Food Suggestions to Help Decrease PMS Symptoms

Mechele R. Dillard's picture

PMS cannot be avoided completely, but some women will find that certain foods can help reduce monthly symptoms.

PMS—pre-menstrual syndrome—is a dreaded time of the month for many women. It can mean bloating, cramps, headaches, fatigue, changes in mood, even joint and muscle pain, and many other symptoms. Women with severe symptoms should see their doctors, but many women find that they are able to decrease the uncomfortable side effects of PMS via a change in diet.

Becky Hand, Licensed & Registered Dietitian with, indicates that there are several things women can try to decrease PMS discomfort. For example, in a recent article, she suggests that women reduce cravings by choosing foods high in complex carbohydrates and fiber, such as whole grains, vegetables, beans and legumes. Limiting sugars in your diet can help decrease moodiness and irritability, she suggests, by reducing rapid fluctuations in blood sugar. And, she indicates that eating highly refined, processed carbohydrates—treats we often reach for, such as chips, crackers and other pre-packaged snacks—can not only trigger overeating, but also upset the digestive system, adding to PMS woes.

Joy Bauer MS, RD, CDN, and one of the nation's leading health authorities, says that women cannot expect to eliminate PMS completely, but that reducing its monthly effects is possible via food. For example, she suggests that yogurt can balance calcium levels during a woman’s menstrual cycle, relieving symptoms of bloating and mood changes. Chickpeas, which are high in PMS-fighting nutrients magnesium, B6 and manganese, can help reduce irritability, fight depression, and decrease breast tenderness. And, she says, fish rich in vitamin D, such as salmon and sardines, help the body absorb calcium, lending to the reduction of PMS symptoms. In fact, she indicates that studies have suggested diets with plenty of vitamin D may reduce the risk of PMS by approximately 40 percent.

WebMD offers several suggestions for easing PMS symptoms, as well. For example, skipping meals, particularly breakfast, can result in blood sugar levels falling, resulting in increased irritability. Controlling salt intake is important, as too much salt can lead to bloating and water retention. Elizabeth Somer, an Oregon-based dietitian and author of Eat Your Way to Happiness, indicates that decreasing packaged and processed foods is a good way to decrease salt since most packaged foods are loaded with sodium. "And if you can't cut back enough, drink lots of water," Somer advises. And, since stress can be a big factor in increasing PMS symptoms, WebMD advises doing what you can to reduce it during this time. "Stress plays a huge role in the intensity of PMS symptoms," gynecologist Rebecca Kolp, MD, medical director of Mass General West in Waltham, MA, indicated to WebMD. Some suggestions to relax include exercising, deep breathing, or doing yoga.

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