Reduce Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) Naturally
This article was kindly contributed by Cork based Nutritional Therapist and College of Naturopathic Medicine graduate Sharon O’ Dwyer.
If you’re a woman, especially in your late 20s, 30s and 40s, some of these symptoms may be all too familiar to you each month: reduced energy, irritability, tension, depression, headache, altered sex drive, breast pain, abdominal bloating, backache, joint pain, change in appetite (usually carbohydrate or sugar cravings), swelling fingers and ankles (there are many more)…
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is believed to affect about 85% of women at some level during their monthly cycles. About 10%-20% of these women experience symptoms that meet the definition of PMS, or more severe PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder)
While a number of medications are commonly prescribed for PMS – the oral contraceptive pill to reduce breast pain, bloating and acne, antidepressants (to increase serotonin levels) for severe PMS, anti-anxiety medication; diuretics for fluid retention as well as hormonal therapy, these are not without side effects and fail to address the underlying cause of PMS and have only varying degrees of effectiveness.
Diet & key nutrients to reduce PMS:
It is now accepted that a woman’s diet may be a significant factor in developing PMS and severity of symptoms. In particular, higher levels of the following nutrients are associated with reduced symptoms of PMS:
- Calcium and Vitamin D. Often lower in women with PMS, by increasing levels of these nutrients through diet or supplementation, PMS symptoms can be significantly reduced.
Calcium rich foods including dairy (organic a better choice for hormonal health), dark green leafy veg (especially broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussel sprouts for hormone metabolism), nuts, grain, beans, tinned sardines or salmon (with bones)
Vitamin D rich foods – oily fish, mushrooms, eggs, fortified foods
- B vitamins. B vitamins play a vital row in how well the body functions on every level but are also essential for nervous system functioning and the metabolism of neurotransmitters like serotonin and GABA (our calming neurotransmitter). In particular, vitamin B6 is directly involved in the production of tryptophan which is a precursor to serotonin.
Vitamin B rich foods – oily fish, poultry, lean meat, wholegrains, avocados, baked potato (with skins), bananas & nuts.
- Magnesium (our calming mineral that may help to improve mood, insomnia and other PMS symptoms).
Magnesium rich foods – dark green leafy veg, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, legumes (chickpeas, lentils), avocados, wholegrains.
Eat a varied, wholefood, unprocessed diet paying special attention to:
- Reduce or avoid PMS triggers such as sugary foods and drinks, caffeine, alcohol.
- Exercise moderately
- Reduce stress
When effective dietary and lifestyle changes are made, it may take 2-3 cycles for the body to adapt and for you to begin to experience fewer symptoms – but your improved diet and lifestyle will have profound effects on your overall health as well as PMS – so start making those changes now!