If you are one of the very small percentages of women who have never experienced PMS—you are dismissed from this article. But, being that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimates that at least 85 percent of menstruating women experience at least one or more symptoms of PMS with their monthly cycle, I am fairly confident that we have a captive audience.
Let’s talk about you. Usually you are what can be called “reasonable,” “even-keeled,” “happy,” but like the flick of a switch, all that seems to disappear—or at least diminish— and a cloud of excessive emotion has swallowed you up whole! You sulk, succumb to fits of unprovoked irritability, and feel sad or angry. All of a sudden you don’t recognize yourself. Who is this irrational, bad-tempered or weepy woman? I’m not a doctor, but I am a woman. And I can assure you that if any of this rings true for you “at that time of the month,” you probably are one of the 85% who suffer from PMS.
Pre-menstrual syndrome is a disorder that most of us ladies will have to contend with— either for a period (no pun intended), or as part of life. Beyond the assorted emotional indicators, PMS can also cause a myriad of physical symptoms: bloating, water retention, tender breasts, cramps, headaches, low back pain, cravings and skin changes— just to name a few. These physical and emotional “reminders of our fertility” tend to affect each woman to varying degrees.
Must we simply accept defeat and live with the monster? I’m not convinced, and neither should you be! With self-management, many women claim to be set free of the symptoms. Got PMS? Here are some things you can do to help…
First of all, remember the importance of following a sensible and balanced diet that provides the recommended levels of vitamins and nutrients for a menstruating woman. Let’s look at some foods and vitamins that combat PMS…
- Vitamin B6. Research shows that B supplements can reduce depression and irritability, plus boost energy. In particular Vitamin B6, which can also be found in foods such as skinless chicken breast, chickpeas and bananas, is thought to ease PMS symptoms.
- Calcium. Reports indicate that women with PMS notice relief from bloating and mood disturbances by taking 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium supplements daily. Calcium–rich foods are essential for women with PMS. Try: greens like spinach or collard greens, tofu, soy milk, or sesame seeds (that includes tahini, which is found in hummus).
- Vitamin D. Calcium and Vitamin D go hand-in-hand, being that our bodies cannot absorb calcium effectively in the absence of Vitamin D. In addition to this, studies have proven that women who eat a diet high in vitamin D have reduced the threat of PMS symptoms by up to forty percent. Fish, milk, sardines, and shitake mushrooms are high in Vitamin D content.
- Magnesium. One of the greatest benefits of magnesium is its link to the regulation of serotonin, which assists us in maintaining a positive mood. Interestingly enough, women who suffer with PMS often have low levels of magnesium. Some magnesium–rich foods to keep on hand are beans, peanut butter, almonds.
- Manganese. It’s quite easy to get enough manganese from a diet that includes whole grains, nuts and seeds. Manganese is essential to normal brain and nerve function. Featuring manganese-rich foods in your meal plans, such as brown rice, spinach and oats (especially around the times that PMS would normally strike), has been shown to benefit many women.
Now that we know how to eat for PMS, let’s move on to what things to avoid around the time of our periods. I think we all recognize smoking to be an unhealthy habit, as is having too much caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, or salt—and each one has potential to worsen PMS indicators. If you’re truly serious about fighting PMS, consider trading your coffee for chamomile tea or a decaffeinated beverage. Be sure to reduce your salt intake too—it’s a major contributor to water retention and bloating!
Beyond controlling our eating habits, there are other ways in which we can effectively deal with the symptoms we suffer, thanks to your friend and mine, PMS. In part two, we will explore more ways to manage PMS.
Image via Modern Hepburn