Nutritional advice for <br>Pre-Menstrual Syndrome

Nutritional advice for
Pre-Menstrual Syndrome

Premenstrual syndrome is a group of psychological or physical disorders that affect a woman's quality of life.

Tiredness, bad moods, discomfort etc. What is Pre-Menstrual Syndrome?

PMS or Pre-Menstrual Syndrome is a complex syndrome which is still not fully understood. The discomforts differ amongst women but the most typical signs of PMS are digestive problems (nausea, accelerated transit etc.), bloating and cramps in the lower abdomen, mood swings with irritability, sadness and fatigue, swollen breasts, breast tenderness, disturbed sleep, sugar cravings and sometimes increased appetite etc.

When does PMS start and how long does it last?

PMS sometimes occurs every month, at a particular time in the menstrual cycle, generally 7 to 10 days before the period then it usually disappears with menstruation.

The syndrome is observed from the age of 20 on average and continues up to the menopause. It should be noted that the signs of PMS may appear or worsen during the peri-menopause (the period of years preceding the menopause), during which hormonal fluctuations are particularly significant. 

What are the causes of Pre-menstrual syndrome?

The exact causes remain unknown. There is little doubt about hormonal factors and scientific studies question the possibility of a genetic predisposition. The timing of the start and finish of PMS symptoms suggests that hormonal fluctuations naturally caused by the menstrual cycle are a key component, as well as a greater sensitivity to circulating hormones (oestrogen and progesterone).

Hormonal imbalances affect concentration levels of neurotransmitters: serotonin, GABA, dopamine. These are the brain’s chemical messengers, which regulate our moods, hence the observed psychological and behavioural disturbances. When brain serotonin activity decreases, this leads to mood swings, waking during the night, ruminations, but also to sugar compulsions. The nervous system is put to the test.

Pre-menstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), an acute PMS! 

PMDD is a severe PMS. Studies show that 5% of women are affected during their menstrual cycle. It results mainly in psychological manifestations such as sadness, the desire to do nothing, difficulties in concentrating, emotional instability (feeling edgy). It appears in the last week of the luteal (post-ovulatory) period and interferes with quality of life.

Our advice for limiting the symptoms of PMS in women

Which food is best before menstruation?

  • Take steps to maintain a healthy diet throughout the year, rich in green vegetables, fruit and a variety of proteins (primarily vegetable), complex carbohydrates including whole grain cereals, red meat should be avoided.
  • Consume first cold-pressed oils, in particular evening primrose (called “women's oil”) or borage, rich in omega-6 fatty acids. In fact, omega-6s are transformed in the body, into beneficial compounds, called prostaglandins, which help the body to cope with hormonal variations.  Suppression texte ici
  • Ensure a daily intake of foods rich in vitamins B2 (offal, soya, eggs, cereals, hazelnuts, brewer's yeast, etc.), B3 (offal, fish, fats, pulses, dried fruit, etc.), B6 (offal, oily fish, bananas, wholemeal rice, lentils, etc.) and D (oily fish, egg yolk, etc.).
  • Have a good daily intake of calcium (seafood, green vegetables including cabbage, almonds, preferably sheep’s or goat’s milk products, etc.) and magnesium (winkles, dark chocolate, oilseeds, wholegrain cereals).
  • Research has found a link between migraines and low magnesium levels. To reduce the risk of headaches, it is advisable to take magnesium on the 15th day of the cycle and to continue taking it until the onset of the period.
  • According to a recent publication, Magnesium is important for PMS: some researchers suggest that it may act by “calming” the nervous system and the actions of various hormones (progesterone) on the central nervous system.

Women who suffer from PMS symptoms often have lower blood ratios of magnesium/calcium, an imbalance that may play a role in mood swings. It has been observed that 1/3 women with PMS are deficient in Magnesium.

B vitamins act in the synthesis of the neurotransmitters that are in deficit, of which notably vitamins B2, B3 and B6 could promote an imbalance of serotonin and dopamine, aggravating PMS-related mood swings. Vitamin B6 and Magnesium are also essential for the enzyme to convert omega-6 fatty acids into prostaglandins.

Which foods to avoid with PMS?

  • Table salt to reduce the feeling of swelling, bloating, water retention and heavy legs. PMS sometimes causes an increase in weight and water retention.
  • Ultra processed foods that are too salty, too fatty and too sugary (pizzas, prepared and frozen foods).
  • Sweet foods such as sodas, desserts, tempting energy bars when you are suffering from PMS.
  • Soy, due to the presence of phyto-estrogens, which are likely to affect hormonal balance.
  • The consumption of all forms of caffeine (coffee, tea etc.). In some people, caffeine causes changes in transit that can increase feeling bloated. In addition, caffeine is an exciter and can therefore have an effect on a woman’s state of nervousness and stress.

Furthermore, it is worthwhile choosing organic and unpackaged food to limit exposure to endocrine disruptors, which by definition can interfere with the hormonal system. Endocrine disruptors are found in the food itself (pesticides in fruit, vegetables and cereals, heavy metals in fish) but also in the container (plastic trays, cling film, cardboard packaging, etc.).

Healthy living and physical activity for relief

It is always beneficial to rest and get regular hours of sleep. Physical activity particularly helps with the digestive discomforts such as bloating; it also helps you to get a better night’s sleep. Breathing techniques (meditation, qi gong, tai-chi, yoga) help control stress.

Our references

Hantsoo L et al. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder: Epidemiology and Treatment. Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2015 Nov;17(11):87.
Schüle C et al. The role of allopregnanolone in depression and anxiety. Prog Neurobiol. 2014 Feb;113:79-87.
Kugaya A et al. Increase in prefrontal cortex serotonin 2A receptors following estrogen treatment in postmenopausal women. Am J Psychiatry. 2003 Aug;160(8):1522-4.
Bertrand PP et al. The effect of low estrogen state on serotonin transporter function in mouse hippocampus: a behavioral and electrochemical study. Brain Res. 2005 Dec 7;1064(1-2):10-20. 
Huo L et al. Risk for premenstrual dysphoric disorder is associated with genetic variation in ESR1, the estrogen receptor alpha gene. Biol Psychiatry. 2007 Oct 15;62(8):925-33.
Rocha Filho et al. Essential fatty acids for premenstrual syndrome and their effect on prolactin and total cholesterol levels : a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study. Reproductive Health 2011, 8:2.
Saeedian Kia A et al. The Association between the Risk of Premenstrual Syndrome and Vitamin D, Calcium, and Magnesium Status among University Students: A Case Control Study. Health Promot Perspect. 2015 Oct 25;5(3):225-30