Written by my student intern: Ella Kenney
What is PMS?
Each woman has her own definition of premenstrual syndrome: irritability, fatigue, abdominal cramps, headache, breast tenderness, bloating and more. Technically, PMS includes the physical and emotional symptoms that occur during the end of the luteal phase (the two weeks before bleeding begins) of the menstrual cycle. Most women of child-bearing age report having experienced physical symptoms of PMS.
Can nutrition help manage or relieve symptoms of PMS?
Yes, yes and yes! Studies have shown that specific steps can alleviate discomfort.
- Vitamin D and calcium – women who eat more vitamin D and calcium are found to have fewer PMS symptoms. Load up on milk, spinach, kale, yogurt, fish with bones such as canned bone-in salmon and tuna, and other excellent sources of these nutrients.
- Eat smaller portions more often – bloating and abdominal discomfort may be reduced if you eat your normal amount of food but in smaller portions spread throughout the day.
- Reduce caffeine consumption – some women find that headaches and irritability decrease with caffeine intake reduction, but use caution – if you are a heavy caffeine drinker, wean yourself off slowly.
- Reduce alcohol – the negative side effects of alcohol can be exacerbated during your period.
- Limit salt – salt enhances water retention, which leads to bloating and swelling. Try to avoid processed foods, fast food, chips and many condiments (ketchup, mustard, etc.), all high-sodium culprits.
- Reduce saturated fat – full fat dairy products and red meats contain saturated fat, which produces estrogen and may imbalance hormones. Limiting saturated fat intake makes some women feel better.
- Eat fruit and whole grains – fresh fruit and whole grain products contain plenty of fiber, which helps relieve constipation.
What else can help?
- Exercise – although breaking a sweat may be the last thing you want to do, many women experience relief from PMS symptoms with even lightweight activity such as walking. And the health benefits are an added bonus!
- Hot water bottle, chocolate and Mom’s chicken soup – sometimes creature comforts really are exactly what you need most at this time of the month.
Do you suffer from PMS? What do you do to alleviate your symptoms?