Nicky Park: Foods to fight PMS

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Foods that can help decrease PMS symptoms. Photo / Thinkstock
Foods that can help decrease PMS symptoms. Photo / Thinkstock

Mood swings, irritability, bloating, random teary episodes and super sore breasts - all the niggly symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. But there's good news - some foods can help fight the dreaded hormonal changes that come about during a lady's cycle.

PMS affects 70 to 90 per cent of women aged between 25 and 45, according to NZ health website, www.everybody.co.nz. No one really knows for sure what causes the unusual traits, but they tend to rise mid-cycle, about 14 days before your period, and ease up when menstruation begins.

The main hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, muck women around in different ways, that's why we all deal with them different. They can be affected by things like lifestyle, hereditary factors, nutritional status, and your emotional health.

Studies have found that eating certain foods may help stymie the symptoms.

• Yoghurt

A study conducted at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst found that women who ate the highest amount of calcium (around 1,200 milligrams a day) were 30 per cent less likely to develop PMS than women who ate lower amounts. Clinical trials have shown women taking calcium supplements for three months significantly improved mood swings, fluid retention, food cravings and painful cramps. One cup of plain, probiotic packed yogurt has about 40 per cent of your daily recommended dose (400 milligrams).

(Other options: Milk, cheese, broccoli, kale)

• Salmon

The same study conducted at the University of Massachusetts found that women who took in more vitamin D from food showed a similar risk reduction as when eating a high-calcium diet. A small trial by the Division of Preventive Medicine at the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital, found upping vitamin D eased cramping pain. Cook up about 100g of salmon and you'll get more than the recommended daily dose of vitamin D.

(Other options: Other fish, mushrooms, eggs)

• Lentils

Vitamin B6 has long been studied in the fight against PMS, with mixed results. Some studies, like the one published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, show that getting enough of the vitamin can help reduce irritability, breast tenderness and depression. However, a paper run by the British Medical Journal says evidence is limited. Either way, the vitamin may be able to help with stress and depression. It's recommended that women get about 1.3mg in to their diet daily, so throw some brown lentils in to a pot of vegetable soup for your winter fix.

(Other options: Oats, chickpeas, salmon, lean beef, pork tenderloin, chicken breast, banana, pistachio nuts)

• Pumpkin seeds

A study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology found that women with PMS who took magnesium supplements report being in a better mood than those who didn't. See, magnesium and calcium work together - magnesium makes sure just the right amount of calcium makes its way in to each cell. When there's not enough magnesium, too much calcium gets in, this causes all sorts of cramps, constrictions and agitation. The recommended daily intake for women is 310mg. A handful of pumpkin seeds in a salad or omelet will get you half way there. (A word of warning, too much magnesium can cause diarrhea, so be careful not to go overboard).

(Other options: Sunflower seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, wild salmon, cashews, quinoa, potato (with skin), soybeans, beans, amaranth, peanuts, peanut butter, brown rice, and whole-grain bread.)

• Pineapple

You don't need a lot of maganese in your diet, which is lucky because you can only get tiny amounts of it in your food. However, levels of manganese fluctuate during your cycle and developing research has linked the mineral to PMS symptoms. One cup of pineapple pieces has 76 per cent of your daily recommended amount of manganese. Throw a handful of the sweet fruit in your juice.

(Other options: Wheat germ, spinach, collard greens, pecans, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, oats and raspberries)

• Chamomile tea

I'm a huge fan of the healing hands of herbal tea (read more here). If you're feeling PMS-ie a cup of chamomile will relieve cramping muscles and help reduce anxiety and irritability.

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Nicky Park

Editor of Life & Style.

Nicky lives to wine, dine and thrive. As Life & Style Editor at the New Zealand Herald online, she feels lucky she can call this work. Nicky crafted her writing skills as a cadet for an Australian news wire. Amongst the coverage of sport, news, finance and courts she found a favourite in features. A stint as a foreign correspondent sent this chipper Aussie across the Tasman, covering the big issues of the Pacific Islands. Every single day Nicky relishes the opportunities she has to mix and mingle with interesting people, feast on delicious food, visit new places and write all about it. Nicky wants everyone to make the most of their minutes, learn lots and live their best life.

Read more by Nicky Park

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