Every month millions of women endue various degrees of PMS during their menstruation period ranging from mild
annoyance to severe pain.
Symptoms can include any of the following:: abdominal bloating, acne, anxiety,
backache, breast swelling and tenderness, cramps, depression,
food cravings, fainting spells, fatigue, headaches, insomnia,
joint pain, nervousness, skin eruptions, water retention and personality
changes such as drastic mood swings, outbursts of anger,
violence and thoughts of suicide.
What causes PMS?
These symptoms are the result of changes in the hormonal
balance in a women’s body.As the monthly cycle of preparing for reproduction
progresses and ends, hormones interact and can unbalance.
These changes can then bring on the pain and cramps that women
suffer from every month.
fluctuations lend to fluid retention, which effects
circulation, reducing the amount of oxygen that reaches the
uterus, ovaries and brain.
The imbalance will lead to
unstable blood sugar levels creating more problems. This
also is linked to food allergies, changes in
carbohydrate metabolism, hypoglycemia and malabsorption.
Diet is an important contributing factor.
When the old uterine lining begins to break down, molecular
compounds called prostaglandins are released. These
compounds create the uterine contractions that literally
squeeze the old tissue through the cervix and out of the body
by way of the vagina.
Other substances known as leukotrienes, which are chemicals
that play a role in the inflammatory response, are also
elevated at this time and may be related to the development of
The difference between menstrual cramps that are more
painful and those that are less painful may be related to a
woman's prostaglandin levels. Women with menstrual cramps have
elevated levels of prostaglandins in the uterine lining when
compared with women who do not experience cramps.
Menstrual cramps are very similar to those a pregnant woman
experiences when she is given prostaglandin as a medication to
For many years, PMS was considered a psychological problem,
and some women were even incorrectly diagnosed as
"mentally ill". It is now known that it
is indeed a physically based problem. (see below for more
information on this misdiagnosis) *
What can be done about PMS?
Instead of the traditional "three square meals a day”, women prone to PMS should try eating 3 small meals and 3 snacks daily. Eating
food every three hours helps to stabilize the blood sugar level.
Whole grains and proteins are good staples in a healthy PMS diet. It's also best to limit caffeine and sugar, since they can worsen symptoms.
“I always knew diet was important,” says Katharina Dalton, M.D. “What I didn’t realize in the early years, is just how important diet is in controlling premenstrual syndrome.” Dr. Dalton's name is synonymous with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), a phrase she coined in England in the 1950s. As a physician and women's health pioneer, she first identified this disruptive cyclic phenomenon. Her classic book, Once A Month, set the standard for the many books and PMS studies. "A three-hourly starchy diet is essential, but now we know why. It's the progesterone receptors," she says. "Modern work has shown us that progesterone receptors which help progesterone bind to our DNA will not work if adrenaline is present, and adrenaline is released when our blood sugar level is low."
Dr. Dalton uses the term "starchy foods" rather than carbohydrates because carbohydrates also include simple sugars, which can cause blood sugar levels to rapidly rise and fall. Women with PMS frequently crave and binge on high-sugar food and drinks before menstruation. "This actually creates self-induced hormonal imbalances,” Dr. Dalton says. The starches she recommends are complex carbohydrates such as whole grain breads, crackers, pasta, popcorn, pizza, pancakes, cereals, potatoes, and rice dishes. Women won't gain weight if they eat normal amounts of food, divided into six snacks instead of three meals. In fact, she adds, by decreasing the bloatedness and water retention, that comes along with PMS, women may actually lose weight.
Foods to Eat:
· Lean meat
· Milk, cheese, and yogurt
· Whole grain breads, cereals, and pasta
· Legumes (lentils, beans)
· Green, leafy vegetables
· Fresh fruit (moderate amounts--it’s high in sugar--best with small amounts of protein or complex carbohydrates, for example: ½ banana with 3 whole wheat crackers)
· Plain popcorn
· Unsalted pretzels
Foods to Avoid:
· Salty lunch meat, sausage, bacon
· High fat cheeses such as brie
· White bread, cake, cookies
· Jam, honey, molasses
· High salt snacks like potato chips
· Caffeinated drinks, coffee, tea, soda
Of course, the occasional piece of chocolate or glass of wine is good for the soul. Managing your PMS symptoms doesn't mean you can never have these things again. It's best to limit them though, especially during the two weeks before your period. If you do indulge once in a while, make sure you have some other food in your stomach first to avoid a drop in blood sugar.
What About Vitamins?
Many of the symptoms you suffer may be influenced by the depletion of the nutrients your body uses when under the added stress of PMS. During PMS, your body uses the
B Vitamins and the mineral Magnesium. Those vitamins and minerals should be replaced monthly to give your body the supply it needs right before your monthly periods.
Calcium can only help if it is
metabolized by the body.
We have used our best judgment in compiling this information. The Food and Drug Administration may not have evaluated the information presented. Any reference to a specific product is for your information only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.