How to Support PMS Symptoms Through Diet

PMS, the lovely time of the month when 8-20% of women experience symptoms including: acne, fatigue, bloating, weight gain, headache, backache, anxiety, depression, trouble sleeping, trouble with concentration or memory, tension, irritability, mood swings, and appetite changes or food cravings, to name a few. When you name all the symptoms, it sounds like the list of side effects from a new drug commercial. Yikes! Ironically, many women are prescribed antidepressants and oral contraceptives to decreases symptoms when these prescribed drugs often have a set of side effects themselves.

Premenstrual Syndrome’s main contributing factor is the hormonal changes happening during the menstrual cycle within the endocrine system.  There is no need to fret as there are multiple lifestyle choices that can be done to support the endocrine system from wreaking havoc on your upbeat livelihood. Let’s get those symptoms under control!

Studies show a 35% lower risk of PMS in women with a diet rich in two B-vitamins. Two vitamins to note are B1- thiamine and B2-riboflavin.

Thiamine is required for the metabolism of glucose and precursors of GABA. GABA is a neurotransmitter and is known primarily for regulating anxiety.  We already have enough to worry about. After all, who doesn’t want less anxiety in their life?

Plant-based foods rich in Thiamine (B1) include:

-Asparagus
-Sunflower seeds
-Green peas
-Flax seeds
-Eggplant
-Navy beans
-Sweet potato

Riboflavin is needed to activate vitamin B-6, which is a cofactor in the generation of serotonin, a happy neurotransmitter, from the amino acid tryptophan. With serotonin at normal levels, your mood is regulated. You feel happy, calm and overall more emotionally balanced. Yes, please!

Plant-based foods rich in Riboflavin (B2) include:

-Spinach
-Mushrooms, Crimini
-Asparagus
-Sea vegetables
-Soy milk

I recommend always go with whole foods before supplementation. If looking to take a supplement to support PMS, be sure to take a B-complex instead of individualized B1 and B2 as B vitamins work together on a molecular level for proper metabolism.

Studies have also shown calcium and vitamin D fluctuates during the menstrual cycle due to estrogen changes. In the luteal phase of menses, estrogen decreases if the egg is not fertilized causing a decrease in absorption of calcium. Vitamin D is also needed to absorb calcium optimally but if both calcium and vitamin D are scarce, PMS symptoms are more likely to occur. Let’s fix it!

Plant-based foods rich in Calcium include:

-Cooked spinach
-Butternut squash
-Bok choy
-Sesame seeds
-Broccoli
-Oranges
-Kale
-Garlic
-Legumes
-Tofu
-Seaweed

Plant-based foods rich in Vitamin D include mushrooms.  As for Vitamin D, the best source is the sun. If you are living above the 37th parallel, it is best to supplement vitamin D, especially during the winter, for optimal intake.

PMS symptoms occur differently in everyone and it is better to prevent symptoms from occurring not only through diet but lifestyle changes. Exercise has been proven to not only relieve stress, but also reduce PMS symptoms as well.

Avoiding alcohol, smoking, and eating less sugar, sodium, and caffeine is worth trying to eliminate bloating, weight gain, and fatigue. Remember, you know your body best!

Please note the above micronutrients should not be seen as working separately, but as a whole. It is best for the above food sources to be joined together on a plate. Vitamin D can be your exception depending on your geographic location.

How do you support PMS through diet?

Related: Warm up with Hearty Bison Taco Chili
Vegan Winter ‘Nourish Me’ Bowl
Squash, Kale, & Chickpea Salad with Oil-free Lemon Tahini Dressing 

Photo: Rachael Walker via Unsplash

Katherine Losoya
Written by Katherine Losoya
Katherine lives the everyday influences women face. From deciding what to eat, what products to purchase or what supplements to buy, Katherine writes to help women make nutritional, preventative changes for themselves. Katherine earned her Master of Science degree in Nutrition from NCNM. Her studies focused on women’s health specifically hormone regulation through a holistic, plant-based lifestyle.