Sound familiar? Most women suffer some form of emotional or physical symptoms of PMS, with 8-20% experiencing severe symptoms and requiring medication.
PMS occurs in the ‘luteal’ phase of the periodical cycle (1-2 weeks before your period), and symptoms may include mood swings, irritability, carbohydrate and alcohol craving, sore breasts and bloating. The exact cause is unknown, but hormones produced by the ovaries, particularly progesterone, trigger symptoms via chemical messengers in the brain called neurotransmitters.
A healthy, balanced diet is always a good start in helping reduce symptoms for any condition, including PMS. However the following points, now have strong evidence to say they will ease the symptoms.
Low GI Diet – Many PMS sufferers report feeling like their blood sugars plummet during PMS. Blood sugar fluctuations cause tension, shakiness and cravings for sugary foods. However studies have shown that even know women feel like their levels are all over the place during PMS, their levels are very rarely below normal when measured. Meaning that during PMS, sensitivity to fluctuations in blood sugars is heightened and emphasised.
So by eating the high GI foods (fast acting carbs like white bread and sugary drinks) at that time of the month, your body is more sensitive to the sugar and you are more susceptible to peaks and troughs in energy levels as a result. This may account for the mood swings and irritability you may feel.
Vitamins and Minerals – Calcium and Vitamin D are both associated with lower incidence of PMS. Evidence suggests that taking calcium supplements (1000mg/day) with 10mcg of Vitamin D, relieves premenstrual pain and headaches. However, it is always recommended that calcium intakes come from diet primarily, and supplements should be discussed with your GP. A recent study also reported that Vitamins B1 and B2 from food sources reduced PMS occurrence by 35%. You can consume plenty of B Vitamins from eating whole grain cereals, some meat, milk and beans. Other research suggests Vitamin E and the fatty acids ‘gamma linolenic acid’ and ‘oleic acid’ significantly relieved symptoms of PMS. Evening primrose oil which contains gamma linolenic acid, used to be prescribed for breast tenderness however this was stopped as it was reported ineffective. However, it may still be worth buying primrose oil over the counter and see if it works for you.
Alcohol and PMS – Alcohol aggravates PMS symptoms and lowers body stores of several nutrients including the B Vitamins. It is thought that the people who crave alcohol the most, are those that are least able to metabolise it, so if alcohol is your PMS craving…steer clear!