Women have tried everything to treat PMS: aspirin, chocolate, a good cry. Now a new study suggests targeting an enzyme with fluoxetine — also known as the anti-depressent Prozac — to turn dreams of a PMS medication into a reality.
In a recent study, scientists from the University of Bristol, UCL and the University of Sao Paolo-Ribeirão Preto in Brazil showed that low doses of fluoxetine given to rats can inhibit an enzyme in the brain and alleviate PMS symptoms. Pre-menstrual grumpiness, fatigue and pain are believed to be triggered when secretion of the sex hormone progesterone slows down towards the end of the menstrual cycle (as you’re about to get your period).
Less progesterone means less allopregnanolone, a neurosteroid which is normally produced when progesterone breaks down. This breakdown product acts as a sedative and tranquilizing agent in the brain. So when it’s absent at the end of your cycle, your body basically experiences withdrawal from this “drug” your brain is normally used to having. Antidepressants like fluoxetine, their studies reveal, can inhibit the enzyme in the brain that depletes your allopregnanolone, keeping the chemicals at a happy, balanced level and erasing the misery and pain you’re used to experiencing right before Aunt Flo arrives.
The researchers were able to show that the effects could translate from rats to humans, and plan to begin human trials soon. Until then, we’ll continue popping aspirin and avoiding excess human interaction when we’re at our grumpiest.