So often I hear women complain about their menstrual cycle because this monthly event is painful and difficult due to Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). It is estimated that 75 percent of women experience symptoms that occur about a week before a woman’s period begins.
These symptoms are variable and often resolve when menstruation begins. PMS is hard to define because there are so many different symptoms that can show up for women.
Every woman’s PMS can be very personal and very different. Examples of PMS symptoms include cramps, mood swings, tender breasts, food cravings, fatigue, irritability, headaches, acne, constipation or diarrhea and depression.
One of the foundational behaviors that can help reduce or eliminate PMS symptoms is your choices of the food you eat every day. Changing your food choices and food lifestyles to a more healthy eating habits can move you from the 75 percent that experience PMS to one of the 25 percent that do not.
Wouldn’t you like to be one of the members of that group? It’s a great group to be in.
Here are examples of how foods can positively impact some PMS symptoms. Increases in inflammation can compound pain and cramping during the first days of menstruation.
Essential fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation associated menstrual cramps. Omega-3 foods are found in coldwater fish, salmon is just one example, ground flaxseed, or flaxseed oil.
Puffiness, breast swelling and breast tenderness and bloating can be reduced with cruciferous vegetables. Cruciferous vegetables act as a diuretics, which means they flush fluids out of the body, thus decreasing swelling. Examples of these vegetables are kale, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, Brussel sprouts, collard greens, arugula, and cabbage.
Vegetables that are high in magnesium also reduces puffiness as well. Artichokes, pumpkin seeds, almonds, cashews, black beans, and tofu are high in magnesium.
Any of these plant-based foods allow the colon to be mildly distended, which can prevent muscle spasms in the colon. Fiber also allows water to stay in the colon, relieving constipation.
Along with the vegetables mentioned above, whole grains (grains that contain fiber) will also help with these problems too. Examples of whole grains are brown rice, oats, and whole-grain or whole-wheat bread.
If there are foods that will help with PMS relief, then there also are foods that may create more pain and suffering. The number one substance that I recommend that people avoid is refined sugar.
Refined sugar can be hidden in so many prepared foods like pastries, cookies, cakes, crackers, soups, cereals, salad dressing and other sauces. You need to read labels to identify hidden sources of sugar like high fructose corn syrup, maltose, dextrose, and glucose. If these are the main ingredients then avoid them.
I know you might not want to hear this, but caffeine has been associated with increases in anxiety and mood changes, so if you experience emotional or mood swings as part of your experience of PMS, then foods and drinks with caffeine need to be avoided during you period.
Finally, salt. More than the daily dose can increase bloating, water retention and breast tenderness. Again, read labels, as prepared and processed foods usually have high amounts of salt because it increases the shelf life of foods. Hidden sources of salt intake are soups, canned foods, processed sauces, condiments of all kinds, and smoked meats and foods.
The more you pay attention to what you eat, the more you can see which foods are affecting you.
Try an experiment. Create healthy eating habits intentionally to improve your PMS symptoms for three months and see what happens. You might reduce or eliminate your PMS symptoms and you might even improve other health issues as well.
Dr. Dae is a Naturopathic Physician who practices in the Washington DC metro area treats the whole person using safe and effective combinations of traditional and natural methods to produce optimal health and well-being in the lives of her patients.
"Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) - MayoClinic.com." Mayo Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Mar. 2012.
"Today's Diet and Nutrition." Today's Diet and Nutrition Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Mar. 2012.
Reviewed March 8, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith