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PMS—likely the reason our monthly visitor was nicknamed “the curse”, may be easier to cure than previously thought. Though it will require a certain amount of discipline on your part, the most effective cure for PMS appears to be dietary.
To give you a head-start, I have compiled a shortlist of the foods highest in more than one the vitamins and minerals most effective against PMS. I call these foods “twofers,” though some contain three of the PMS fighting nutrients.
Multi-Nutrient PMS Fighting Foods
- Cooked spinach – contains Magnesium, Vitamin B6 and Calcium
- Black beans, cooked – contains Magnesium and Vitamin B6
- Peanuts – contains Magnesium and Vitamin B6
- Whole wheat bread – contains Magnesium and Vitamin B6
- Raw broccoli – contains Magnesium and Calcium
- Salmon – contains Calcium and Vitamins B6 and D
- Sardines – contains Calcium and Vitamin D
- Halibut, fillet – contains Magnesium, Vitamins B6 and D
There are many more foods that naturally contain the minerals magnesium and calcium, and the vitamins B6 and D, but these eight will give you the most bang for your calorie buck. If such foods are eaten regularly, while avoiding the substances that cause or exacerbate PMS, you can decrease and even eliminate PMS symptoms.
How Magnesium Helps Alleviate PMS
Magnesium is essential to the optimal functioning of the human nervous system, which is why it’s also known as the “anti-stress mineral.” It regulates calcium in the body and acts as a natural muscle relaxant. In the early 20th century, before the pharmaceutical industry-funded medical schools, magnesium was used by doctors to induce sleep, treat epileptic seizures, control convulsions, and “the shakes” in alcoholics. So, it’s no surprise that various studies have verified magnesium’s ability to help relieve the most troubling PMS symptoms.
- menstrual cramps / muscle cramps
- mood swings / irritability
- depression / anxiety
- bloating / fluid retention
- breast tenderness
- sugar cravings
- headaches / migraines
- sleeplessness / insomnia
“Recent studies show that using magnesium with vitamin B6 significantly decreases PMS symptoms. In another study, magnesium positively influenced anxiety and depression symptoms as well as nausea and constipation.”1
How Calcium Helps Alleviate PMS
A number of studies have shown that 1,000 to 1,200mg of calcium per day could significantly reduce levels of fatigue, appetite changes, and depression, in women suffering from PMS.
Of all the supplements studied for effectiveness in treating PMS, calcium is second only to magnesium, as far as scientific evidence backing up anecdotal accounts.
How Vitamin B6 Helps Alleviate PMS
Vitamin B6 is essential to many bodily functions, because metabolism, immune response and nervous system functioning all depend on it. Vitamin B6 is necessary for the biosynthesis of neurotransmitters in the central nervous system, the removal of homocysteine from the blood, the synthesis of hemoglobin in red blood cells, and optimal immune system functioning.
For all of these reasons and more, vitamin B6, in concert with magnesium, can significantly decrease PMS symptoms.
How Vitamin D Helps Alleviate PMS
Vitamin D eases PMS symptoms, in part, because it helps the body absorb and utilize calcium. In addition,
“vitamin D regulates expression of tyrosine hydroxylase (a rate-limiting enzyme), which in turn controls dopamine, epinephrine (aka adrenaline), and norepinephrine. These are brain chemicals that control mood and motivation, as well survival responses.”2
According to a study published in Archives of Internal Medicine, blood levels of calcium and vitamin D are lower in women with PMS, but supplementing can reduce the severity of PMS symptoms. However, it as yet unknown whether or not nutrition can prevent the initial development of PMS.
Foods and Substances that Make PMS Worse
Fast foods and processed foods contain a lot of sodium, even the ones that don’t taste salty. And too much sodium (salt) can make PMS symptoms worse, particularly bloating.
The same goes for fats from meats. Meat fat contains arachidonic acid, which produces prostaglandins that can cause uterine contractions and cramping. Trans fats (hydrogenated oils) should also be avoided. They cause inflammation in the body and can intensify your pain. Both of these fats should be avoided during the last few days before the onset of your period.
Caffeine is also a no-no. It has been linked to breast tenderness and anxiety in premenstrual women.
Whole Foods for Better Mood
If you’re considering solving your PMS issues with supplements and retaining bad eating habits, keep in mind, it’s not just the individual nutrients that are effective for fighting PMS. Whole foods that are loaded with fiber, are low on the glycemic index, and contain complex carbohydrates, are a must for fighting PMS symptoms as well. This is especially true for mood swings and depression. Such foods have demonstrated their ability to boost serotonin levels in the brain. And serotonin is the neurotransmitter responsible for controlling mood balance.
Examples: Oatmeal, brown rice, lentils, quinoa, butternut squash, apples and pears (with skin), strawberries, almonds, and walnuts are all excellent choices.
Remember, selecting foods with both taste and nutrition in mind will prevent you from returning to old, unproductive eating habits. Do your research; it will be well worth it. You may even discover some twofers that I’ve missed, and you’ll not only be combating “the curse” but living a much healthier, contented life.
1 “Magnesium Supplements May Be Solution to PMS”. PR Newswire, November 25, 2014. Web. August 2016
Bradley, Linda, MD. “11 Diet Changes That Help You Fight PMS”. Cleveland Clinic, October 10, 2014. Web. August 2016
Mayo Clinic Staff. “Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)”. Mayo Clinic, December 16, 2014. Web. August 2016
“Magnesium, The Nutrient That Could Change Your Life: Chapter 6. The Health of Nerves. The Magnesium Online Library, January 3, 2001. Web. August 2016
McCoy, Krisha. “5 Supplements That May Ease PMS Symptoms”. Everyday Health, September 22, 2010. Web. August 2016
Chase, Brad. “Vitamin B6 for PMS and Mood Swings”. Progressive Health, n.d. Web. August 2016
Higdon, Jane, Ph.D. “Vitamin B6”. Oregon State University / Linus Pauling Institute, 2000. Web. August 2016
Bertone-Johnson ER, Hankinson SE, Bendich A, et al. “Calcium and Vitamin D intake and risk of incident premenstrual syndrome”. Archives of Internal Medicine, June 13, 2005. Web. August 2016