How to Get Relief from PMS with Diet, Supplement, and Lifestyle Changes 

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) affects the daily functioning of women from a week before to a few days into their menstruation, with emotional and physical symptoms substantially interfering with the quality of everyday life. [1-2] 

PMS has a wide variety of emotional and physical symptoms, including increased appetite, weight gain, body pain, headache, swelling and tenderness of one or both breasts, nausea, constipation, acne, anxiety, irritability, shorter attention span, tiredness, restlessness, unstable mood, and depressive mood for no apparent reason.

Daily stress amplifies these symptoms by significantly increasing the intensity of uterine contraction resulting in more intense premenstrual and menstrual pain. [3-5]

About 80% to 90% of women suffer from at least one PMS symptom, but in 2-3% of women, the symptoms are strong enough to affect their daily life severely. This disorder is then called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). [6]

While the exact cause of PMS remains unclear, we know that the changes in hormone levels influence the situation. 

Progesterone affects neurotransmitters like gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), serotonin, adrenaline, and dopamine.

While it may seem impossible to manage these symptoms because of their physiological nature, there is good news. There are ways to find relief through specific dietary and lifestyle changes: 

1. Reduce high-fat, high-calorie consumption 

In a study examining the association between diet quality and PMS, researchers conducted a cross-sectional survey of 272 female students. They recorded their PMS symptoms over two months and assessed their dietary intake. The study suggested that those who consumed high-quality diets experienced fewer PMS symptoms, such as depression and sleep disruption, than those with low-quality diets. [7-8]

A low-quality diet is a high-fat, high-calorie diet with much sugar. 

A high-quality diet includes minimally processed whole foods from plant sources, including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains. 

Another earlier study reported that a high intake of fats is associated with PMS. [9]

Research also examined the intake of “junk food” and PMS symptoms and found that processed food was significantly associated with PMS making it evident that lifestyle factors have a significant association with PMS and PMDD. [10]

2. Limit sweet foods

A study from Egypt revealed the positive association between PMS and excess intake of sweet-tasting food. [11]

A similar study assessed factors associated with PMS among female university students. It revealed that consumption of fast food, sugar-containing drinks, deep-fried foods, and lifestyle factors play a role in this disorder. Therefore, I recommend consuming real, preferably whole food and limiting the number of sweets and processed foods to an absolute minimum, certainly in the fortnight before the menstrual period and until your menstruation is over. You may consume fruits or ginger pieces instead of sweets, as these have been shown to reduce PMS symptoms significantly. [12]

3. Limit salt and salty foods 

Some of the uncomfortable symptoms of PMS include bloating and fluid retention. Bloating is linked to the increased contraction frequency in the week leading up to your period. Progesterone and estrogen levels fluctuate, causing the body to retain more water. Therefore, consuming more salt and salty foods will only increase the risk of bloating during PMS. 

And while drinking more water may lead you to believe that you will retain more water, you should increase your water consumption, especially if you exercise or consume salty foods. Drinking more water will help remove excess sodium from the body. And if you’re not keen on drinking plain water all day, you can add flavor to it by adding sliced lemons or cucumber. 

4. Limit alcohol and coffee

The association between alcohol intake and PMS was observed in a study from 2007, which showed that alcohol consumption is positively associated with premenstrual anxiety and mood changes in women with PMS. [13] Alcohol consumption should be avoided during the fortnight before menstruation until the menstruation is over. 

5. Ensure Good Sleep Quality

Sleep regularity is crucial for health and well-being and will help prevent PMS symptoms. PMS was found to be significantly associated with poorer sleep quality. [11,14-16] Aim to sleep at the same time every night and wake up at the same regular times in the morning, even on the weekend +/- one hour. Using an alarm clock to remind you when to go to sleep is critical in maintaining sleep regularity and quality. Also, melatonin-rich foods before bedtime are beneficial for falling asleep fast. When you cannot sleep, go to the kitchen and eat a banana and some walnuts or drink a cup of sour cherry juice, or consume some oats if you are hungry, and in under half an hour, you will be sound asleep. 

6. Stop smoking

Women smokers have a higher risk of suffering from PMS with more severe symptoms than non-smokers. One study aimed to explain this, stating that cigarette smoking impairs estrogen, progesterone, androgen, and gonadotropin levels. [12,17]

Supplements to take to reduce PMS symptoms

Take calcium supplements 

In a study from the University of Medical Sciences in Iran, researchers conducted a double-blind, randomized clinical trial on sixty-six female students diagnosed with PMS. Participants were randomly assigned to receive 500 mg of calcium each day. The group that received the calcium supplements showed a significant reduction in PMS symptoms, such as water retention and emotional changes. The study concluded that calcium was an effective method for reducing mood disorders associated with PMS. [18-19] When taking calcium with magnesium, it will increase the soothing effect. Therefore, I recommend consuming a tablespoon of whole sesame seed paste, preferably every day, instead of purchasing supplements for these nutrients. This is a great way to consume these nutrients in a healthy and easily absorbed form.

Vitamin D supplementation 

A study on the potential for high-dose vitamin D supplementation in women suffering from PMS and menstrual problems concluded that vitamin D supplementation helped reduce incidents of several menstrual-related problems. The study involved 897 girls given 50,000 IU/week of vitamin D3 supplements over nine weeks. The study recorded a reduction in PMS symptoms such as depressive feelings and backache, indicating that vitamin D had the potential to address both physical and psychological problems of PMS. [20] Although these students were given high-dose vitamin D, the best way to consume vitamin D, as Dr. Holick’s research shows, is through regular smaller dose intake. You may consume vitamin D with calcium together for maximum efficiency. Check how to get sufficient levels of this crucial nutrient according to your living location and skin type in my vitamin D article.

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