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The Food and PMS Connection

Every month, women experience a combination of physical and emotional symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which includes abdominal cramps, anxiety, depression, bloating, breast tenderness, craving, and mood swings. While PMS is a fact of every woman’s life, knowing what foods to eat and what to avoid is the first step towards reducing the pain and discomforts of PMS. Combine this with correctly formulated supplements, and PMS might well become a distant memory of the past.  

Foods that help relieve the severity of symptoms associated with PMS include:

  • Complex carbohydrates. Eat small amounts of complex carbohydrates by eating five or six small meals a day. This serves to keep your blood sugar at an even level and to eliminate sugar cravings. Carbohydrate-rich foods include foods as pasta, baked potato, cereal, beans, rice, and whole grain.

  • High calcium foods. Calcium has been shown to reduce abdominal cramping and muscular contractions resulting from PMS. Eat lots of broccoli, salmon, dried beans, tofu, soybeans, yogurt, skimmed-milk, and low-fat cheese; or supplement your diet with a calcium pill.

  • Magnesium. Magnesium facilitates the absorption of calcium. Mood swings and food cravings are also known to be alleviated by magnesium. Sources of magnesium include spinach, avocados, barley, oysters, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, buckwheat and almonds.

  • Vitamin B6. Foods high in vitamin B6 may reduce depression and relieve cravings, fatigue, mood swings, fluid retention and bloating during your period. To derive the possible benefits of B6, eat foods rich in vitamin B6, including fish, tuna, chicken, turkey, pork, brown rice, barley, soy foods, broccoli, sweet potatoes, bananas, avocados, mangoes, cantaloupe, sunflower seeds, and spinach. Vitamin B6 can also be taken in supplements.

  • Zinc. Low zinc levels in women prone to PMS suggest that a diet rich in this important mineral may prevent PMS symptoms. Leading food source of zinc include barley, wheat, crab, oysters, beef, lamb, chicken and turkey.

  • Vitamin E. Foods high in vitamin E may help to reduce PMS related breast tenderness, nervousness, depression, headache, fatigue, and insomnia. Vitamin E can be taken as a supplement and is found in broccoli, almonds, sunflower seeds, Brazil nuts, peanuts, safflower oil, corn oil, olive oil, mangoes, avocadoes, apples, and blackberries.

  • Fruits and vegetables. Vegetables such as kale, collards, mustard greens, carrots, turnips, parsnips, broccoli, Brussels sprouts are high in nutrients that reduce PMS-related blood sugar and mood swings, and help regulate heavy menstrual bleeding and premenstrual acne. Fruits such as apples and pears, on the other hand, contain fiber and less sugar.

Foods to avoid because they exacerbate the symptoms of PMS: 

  • Caffeine. Elevates estrogen levels in women – a condition which increases the risk of breast cancer and ovarian cancer, fibroid tumors, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS), among others. Cutting down or eliminating caffeine, which is found in tea, coffee, colas and chocolate, relieves breast tenderness during many a woman’s period. 

  • Alcohol. Increases premenstrual depression and headaches, and should be avoided. 

  • Simple sugars. Processed sweets and candy can cause rapid swings in blood sugar levels, triggering mood swings. To counter cravings for sweet sugary foods, eat complex carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, beans, cereal, and whole grains.

  • Sodium (salt). The altered levels of estrogen during a woman’s period causes water retention leading to PMS-related bloating, breast tenderness and headaches. Salt increases water retention and thus should be cut down to no more than 50 mg per serving. Processed foods, fast foods and snack foods contain high levels of sodium. 

  • Fats. Go easy on fatty and greasy foods such as beef, lamb and pork. Instead substitute fish and poultry. Polyunsaturated oils such as safflower, corn and flaxseed should be substituted for butter.


Besides diet, regular exercise also decreases premenstrual symptoms by releasing pent up tension and energy. And be sure to drink plenty of water – about 8 glasses a day.


Supplements that alleviate PMS symptoms


There are safe herbal supplements that can very significantly reduce, or even eliminate, the pains and discomforts of PMS. A highly recommended herbal supplement, specifically formulated to relieve the symptoms of PMS, is FemRelieve. Based on ingredients approved by the FDA, FemRelieve has received the Best 2004 New Female Product Award.