How to Minimize PMS Symptoms with Nutrition
Did you know that around 90% of menstruating people in their reproductive years experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS)?1 If you are part of that 90%, read on to learn about natural, nutrition-based solutions.
PMS: What is it?
Premenstrual syndrome, commonly known as PMS, is a combination of physical and emotional symptoms that begin a week or so before your menstrual period. Physical symptoms include tender breasts, bloating, cramping, headache or migraines, backaches, and constipation or diarrhea. Emotional symptoms include fatigue, anxiety, depression, mood swings, and irritability.
PMS: Why does it occur?
While the exact cause of PMS is uncertain, it may be due to the big changes in your body’s hormones in the week or two before having a period.1 PMS symptoms can be frustrating, especially if you’re experiencing them every month. A diet rich in certain nutrients can help to decrease or relieve some of the symptoms related to PMS.
Vitamin B6 plays a key role in mood regulation because it is responsible for making chemical messengers called neurotransmitters that help balance emotions. Some research shows that vitamin B6 can reduce irritability, depression, and anxiety.2,3 Selecting foods like salmon, tuna, chicken, turkey, pork, egg yolks, green peas, hazelnuts, plums, legumes, milk, bananas, oatmeal, chickpeas, and fortified breakfast cereals can help increase your intake of this helpful vitamin.
Choosing foods that are high in calcium may improve fatigue, depression, mood swings, headaches, and irritability associated with PMS.4 Calcium supplementation through food sources or nutrition supplementation may only be effective in decreasing PMS symptoms if you are deficient in this nutrient. To help meet your body’s daily calcium needs, try incorporating calcium rich foods like cheese, milk, yogurt, spinach, kale, turnips, collard greens, almonds, beans and fortified foods like soymilk, tofu, or orange milk into your diet.
Some studies have shown that magnesium can reduce the risk of insomnia, breast tenderness, mood, and water retention.3 To increase magnesium intake, include foods like avocados, spinach, black beans, edamame, whole grains like brown rice, almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, fish, and dairy products in your diet.
Caffeine and Salt
Foods like salt, caffeine, and alcohol may influence symptoms related to PMS. Consuming less salt may improve symptoms of bloating and fluid-retention.8 Caffeine and alcohol have been shown to negatively affect mood as well as sleep. Limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption may help mood symptoms linked to PMS.5
If you are someone who suffers from PMS, making sure your body gets adequate vitamin B6, calcium, and magnesium may help improve some of your PMS symptoms. Focus on consuming a variety of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, nuts and seeds and lean protein sources to assist in meeting your body’s needs. Eating a variety of different foods ensures you are consuming many different nutrients to support your body.
People who experience chronic PMS symptoms can benefit from an appointment with a Naturopathic Doctor or Registered Dietitian for a personalized plan to help decrease PMS symptoms. Schedule a visit today by calling Bastyr Center for Natural Health in Seattle at 206-834-4100 or Bastyr University Clinic at (858) 246-9710.
Jena Williams is a dietetic intern at Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She is passionate about helping individuals nourish a healthy relationship with food and their body. Her areas of interest include women’s health and hormonal problems, integrative and functional medicine, eating disorder treatment, and intuitive eating.
Office on Women’s Health. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Updated March 16, 2018. Accessed November 6, 2021. https://www.womenshealth.gov/menstrual-cycle/premenstrual-syndrome
Nasrollah N, Mahin G, Asadi-Samani M, Bahmani M. Effects of vitamin B6 on premenstrual syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis. JCPS. 2016;9(3): 1346-1353.
Ebrahimi E, Khayati Motlagh S, Nemati S, Tavakoli Z. Effects of magnesium and vitamin B6 on the severity of premenstrual syndrome symptoms. J Caring Sci. 2012;1(4):183-189. Published 2012 Nov 22. doi:10.5681/jcs.2012.026
Shobeiri F, Araste FE, Ebrahimi R, Jenabi E, Nazari M. Effect of calcium on premenstrual syndrome: A double-blind randomized clinical trial. Obstet Gynecol Sci. 2017;60(1):100-105. doi:10.5468/ogs.2017.60.1.100
Klemm S. Premenstrual syndrome. Eat Right. https://www.eatright.org/health/pregnancy/fertility-and-reproduction/premenstrual-syndrome. Published April 5, 2021. Accessed December 19, 2021.