12 quick PMS tips

Many women experience pre-menstrual symptoms, in moderate to severe forms.

Although there is more than one syndrome, nervous tension is one of the most common symptoms, hence the name pre-menstrual tension.  Symptoms and severity thereof vary from one individual to another, with the most common symptoms being anxiety, irritability, depression, mood swings, fatigue, cravings, weight gain, swollen and painful breasts, cramps and backache. Symptoms are most commonly felt one week prior to the onset of menstruation.

There is no scientific proof that symptoms are caused by poor diet or specific vitamin or mineral deficiencies, or that it can be cured by dietary therapy.

The following guidelines however have been found to be useful to many women suffering from PMS.

General guidelines:
  • Eat 5 – 6 smaller meals as opposed to 3 or less large meals.
  • Eat at least 5 fresh fruit and vegetables daily.
  • Choose whole wheat or brown bread rather than white, and high fibre breakfast cereals (e.g. All bran or Weetbix) rather than sugary, refined cereals. This will help maintain more constant blood sugar levels, and reduce sweet cravings.
  • Limit your intake of sweet and sugary foods (e.g. sugar, jam, chocolates, sugary cold drinks), which are rapidly absorbed and cause a sudden rise and fall in blood sugar levels.
  • Reduce your daily intake of salt and salty foods (e.g. crisps, salted nuts and popcorn).
  • Avoid fatty or fried foods, and rather use low fat products and dairy products.
  • Avoid tea, coffee and cola beverages as caffeine can exacerbate symptoms.
  • Enjoy a moderate exercise program of 30 – 40 minutes of exercise 3 – 4 times weekly.
  • Make time for daily periods of relaxation and stress reduction.
  • Quit, or at least reduce, smoking.
  • Limit alcohol intake.
  • Supplements may be beneficial in certain individuals, although there is no proven scientific evidence of the benefits. Supplements like vitamin B6, magnesium, evening primrose oil and vitamin E are normally recommended. See your dietician about specific doses or other problems.
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