As a nutrition/health researcher, I have observed that premenstrual syndrome can be easily treated with nutrient dense foods. PMS is a condition involving a wide range of both physical and emotional symptoms that seem to occur most likely a week or two prior to inception of menstruation. The most common symptoms associated with PMS are water retention & abdominal bloating, cramps & flatulence, breast tenderness, constipation or diarrhea, unusual food cravings, migraines or headaches, and sensitivity to both light and sounds. Psychological symptoms such as fatigue, confusion, irritability, difficulty concentrating, depression or a feeling of sadness, anxiety, low self esteem, poor judgment, insomnia, lethargy, and loss of sex drive are observed.
While PMS is a complex disorder, managing it is a matter of making small changes in diet, physical activity, and lifestyle choices. Although, OTC drugs sounds like a quick fix, let’s face it, you can’t rely on them for the rest of your life or at least in this case the life of your reproductive cycle. Turning to nutrient dense foods might prove to be beneficial to reduce short term issues such as pain and bloating, as well as, long term issues such as irritability, mood swings, and anxiety. Few nutrients to focus on when suffering from PMS blues:
Calcium: A study of over 400 women reported a significant amount of relief from PMS symptoms with 1200mg of calcium which roughly translates to four glasses of milk. Low fat dairy & yogurt have proven to be most beneficial in combating PMS symptoms, especially, the feelings of cramping and bloating.
Magnesium: Abundantly found in bananas, spinach, cashews, peanut butter, salmon, and whole grains, magnesium can help reduce water retention and/or the feeling of bloating, cramping, and breast tenderness. It also helps improve psychological well-being by regulating serotonin, a mood enhancing hormone.
Vitamin A: The combined effects of vitamin A as an antioxidant and an immune system enhancer seem beneficial to combat PMS. Vitamin A has shown to offer protection against breast and cervical cancer. Adding foods rich in vitamin A such as sweet potatoes, oranges, and mangoes not only help with water retention, but serve as a source of vitamin C which further enhances the immune system and offers protection against many diseases. Other sources of vitamin A include dairy products and egg yolks.
Vitamin B6: It has been observed that B6 besides relieving water retention and bloating has a key role in improving mood, reducing anxiety, irritability, and confusion. Adding some broccoli, bananas, and sweet potatoes, might get you feeling happy and calm during that time of the month.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Primarily act as anti-inflammatory agents and are widely used for pain management in those with arthritis &other joint disorders. With respect to PMS and accompanying abdominal pain experienced by some women, using omega -3 fatty acids could help reduce pain and cramping. Adding some salmon, avocado, tuna, and olives may please the palate while offering some pain relieving benefits.
In conclusion, these nutrients should help combat PMS, improve mood, and relieve depression.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002474/ (accessed on January 30, 2012)
http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitaminb6/ (accessed on January 30, 2012)
Maroon, J.C. and J.W. Bost, Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) as an anti-inflammatory: an alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for discogenic pain. Surg Neurol, 2006. 65(4): p. 326-31.