Those days of …PMS

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is being experienced so commonly these days. In my Consulting Practice as Nutritionist, I come across so many women , who are so troubled by this recurrent condition , characterized by troublesome symptoms, seven to fourteen days before menstruation and end, often abruptly, as menstruation begins. The most common symptoms are, irritability, nervous tension, depression, mood swings,craving for sugary foods, breast tenderness, water retention and weight gain.The symptoms of PMS may be mild or severe: about one in five women have severe symptoms that interfere with daily activities.In many women, an imbalance of too much estrogen and too little progesterone triggers the symptoms of PMS.

My subject of expertise being Nutrition, I choose to discuss the role of diet in PMS. Many women with PMS experience cravings for refined carbohydrates and sugar. Carbohydrates may improve mood by enhancing production of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. However, eating large amounts of sugar and refined carbohydrate can increase water retention and weight gain.

Increasing intake of tryptophan– rich foods can reduce cravings for carbohydrates. These Food Items like cashewnuts 450mg/100 g; sunflower seeds 310mg/100g ; chicken breast 270mg/100g ;oatmeal 190mg/100g ;egg one avg sized/165 mg ; wheat germ 165mg/100g are sources of trypyophan in mg per 100grams.

Let me simplify, Tryptophan is an amino acid ( amino acids are the building blocks of protein) . This amino acid tryptophan is converted to serotonin in the brain, so then, isn’t it better to eat foods rich in tryptophan than gain weight eating carbohydrates?

Points to remember:
1. Heavy alcohol and caffeine intake during the two weeks leading up to menstruation can aggravate headache and irritability associated with PMS.

2. A diet low in salt may reduce fluid retention.

3. High intakes of magnesium may help reduce the symptoms of PMS.Rich sources of magnesium are seeds, nuts, wholegrains, and vegetables.

4. Omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oils, deep sea fishes or in flaxseeds for vegetarian options may help reduce painful menstrual cramping.

5. Vitamin C found in citrus fruits, Amla, Guava, etc helps in reducing heavy bleeding during menstrual periods.

6. Vitamin E , found in sunflower oil, almonds, wheat germ etc may help reduce severity of breast tenderness and menstrual cramps.

Iron deficiency

Iron deficiency is especially likely in women who have heavy bleeding during their periods.Women with heavy periods should consume rich dietary sources of iron  like lean meats, liver, raisins, dates, clams, dark green leafy vegetables, poha, garden cress seeds or aleev as they call it in Marathi. Cooking in an iron kadhai also helps to incorporate some iron in foods. to replace losses of iron in bleeding.

Although PMS has been a well-defined clinical entity for over 70 years, many still argue that it still does not exist. Family members,even those from educated and affluent families are still ignorant about the PMS agony. Many women are told that,” its all in your head”. As a result, many women who suffer from PMS do not receive proper treatment.

A more rational approach to the problem of PMS is identification of the causative factors and appropriate treatment using dietary therapy, nutritional supplementation, and exercise.

(Image Coutersy:

Qualification : B.Sc. Food Science and Nutrition, M.Sc. Clinical Nutrition
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I am practicing as Nutrition Consultant since past 15 years. Earlier I have worked with Novartis Nutrition. After which I was involved in teaching full time at IHM Mumbai for post graduate diploma in... Read More

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