In the days before a woman’s period is due, uncomfortable physical symptoms such as breast tenderness, headaches, cramps, bloating and fatigue are common. Some women also experience mood swings and emotional symptoms such as anxiety and depressed mood. It is thought that these symptoms occur as a result of sensitivity to the hormonal changes taking place in the body at this time. Although a small percentage of women suffer from a degree of hormonal imbalance that requires expert advice from a qualified nutritionist or doctor, many women can gain symptom relief by making changes to their diet.
Researchers in both conventional and complementary medicine agree that PMS symptoms can be eased by a healthy diet. Some studies show that there is a link between PMS and diets that are high in refined carbohydrates such as white bread, cakes and other starchy foods made with white flour. Replacing refined foods with wholegrain breads and cereals, and including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in the diet keep the body supplied with nutrients that may ease PMS symptoms. Vitamin B6 -found in whole-grain cereals, potatoes, bananas, poultry and fish – can help to counter depressed mood and bloating. Vitamin E – found in wholegrain cereals, wheatgerm, vegetable oils, nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables -may reduce breast tenderness. Magnesium, found in wholegrain cereals, wheatgerm, pulses, nuts, seeds, soya beans, tofu and green vegetables – may ease anxiety, cramps and breast tenderness.
It has been noted that in Asian countries, where the typical diet includes more vegetable protein such as tofu, PMS is less common. In Western countries, however, a diet high in animal protein and fat has been linked to the high incidence of PMS. Women who suffer from severe symptoms may find switching to a high-protein vegetarian diet helpful.
Studies show that women who drink moderate amounts of alcohol (approximately ten units per week) are more likely to have premenstrual symptoms than light drinkers and those who do not drink at all. Other studies suggest that caffeine in tea, coffee and cola drinks may exacerbate PMS.