Many women get premenstrual syndrome (PMS) up to 15 days before the beginning of their monthly periods. About 8% to 12% of women complain of these common symptoms that are often considered to be normal in their lifetime. This condition includes a number of physical and emotional changes. “The most common among the symptoms are feeling extremely sad or unhappy, which many a times herald the coming of the monthly cycle to all those around you," says gynecologist Rebecca Kolp, MD, medical director of Mass General West in Waltham. Women may also feel abdominal bloating, tenderness in the breasts, and headache while having PMS.
The real cause of PMS is still not known. In most cases, fluctuating levels of hormones and brain chemicals are considered to be the real culprits of this condition. According to Elizabeth Bertone-Johnson, ScD, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, diet also plays a role in developing PMS.
Here are few tips to control the symptoms of PMS:
Have high-quality calcium foods
Some of the studies show that women who have high levels of calcium and vitamin D in their diet have less chances of developing PMS. “This result was especially true of a diet where calcium came from the foods rather than from foods and supplements or from supplements alone," says Bertone-Johnson. She reported that a diet containing 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day and 700 IU of vitamin D would be the best diet possible for controlling the symptoms.
One can obtain such high levels by having at least three servings of calcium-rich foods such as low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, fortified orange juice, or soy milk. High levels of vitamin D are difficult to obtain from diet alone and women should take up a supplement or a multivitamin to make up for the difference. Bertone-Johnson remarks that calcium works on the brain to relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression while vitamin D may work on the emotional changes during this period. Having calcium and vitamin D may help to improve the health of bones and controlling PMS is an additional benefit.
Have a good breakfast
“The changes in hormone levels during PMS may affect the appetite level leading to extreme hunger sometimes," says Elizabeth Somer, an Oregon-based dietitian and author of Eat Your Way to Happiness. Eating regular meals and healthy snacks may help to control the untimely hunger pangs. Skipping a meal during PMS will make things worse by reducing the levels of blood sugar.
Have lots of whole grains, lean proteins, fruits and vegetables
Having a healthy and balanced diet during the whole month is more beneficial than adjusting the diet when symptoms appear. Having lots of fruits and vegetables, and whole grains like oatmeal, brown rice, and rye bread will be a better approach to control PMS. Recent studies have shown that women who take more of thiamine and riboflavin have very low risk of developing PMS. Many of the fruits and vegetables provide adequate amounts of these vitamins. The lowering of risk was particularly seen with diets containing vitamins obtained from foods and not from supplements.
Limit the intake of sugar
The changing hormone levels, including that of progesterone and estrogen, decrease the levels of serotonin in the brain, which may in turn affect the woman’s mood. This ultimately leads to the symptoms of PMS. Changing levels of hormone also causes a craving for sugar and woman end up having about 200 to 500 more calories in a day. The extra calories come from fats, carbohydrates and sugar. Eat whole grains instead of sugar to boost the serotonin levels in the brain.
Take care of what you are eating
Studies show that women who have PMS or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) tend to use alcohol more commonly than others. This is usually considered as a method of self-treatment to control the symptoms of PMS. PMDD is a more severe form of PMS with more severe emotional symptoms but is not as common as PMS. But Bertone-Johnson remarks that there is no evidence to show that alcohol increases the risk of PMS. Limiting the intake of alcohol can reduce tenderness and bloating. Drinking lots of water helps to control bloating.
Limit the intake of salt
Limiting the amount of salt intake helps to control bloating and water retention, two most commonly associated symptoms of PMS. This can be done by taking more of whole foods rather than processed foods. This is because processed foods contain lots of sodium which is added during the manufacture. If you are not able to limit the intake of salt, increasing the water intake would be helpful.
Besides a healthy diet, PMS symptoms can be controlled by exercise, stress reduction and supplements. Kolp suggests that daily multivitamin, 100 milligrams of vitamin B-6, 600 milligrams of calcium carbonate with vitamin D and 400 milligrams of magnesium oxide would be the ideal combination. Vitamin B-6 and magnesium helps to control the mood changes during PMS and magnesium may provide the additional benefit of reducing water retention.
Healthy lifestyle habits
Some studies show that obese or overweight women are more likely to have PMS when compared to women with normal weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the methods to control PMS. Stress also plays a role in increasing the intensity of symptoms in PMS. Practicing stress reduction techniques like exercise, deep breathing, and yoga may also be helpful in alleviating the symptoms. A good relaxing sleep is also equally important during PMS.