By Dana Sullivan
How can my diet affect my premenstrual symptoms?
What you eat and drink can have a big influence on both the physical and emotional symptoms you may have each month during the week or two leading up to your period. Most experts recommend that women with premenstrual syndrome start by avoiding caffeine and alcohol, which can exacerbate headaches, anxiety, and depression. It's also a good idea to drink at least eight glasses of water each day and cut back on salt if you're troubled by bloating; paradoxically, drinking more water helps you retain less.
Some studies have found that eating more carbohydrates in the middle of your cycle can help relieve depression, tension, confusion, and fatigue. Eating starchy foods like potatoes and crackers can boost your level of serotonin, a brain chemical linked to mood. The trick is to avoid foods containing protein and fat for a few hours before and after each carbo snack, because they can delay or destroy the effect.
In another study, women with PMS who took 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day for three months reported that premenstrual symptoms such as pain, food cravings, mood swings, and water retention had diminished by half. The researchers, who noticed that some of these symptoms resemble those of severe calcium deficiency, suspect that low levels of calcium may cause women's bodies to secrete hormones that cause PMS.
Wurtman JJ, et al. Effect of nutrient intake on premenstrual depression. Am J Obstet Gynecol 1989 Nov;161(5):1228-34.
Sayegh R, et al. The effect of a carbohydrate-rich beverage on mood, appetite, and cognitive function in women with premenstrual syndrome. Obstet Gynecol 1995 Oct;86(4 Pt 1):520-8.
Mayo Clinic. Premenstrual Syndrome. December 8, 2009.
Last Updated: March 11, 2013
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