If you’re like me, and I’m guessing if you’re female you probably are, you get PMS. I can pretty much track exactly when my PMS is going to start, and it actually begins around week two of my cycle (sorry for any males reading this, but please read on because you can give your wife, girlfriend, mom, etc. this information! Of course, approach the topic with caution…..). So I guess for me the term “PMS” is sort of a misnomer because it’s really “PPMS”, as in “Pre-Premenstrual Syndrome”. Some of my most common symptoms include;
Bloating after even the littlest bit of salt
Moodiness and agitation (ask Nick, he’ll explain that better….)
Cravings and increased hunger
Zits and face redness
As a dietitian I like to find ways that food and/or supplements can help alleviate symptoms of many things, such as PMS (and of course IBS….see the low FODMAPs diet). Today I want to give you a rundown of how I prepare for the dreaded one (or two) weeks a month during which I can be a monster.
Do you see the black dots? These are my worst days during my cycle. I mark them each month as a reminder to start specific supplements and to add specific foods to my diet during that week and the week before (in other words, the first and second week of my cycle).
DISCLAIMER: The following is not a prescription for a PMS cure. This is simply what I do and what works for me. The following recommendations may or may not work for you. Please consult your physician or registered dietitian to get recommendations for your personal needs.
The first and second week of my cycle I do the following:
1) I start taking extra calcium and vitamin D (1000 mg calcium, 400 IU vitamin D). This is on top of the calcium and vitamin D I get in in my multivitamin and from food, as well as the 1000 IU vitamin D I take every day.
Why calcium? Some studies have shown that women who suffer depression and “bad moods” as part of PMS have low calcium levels. Low calcium levels can lead to an increase in Parathyroid Hormone (PTH), which can have a negative effect on serotonin levels.
Why vitamin D? Ok, so the studies are pretty weak when it comes to vitamin D and PMS, but one study did show that an increase in vitamin D helped decrease women’s PMS symptoms. To be honest, I take 1000 IU vitamin D every day anyway, I just take the extra D because most calcium supplements contain vitamin D.
2) I start taking 250 mg magnesium everyday, which is in addition to the magnesium I get in my multivitamin (20 mg).
Why magnesium? Studies have shown that up to 360 mg mg/day can improve mood and reduce water retention in women. Magnesium may also reduce menstrual migraine. I do not take 360 mg/day, as you can see, but the amount I take seems to be working. Lately I’ve been toying with the idea of taking magnesium every day of the month…..
3) I increase my intake of foods that are a good source of magnesium. I don’t take 360 mg magnesium from supplements (as was used in the study mentioned above) so I make up for it by adding more almonds, soy, yogurt, greens, and beans to my diet. These are all foods that are good sources of magnesium.
4) I increase my intake of foods that are a good source of vitamin E. Vitamin E is found mainly in vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds. I eat more almonds, peanuts, walnuts, and vegetable oils as a way to boost my vitamin E.
Why vitamin E? Some studies have shown improved mood, decreased food cravings, and decreased PMS-related anxiety among women who take 400 IU vitamin E/day for three cycles. I personally do not agree with vitamin E supplements because of the possibility of a pro-oxidant effect. In fact, I steer clear of any single antioxidant supplement and try to only get my antioxidants from foods. Who knows if my increase in vitamin E from foods actually helps my PMS, but I refuse to take vitamin E supplements. I do, however, get 30 IU (100% DV) from my multivitamin. I think that’s plenty.
5) I decrease my sodium intake. This is a no brainer. During the first two weeks of my cycle I feel like any extra sodium I consume makes me swell like a blowfish. I already have a very low sodium diet, but I try not to eat out a lot during this time because that’s where I tend to overdose on the sodium (it’s impossible not to when you eat out).
6) I exercise, without fail. This needs no explanation, right? Exercise provides so many wonderful benefits, but most importantly it keeps me happy and energized, which is imperative during those two weeks.
I have yet to find a food that can decrease the amount of zits I get on my face, but I really don’t think any one food can prevent that one. I do use benzamycin, which helps a lot. And as for the increased sleepiness I have a simple solution, a bit more caffeine. Like I said, this is what works for me and you may or may not agree with that one. I still stay under 400 mg caffeine, which seems to be a safe amount.