Do you feel as though your mind and body are possessed every month when it’s time for your period? Do you suffer from mood swings, cramps and pain, headaches, water retention and a general feeling of being out of control?
Then you may suffer from premenstrual syndrome, or PMS (PMT). You’re not alone. It’s estimated that over 40 million women suffer from PMS, with more than five million requiring medical treatment due to the severity of symptoms.
PMS is thought to be a neuro-endocrinopathy, or hormone disorder originating in the brain. Although over 150 symptoms have been associated with PMS, the key defining factor is the cyclical nature of the symptoms.
Common symptoms are depression, fatigue, irritability, headaches, water retention and weight gain, food cravings, abdominal, low back and/or joint pain and mood swings. In extreme instances, the sufferer may experience suicidal thoughts and actions.
The exact cause of PMS is not known, but hormonal changes and stressful events such as the onset of puberty, having a baby or even starting birth control pills often trigger it.
Some hormone related surgeries, such as a hysterectomy or a tubal ligation can contribute to a more severe cycle. The onset of menopause can increase symptoms as well. It’s also believed that heredity sometime plays a role.
In extreme cases medical intervention is required to battle these symptoms. If that’s the case, your gynecologist can assist in diagnosis and treatment. If your monthly suffering is more bothersome than overwhelming, some of these nutritional recommendations might be able to aid in relieving the severity of symptoms.
Eat more frequent and smaller meals – Three meals and three snacks are often recommended to take you through your day. This aids in stabilizing blood sugar, reducing cravings and the undesirable effects of low blood sugar such as headaches and irritability.
Cut back on caffeine, salt, and alcohol – Caffeinated foods and beverages contain xanthenes, which may increase breast cysts and inflammation. Reducing the intake of these substances may reduce breast tenderness. Salt intake increases water retention. Cutting back may help in limiting water retention. Alcohol is also a depressant and can exacerbate symptoms, plus rob the body of essential nutrients and lower blood sugar levels.
Make wise food choices – Choose fresh fruits and vegetables and complex carbohydrates, while going easy on the simple sugars and refined or processed foods due to high sodium contents. Eat more dark greens, seeds, and nuts for magnesium; Low fat dairy, almonds, and spinach for calcium; Salmon, bananas, cruciferous vegetables for vitamin B6.
Do some exercise – It reduces stress and tension and improves the mood through the release of endorphins.
Supplement – Research supports the use of Magnesium (200 mg) and Vitamin B6 (50 mg) may reduce anxiety related symptoms such as nervousness, mood swings, irritability and anxiety, and Calcium which been shown to significantly reduce the severity of PMS symptoms in users
The suggestions listed above should help to minimize the impact that PMS symptoms have on your daily life. If you find that the symptoms you’re experiencing are disruptive, and then see your physician. You may be diagnosed with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), a severe form of PMS that requires medication for treatment.
As always, check with your physician before beginning any diet, exercise or supplement plan, especially if under their care for a pre-existing medical condition or using prescription or over the counter medications.
Tara welcomes questions in relation to nutrition and exercise, to be answered in the weekly column ‘Food and Fitness Matters’. If you have a question please email it to [email protected]