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Eat Right to Ease PMS

Though you may be craving chocolate, reach for veggies instead to quell PMS symptoms.

By Linda Knittel


When it comes to soothing premenstrual symptoms (PMS), the best medicine may be found in your kitchen. Studies have shown that a number of foods can actually eliminate the mood swings, bloating, blemishes, breast tenderness, and fatigue that often precede menstruation. "The majority of PMS symptoms are the result of an imbalance in hormones, such that there is too much estrogen in the body when compared to the amount of progesterone," says Beth Burch, N.D., of Emerita for Health Women's Institute in Portland, Oregon.

To combat this disparity, many experts believe that women should consume more foods that help balance hormones, such as soy, vegetables and fruit, and nuts and seeds. According to a study appearing in Obstetrics and Gynecology (February 2000), a low-fat, vegetarian diet that included legumes and whole grains increased the sex hormone-binding globulin in the blood, which keeps hormones in check and therefore many PMS symptoms at bay. Also, the fiber found in many vegetables and fruits helps to flush excess hormones from the body. Complex carbohydrates like whole grains can also boost serotonin levels in the brain, which helps to keep mood elevated even during those difficult days prior to one's period.

For many women excess estrogen also causes breast tenderness and bloating the week before menstruation. In those instances the isoflavones found in soy-based foods such as tofu bind to estrogen receptors and block the body's own estrogen from causing such symptoms.

Numerous clinical trials have also shown that both magnesium and calcium play crucial roles in the prevention of PMS symptoms. For example, consuming 200 mg of magnesium daily (which is slightly more than a cup of cooked spinach) was found to reduce the bloating, weight gain, and breast tenderness (Journal of Women's Health, November 1998). Other magnesium-rich foods include peanut butter, lima beans, kale, and nuts. Another study in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (December 1999) showed a daily dose of 1,200 mg of calcium (found in spinach, broccoli, and soymilk) cut food cravings and mood swings, most likely because calcium enhances the brain's processing of serotonin.

Burch adds that avoiding certain foods is also important. For instance, refined carbohydrates and sugar-filled foods, such as breads and desserts, disrupt blood-sugar levels causing fatigue and mood swings. Also, sodium contributes to bloating and breast tenderness, while non-organic dairy products and meats contain hormones that can cause inflammation and thus worsen cramps and bloating.

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Reader Comments


Soy contains high levels of phyto-estrogens (plant estrogens) which adds to the imbalance between estrogen and progesterone hormones. If the symptoms of PMS are caused by too much estrogen, then why recommend eating soy which will only exacerbate the problem? Wheat also contributes phyto estrogens, and environmental pollution is causing estrogen levels to rise in our bodies.
Cruciferous vegetables are recommended as being able to help reduce estrogen levels. So eat plenty of cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, etc. And drink plenty of water. Keep caffeine intake to a minimum and try twist poses to help relive water retention. Personally, I have noted my PMS is worse if I drink alcohol during the month. A glass or two of red wine, the evening before my period is due can help, but not regular consumption of alcohol during the month. Drinking parsley tea (just the leaves) can help with water retention too.


New studies are coming out linking the lack of saturated fat to poor health, including PMS. A lot of vegans lack a good amount of saturated fat and often get too much Omega 6 over Omega 3. Since vegans won't get certain essential fats from animal products, try cutting canola oil (including Earth Balance) and eating more coconut oil. Hemp and flax are other great oils to incorporate into your diet (but don't cook with them or you'll destroy their beneficial properties) Avocadoes are also a tasty way of getting good fats. Try this out, while cutting back on refined sugars (switching to whole sugars like sucanat, palm/date/coconut sugar, honey, stevia, etc) and see if your PMS improves! <3


Yes, SOY is not good for your health. Try switching to rice or almond milk stuff. I am a vegan and I still get all the PMS symptoms, so this article didn't help me at all. Anyone has anything to recommend me? Thanks in advance!

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