Food is the body’s best medicine, especially for PMS

A healthy PMS diet could radically alleviate the painful PMS symptoms of around 80 percent of menstruating women suffer from, including mood changes, headaches, abdominal bloating and breast tenderness. Normally, these painful and annoying symptoms last for days, or even weeks, so they affect day-to-day life for millions of women across the world.

Thankfully, you can alter your diet to reduce PMS. Simply eliminating certain foods and opting for others can drastically reduce PMS symptoms, making it easier for you to live your life. And there are also some powerful supplements that help alleviate symptoms, as well.

Make sure that your PMS diet is beneficial rather than harmful with these diet tips.

8 Foods To Include In Your PMS Diet:

1. Vitamin and Mineral Dense Foods

Sunflower seeds are already known for their numerous health benefits, and a recent study found that they also help to reduce PMS symptoms. The study found that women who increase their intake of vitamin B-1 (thiamine) and vitamin B-2 (riboflavin) had a significantly lower risk of PMS.

Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of both B-1 and B-2; 100 grams of sunflower seeds contains 1.48 mg of thiamin and 0.36 mg of riboflavin. Make sure that you buy sunflower seeds rather than vitamin supplements, as the study also found that the risk of symptoms is only lowered if women get B vitamins directly from their food.

In general, food is a better source of nutrients than supplements, as there is normally more bioavailability in nutritious fresh food.

2. Iron Rich Foods

Spinach isn’t just Pop-Eye’s favorite food – it also helps to reduce the symptoms of PMS. Scientists working at the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Services and Harvard found that women who have a diet rich in iron are far less likely to suffer from PMS symptoms.

Spinach is a great source of iron; it contains 2.7 mg of iron per 100 grams, making it one of the most iron-rich foods that you can find. Eat it raw or cook it for a few minutes to feel the benefits.

Another iron-rich food is liver, so you can include liver from a healthy, pastured animal in your PMS diet.

3. Vitamin D Rich Foods

The University of Massachusetts recently found that women with PMS reported fewer symptoms when they consumed 100 IUs of vitamin D a day (which is equivalent to 2.5 micrograms). However, it is important to consume vitamin D with calcium, as your body won’t fully utilize the calcium without it. This can be difficult as there are very few foods that contain both vitamin D and calcium – but thankfully there are portobello mushrooms! If the mushrooms are exposed to sunlight as they grow, they contain 1136 IU (189 percent of your daily value) and 3 mg of calcium per 100 grams. This means that they are an excellent way to reduce PMS – just make sure to buy mushrooms that are grown outdoors, as they contain vitamin D due to their continued exposure to sunlight. Mushrooms that are grown inside will not contain a sufficient amount of vitamin D.

4. Phytoestrogen Foods

Soy beans and lentils are rich in magnesium; one cup of cooked beans and lentils provides 148 mg of magnesium, which is 37 percent of your daily value. This is important, as a recent study found that magnesium can decrease the symptoms of PMS, including breast tenderness, sugar cravings, headings and anxiety. Just make sure you’re getting non-GMO, organic soy bean, as non-organic soy has some scary side effects.

If you don’t like lentils or soy beans, you could eat spinach instead as it is also a rich source of magnesium. Or pile on cocoa beans, with treats that have a high cocoa percentage, as it’s also one of the best sources of magnesium.

However, some people who have hormonal issues (which can be linked to PMS) can’t tolerate phytoestrogen foods. Try a small amount the first time and monitor your PMS symptoms afterward; if it works well for your body include phytoestrogen foods in your PMS diet, and if it worsens symptoms make sure to avoid it in the future.

5. Healthy Fats

Coconut oil helps to boost hormone production in the body, which effectively reduces inflammation. It even has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, which can also help to relieve the symptoms of PMS. Other healthy fats, such as avocado oil and olive oil, can also help to balance hormones, which can reduce the symptoms of PMS.

However, not all oils are created equally; polyunsaturated fats (such as vegetable oil and animal fat) can interfere with hormone production, which can actually increase PMS symptoms. Generally, it is useful to reduce polyunsaturated fats such as omega 6, and instead prioritize omega 3s as they can reduce symptoms.

Herbs and Teas

6. Chaste Berry

Chaste berry is a dried herbal remedy, and clinical studies have found that it helps to manage PMS symptoms. You can buy dried leaves online so that you can brew your own herbal tea at home. You can also get in tincture-form.

Nutrition health coach and Nutritional Therapist, Rachael Collins, told us: “Chaste berry (or Agnus castus) is a gentle herbal hormone regulator. Most women will not see an immediate effect, and I recommend clients try it for three months before deciding if it helps.”

7. Gingko Biloba Tea

Gingko Biloba tea is a delicious, calming drink, but that isn’t all; recent studies have found that ginkgo extract also helps to relieve PMS symptoms. You can buy dried ginkgo tea online – simply drink it daily to help with your symptoms.

8. Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

Red raspberry tea has been used for thousands of years to combat PMS and menstrual problems. While no studies have found a clear link between red raspberry tea and reduced PMS symptoms, it contains lots of healthy nutrients that have been proven to help with PMS, such as iron, calcium, and vitamins B-1, B-3 and C. Red raspberry leaf tea also contains magnesium, which has been proven to help reduce PMS symptoms.

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5 Foods and Drinks That You Should Avoid On A PMS Diet

If you suffer from PMS symptoms, avoiding inflammatory foods is your best bet for dealing with symptoms.

1. Excess Meat

Most meats are high in saturated fats, which often increase PMS symptoms if eaten in excess. This is because the fat is filled with arachidonic acid that causes contractions and uterine cramping.

2. Caffeine

Collins states: “In general I get my clients on a diet low in caffeine.” This is because caffeine increases the chances of bloating and cramps in women with PMS, which can increase symptoms. If you love hot drinks, try to replace your coffee with a decaffeinated herbal tea.

3. Dairy

You may be wondering why dairy is on the “avoid” list when it is a good source of calcium. It is because milk contains saturated animal fat, which can increase estrogen levels and significantly worsen PMS symptoms. If you love drinking milk but you suffer from PMS, consider almond or cashew milk as an alternative.

4. Alcohol

Lots of women feel tempted to reach for a glass of wine when they experience PMS, but this can actually make the problem worse. Although lots of different studies point to the benefits of a glass of red wine a day, alcohol should be avoided if you have PMS. This is because it increases the risk of dysmenorrhea (cramping) by causing the uterine muscles to tense, rather than relax.

Alcohol can also increase other PMS symptoms including mood fluctuations, so it may make you feel more emotional. It can also dehydrate, you which will increase the likelihood of headaches, so make sure to avoid alcohol (even if it is tempting!).

5. Refined Sugar

Refined sugar may be calling, but studies have found that women who cut out refined sugar reported reduced PMS symptoms. Refined sugar can disrupt important hormones in the body such as insulin. Insulin is closely linked to the other hormones in the body, and if it is disrupted it can affect estrogen and testosterone levels, which can cause anxiety, irritability, and insomnia.

PMS Diet Bottom Line

PMS symptoms are often a sign that there is an imbalance somewhere. A PMS diet of low inflammatory foods can help reduce pain while high nutrient foods can help fill nutritional holes that may be causing imbalances. Avoiding highly processed foods can further help relieve the stress on your body and reduce PMS symptoms.

Amy Johnson is a freelance writer and social media manager.

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