Diet Tips To Fight and Prevent PMS Symptoms

Written By: Sofia Layarda, MPH

Title: Master of Public Health

Alumni: University of California, Berkeley

Last Updated on:

For a large number of women, “that time of the month” means putting up with cramps, headaches, mood swings, fatigue, irritability, and breast tenderness or pain. What are ways to fight PMS symptoms through the foods we eat?

​4  Diet Tips to Fight PMS and Prevent Symptoms

Do Dairy to Get Calcium and Vitamin D

It turns out what is good for your bones is also good for fighting PMS symptoms. Higher Vitamin D intake from food sources was associated with significantly lower occurrence of PMS symptoms among college-aged women, according to a University of Massachusetts study published in 2010. Vitamin D plays an important role in calcium metabolism. In addition, a lower calcium level in blood cells is associated with higher occurrence of PMS symptoms. Ensuring adequate Vitamin D and calcium intake from foods is not difficult, especially if you consume milk or fortified non-dairy products regularly: Think 3 servings a day. In addition, items such as sardines and salmon (canned with bones) can help bump up what you get.

Iron Up

Particularly for those with heavy menstrual flow, the loss of iron over time may lead to undiagnosed anemia. Iron deficiency anemia is more common among women who report PMS symptoms, and often manifests itself as chronic fatigue, headaches, forgetfulness, or lack of concentration. There are two forms of iron in the foods we eat: heme iron (from animal sources) and non-heme iron (from plant sources). Heme iron is absorbed better than non-heme iron, but the non-heme iron can be paired with Vitamin C-rich foods to improve absorption. Iron-rich foods include seafood (oysters, mussels, clams, shrimp, sardines), beef, eggs (especially the yolk), legumes, iron-fortified cereals or pastas, molasses, nuts and seeds (pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, almonds), and leafy greens.

Carbo-load the Plant-Based Way

Ever notice how cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods and the mood swings and irritability seem to go hand in hand? That’s because the brain needs carbohydrates to produce serotonin – the “feel-good” neurotransmitter. Use whole grains and carbohydrate-rich vegetables as your main sources of carbohydrates. Whole grains are collectively important sources of the B-vitamins, fiber, and the mineral magnesium. Many of the B-vitamins are integral to energy metabolism within the body, while the mineral magnesium plays an important role in relaxing blood vessels, which in turn can help mitigate headaches. Another way to get your carbohydrate fix and zap that sweet tooth is to reach for naturally sweet root vegetables such as sweet potatoes.

Possible Help from Chasteberry

Chasteberry is the fruit of the chaste tree (also known as Vitex or monk’s pepper). The ripe berry is dried and converted into liquid or powdered extracts that are then put into capsules or tablets. Some studies have found a reduction in PMS symptoms among women who take chasteberry, but it is too early to recommend its use in general. Furthermore, chasteberry may affect hormone levels and may interact with certain medications.

The Bottom Line

Since pre-menstrual syndrome is a catch-all term for many non-specific symptoms, rely on a diverse range of food choices rather than singling out any particular nutrient to help mitigate them. Fortunately, the foods that appear to benefit those with PMS symptoms are the same ones that can benefit women in general, since they have other benefits that address women’s needs, including healthy bones and the prevention of anemia.

Groceries, Nutrition 101

calcium, chasteberry, dairy, healthy snacks, iron, pms, vitamin d


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