Some of us cruise through the month with no great variation in mood, pain, anxiety associated with the time of our cycle. Some of us know for sure the week before our period there is change in energy levels, mood, anxiety, and often pain (in back, lower abdomen, and sometimes hormonal migraine). Then, there’s the rest of us who sit somewhere in the middle – some months there may be a niggle of pain and some snapping at our nearest and dearest, and other months not so much.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is quite common, with a global prevalence of almost 50%, and there is no doubt that it greatly affects quality of life. More severe symptoms of PMS – including severe depression, irritability and tension – are defined as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
Hi, I’m Cathy, Holistic Dietitian and Gut Health Coach, owner of Nutrition Wellness Life, and Mum to 3 little munchkins. I love working with women who are struggling with digestive and hormone issues to help improve energy levels, reduce stress, and have a happier gut!
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The type and severity of symptoms of PMS vary according to lifestyle factors such as sleep, diet, caffeine and alcohol consumption, stress management and exercise.
Management of symptoms should be tailored to you as an individual, looking at nutrition and lifestyle factors. For some, there may be the need for specific supplements – based on the recommendation of a trained nutrition professional who has assessed your dietary intake, and taken into account your symptoms, and relevant blood test results (+/- any other functional tests you have done).
Overall, being sure to have adequate variety with plenty of wholefoods, vegetables and fruit, lean proteins, and some healthy fats will provide a good foundation and help to lessen the severity of PMS symptoms.
Digging a bit deeper, there are specific nutrients that you really should be investigating and possibly including if you are suffering from symptoms of PMS. These are:
1. Vitamin D: It is a good idea to get your Vitamin D levels checked annually – you can ask your GP for a blood test to check your vitamin D stores. If your level is less than ideal (any level under approximately 80 nmol/L), then you could consider a supplement. Vitamin D has an important role in female reproduction, and has been reported to reduce the production of prostaglandins (which are important in pain and inflammatory processes – so less prostaglandins = less pain and inflammation).
2. Magnesium (Mg): this essential mineral is used in the human body as a cofactor by over 300 biochemical reactions required to maintain homeostasis (aka balance). There is a strong correlation between low Mg levels and anxiety. Dietary sources of magnesium include pepitas (pumpkin seeds), almonds, cashews, chia seeds, spinach, legumes.
3. B vitamins (particularly vitamin B6): a pilot study looking at supplementation with Vitamin B6 published in 2020 from researchers at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, showed a reduction in PMS symptoms in those given vitamin B6 supplements. Again, it is important that you have a professional look at your individual symptoms, dietary intake, and any other blood tests/functional tests (such as the organic acids test) to ascertain whether or not you are likely deficient in Vitamin B6, and supplement if required (with a good quality supplement).
I hope this has helped provide you with some thought provoking ideas to get you on your way to reducing your symptoms of PMS.
Until next time, stay well, enjoy your whole foods and take a breath.
Yours in good health and wellness,