What is PMS?
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is the physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms that often occur in the days before a teenager’s or woman’s monthly period. Also known as premenstrual tension (PMT), symptoms will vary from woman to woman.
Symptoms typically occur in the two weeks before the period starts, improving and easing once the period starts and in the days after.
Common symptoms include bloating, breast pain, mood swings and tiredness.
Symptoms of PMS
There have been more than 100 different symptoms recorded. Generally, symptoms of PMS fall into two categories: physical, and psychological and behavioural.
Common physical symptoms include:
- breast pain
- abdomen (tummy) pain and discomfort
- sleeping problems
- weight gain (up to 1kg)
Common psychological and behavioural symptoms include:
- mood swings
- difficulty concentrating
- decreased self-esteem
- food cravings and/or appetite changes
Any long-term conditions such as asthma or migraines may get worse during this time. Certain lifestyle factors are thought to worsen symptoms, such as lack of exercise, poor diet and stress.
There are a number of treatments that may help you manage symptoms of PMS, especially if they are interfering with your daily life. There are certain lifestyle and diet changes that can help ease symptoms.
While these changes won’t make PMS disappear, they can help to ease symptoms, making the days and weeks before the monthly cycle more manageable. Eating a balanced diet can be a great help in managing symptoms of PMS. These tips help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and may help control your symptoms.
Of course, regular physical activity is essential in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. If possible, aim to do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week (30 minutes for five days). This could be walking, swimming or cycling. Regular exercise keeps the body healthy and can also help alleviate tiredness and depression. Stretching-based activities, such as yoga and pilates are great ways to de-stress and help you sleep better. In some cases, stretching is also thought to help ease abdominal discomfort during your period.
What Nutrition can do to help alleviate PMT
Below we explore five foods that can help prevent PMT:
Vegetables, fruit and high fibre foods
Changes in hormone levels are thought to be a primary cause of PMT. Therefore, a fibre-rich diet can be highly beneficial for those with severe symptoms. This is because fibre reduces the stress on your liver – the organ that metabolises hormones, including oestrogen. Furthermore, once digested, fibre absorbs excess oestrogen and transports it out of the body. The added benefit is that fibre balances blood sugar. This can help to control mood swings and fatigue.
Essential fatty acids
Eating foods rich in essential fatty acids (such as mixed nuts, seeds, oily fish, avocados, olive oi and seeds oils) can make a big difference to PMT symptoms. This is because essential fatty acids help produce prostaglandins – a group of lipid compounds that regulate hormones and reduce inflammation.
Foods rich in vitamin B6
Bananas, whole grains, eggs, beans and nuts are among the foods that contain vitamin B6. This vitamin is effective not only for pain relief but can also help the liver to remove excess oestrogen. Research also shows a link between vitamin B6 and reduced depression and irritability.
Natural live yoghurt
Research suggests women who eat a diet rich in calcium have a lower risk of developing PMT by as much as 40%. Just an eight-ounce cup of natural yoghurt contains 25% of your daily recommended intake of calcium, which makes it a great snack option for tackling PMT symptoms.
Although it’s not technically a food, including chamomile tea in your diet could make a huge difference to your PMT symptoms. This is because it contains antispasmodic properties that can help to ease the severity of menstrual cramps and muscle spasms. Chamomile tea is also highly relaxing and can help to soothe stress and anxiety.
Herbal teas have been used for centuries around the world as natural sleep remedies. Modern research also backs the use of herbal teas and their effectiveness as a sleep aid. Today valerian is one of the most popular herbal sleep aids in Europe and the US. Valerian root many increase sleepiness by increasing levels of a neurotransmitter called GABA.
Other nutrients that help with your hormonal balance:
Magnesiumis natures clamant and helps us feel relaxed. Enjoy an Epsom Salt bath a couple of times a week. Put 2 mugs of Epsom salts into your bath water and enjoy a warm soak for at least 20 mins. We absorb Magnesium very well through our skin. The reason why so many of us crave chocolate so much the week before our period is because it is another great source of magnesium. While there’s no reason not to enjoy some antioxidant rich dark chocolate, try to up your intake of this essential mineral from foods such as green leafy veg (eg. Kale, spinach, watercress), Nuts and Seeds (flax, pumpkin) Legumes (beans, chickpeas and kidney beans) and wholegrains.
B Vitamins– diets low in B1 and B2 are associated with a higher occurrence of PMS. B1 can be found in fortified cereals, legumes and nuts and B2 can be found in cow’s milk, red meat, green leafy vegetables. B12 is yet another one that plays a major role in emotional stability. B12 is only available from animal products so if you are a vegan you should take a supplement.
Vitamin D– this is a very common nutrient to be deficient in during the winter months. Women with high levels of Vitamin D are less likely to have PMS symptoms. Try Vitamin D drops or a mouth spray and take throughout the winter months from October or April. Revital offer a good range online or buy in any chemist.
Calcium – again women’s whose diet is rich in Calcium are less likely to suffer PMS. 4 servings of dairy products are recommended each day to supply enough of these nutrients. In addition, calcium can be found in almonds, dried fruits such as figs and apricots and green leafy vegetables like cabbage, kale and broccoli.
Phytoestrogensfrom foods such as Flaxseeds, Tofu, Almonds, Pistachios, Sesame Seeds, Edamame beans, Lentils, Beans, Barley, Oats may reduce PMS symptoms such as headaches. Our data is limited however studies show women in Asia who have high levels of phytoestrogens in their diet do have fewer PMS symptoms.