHR_624.pdf.
  17. Heidari, H., et al. Supplementation for premenstrual syndrome-related inflammation and antioxidant markers in students with vitamin D deficient: A randomized clinical trial. Scientific Reports. 2019;9(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-51498-x.
  18. Heidari, H., et al. Effect of vitamin D supplementation on symptoms severity in vitamin D insufficient women with premenstrual syndrome: A randomized controlled trial. Clinical Nutrition ESPEN. 2024;59:241–8. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnesp.2023.11.014.
  19. Behboudi-Gandevani, S., et al. The effect of omega 3 fatty acid supplementation on premenstrual syndrome and health-related quality of life: A randomized clinical trial. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 2018;39(4):266–72. https://doi.org/10.1080/0167482X.2017.1348496.
  20. Alikamali, M., et al. The effects of vitamin E on the intensity of primary dysmenorrhea: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Nutrition ESPEN. 2022;52:50-59. doi: 10.1016/j.clnesp.2022.10.001.
  21. Pearce, E., et al. Exercise for premenstrual syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BJGP Open. 2020;4(3):bjgpopen20X101032. https://doi.org/10.3399/bjgpopen20X101032.
  22. Samadi, Zeinab, et al. The Effects of 8 Weeks of Regular Aerobic Exercise on the Symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome in Non-athlete Girls. Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research. 2013; vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 14-19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3748549/
  23. Sanchez, Barbara N., et al. Premenstrual Syndrome and Exercise: A Narrative Review. Women. 2023; vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 348-364. https://doi.org/10.3390/women3020026
  24. Siminiuc, R., et al. Impact of nutritional diet therapy on premenstrual syndrome. Frontiers in Nutrition. 2023;10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2023.1079417.
  25. Aguilar-Aguilar E. Menstrual disorders: what we know about dietary-nutritional therapy. Nutr Hosp. 2021 Jan 13;37(Spec No2):52-56. Spanish. doi: 10.20960/nh.03358. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32993311/
  26. Hussein R. Premenstrual syndrome prevalence, and correlation with carbohydrate intake in young women. Healthmed. 2012; 6(3):774-81. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/269398107_Premenstrual_syndrome_prevalence_and_correlation_with_carbohydrate_intake_in_young_women
  27. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Premenstrual syndrome [internet]. [cited 2024 Feb 22]. Available from: https://cks.nice.org.uk/premenstrual-syndrome.
  28. Vaghela, Nirav, et al. To Compare the Effects of Aerobic Exercise and Yoga on Premenstrual Syndrome. Journal of Education and Health Promotion, vol. 8, 2019, https://doi.org/10.4103/jehp.jehp_50_19
  29. Tsai, Ying. Effect of Yoga Exercise on Premenstrual Symptoms among Female Employees in Taiwan. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 13, no. 7, 2016, https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph13070721
  30. Chang, Chi, et al. Effects of Yoga for Coping with Premenstrual Symptoms in Taiwan—A Cluster Randomized Study. Healthcare, vol. 11, no. 8, 2023, https://doi.org/10.3390/healthcare11081193 .
  31. Panahi, F, et al. The Effects of Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy on Depression and Anxiety in Women with Premenstrual Syndrome. Depression Research and Treatment, vol. 2016, 2016, https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/9816481 .
  32. Bluth, K, et al. Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction As a Promising Intervention for Amelioration of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder Symptoms. Mindfulness, vol. 6, no. 6, 2015, p. 1292, https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-015-0397-4
  33. Mahboubi, M. Evening Primrose (Oenothera Biennis) Oil in Management of Female Ailments. Journal of Menopausal Medicine, vol. 25, no. 2, 2019, pp. 74-82, https://doi.org/10.6118/jmm.18190
  34. Saki, M., et al. The effect of primrose oil on the premenstrual syndrome among the female students in Lorestan University of Medical Sciences: A triple blind study. Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Sciences. 2015; 2(1):20. DOI:10.4103/2345-5756.231415. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338857181_The_effect_of_primrose_oil_on_the_premenstrual_syndrome_among_the_female_students_in_Lorestan_University_of_Medical_Sciences_A_triple_blind_study
  35. Canning S, et al. Dietary supplements and herbal remedies for premenstrual syndrome (PMS): a systematic research review of the evidence for their efficacy. 2006. In: Database of Abstracts of Reviews of Effects (DARE): Quality-assessed Reviews [Internet]. York (UK): Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (UK); 1995-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK72353/
  36. Giulia D, et al. Herbal treatments for alleviating premenstrual symptoms: a systematic review. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology. Volume 32, 2011 - Issue 1 https://doi.org/10.3109/0167482X.2010.538102
  37. Asadi, Dorsa M., et al. Mindfulness Training Intervention With the Persian Version of the Mindfulness Training Mobile App for Premenstrual Syndrome: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Frontiers in Psychiatry, vol. 13, 2022, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2022.922360
 

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