Quick Links | Eat Wise
7 Foods That Can Ease PMS
International research shows that up to 80 percent of women of reproductive age may suffer from physical or emotional symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) while almost 35 percent have symptoms severe enough to disrupt their routine activities. Depression and anxiety are typical symptoms, usually surfacing anytime in the last two weeks of a menstrual cycle. PMS can worsen as a woman heads into perimenopause and menopause. Certain foods and drinks – like sugar and caffeine – can acerbate symptoms. However, other foods can help alleviate symptoms. Here are a few:
A diet rich in calcium and vitamin D can lower the risk of developing PMS. Observation has been made that women with high intakes of vitamin D and calcium from food sources, equivalent to about four servings per day of skim or low-fat milk, fortified orange juice or low-fat dairy foods such as yogurt have a significantly lower risk of developing PMS. That’s about 1,200 mg. of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D.
Pumpkin seeds have many nutrients that have been shown to reduce PMS symptoms. They’re chock-full of zinc (containing 23 percent of our daily recommended value in just one ounce), which are recognised as an essential mineral for resiliency. The mineral also increases our ability to fight off inflammation, which can cause depression and anxiety. In addition, it’s rich in magnesium, a calming nutrient: Magnesium deficiencies induce anxiety, which is why the mineral is known as the original chill pill. Magnesium also helps reduce water retention that is often a symptom of PMS. Finally, a serving fulfills 85 percent of our dietary requirement for manganese, which has been shown to reduce irritability.
A study that evaluated the effectiveness of essential fatty acids to treat PMS showed that women given a pill containing essential fatty acids, including oleic acid, over the course of six consecutive cycles had reduced PMS symptoms. Three-fourths of the calories of an avocado are from fat, mostly monosaturated fat, in the form of oleic acid. An average avocado also contains four grams of protein, higher than other fruits, and is filled with vitamin K, different kinds of vitamin B (B-9, B-6, and B-5), vitamin C, and vitamin E-12. Finally, they are low in sugar and high in dietary fiber, containing about 11 grams each.
Chamomile is one of the most ancient medicinal herbs and has been used to treat a variety of human ailments including menstrual disorders and insomnia. Severe PMS can cause anxiety and sleep disruption, so the tranquilising effects of chamomile tea are helpful to mitigate symptoms. Its sedative effects may be due to the flavonoid, apigenin that binds to benzodiazepine receptors in the brain. Chamomile extracts exhibit benzodiazepine-like hypnotic activity as evidenced in a study with sleep-disturbed rats. Patients with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) who took chamomile supplements for eight weeks had a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms compared to the patients taking placebos. Camomile also helps relieve muscle spasms and can reduce the severity of menstrual cramps.
PMS is usually associated with an increase in stress, which increases cortisol levels. Cortisol blocks progesterone from its receptors, causing more stress. That’s where dark chocolate is helpful. Dark chocolate has been found to reduce the stress hormone cortisol and help normalise stress-related differences in energy metabolism and gut microbial activities. Dark chocolate contains large amounts of tryptophan, an amino acid that works as a precursor to serotonin, and theobromine, another mood-elevating compound. It also has one of the highest concentrations in magnesium in a food, with one square providing 327 milligrams, or 82 percent of your daily value. The higher percentage of cocoa, the better.
Studies show that magnesium levels fluctuate during a woman’s cycle, and that lower magnesium levels cause symptoms of PMS. In one study, scientists demonstrated that a combination of magnesium and vitamin B6 helped with PMS symptoms. Cashews are a great source of magnesium, providing 44 percent of our daily requirement in just a half of a cup. Brazil nuts, almonds, and pine nuts have lots of magnesium, as well. Cashews are also high in calcium, another important nutrient to help with PMS.
Bananas are rich in potassium, which can help relieve menstrual cramps before and during a menstrual cycle. Potassium is also good for mood. A study found that a high-potassium diet helped relieve symptoms of depression and tension in participants. It’s an important electrolyte that regulates blood pressure and PH balance. Bananas also contain tryptophan, which increases brain serotonin and, according to some studies, can be an antidepressant for mild-to-moderate depression. The vitamin B6 in bananas helps convert the tryptophan into serotonin while soothing your nervous system. Bananas also have melatonin, which aids sleep and regulates our body’s natural rhythms, as well as iron, which can help fight the fatigue associated with PMS.