PMS (Pre-Menstrual Syndrome) is thought to be caused by hormone imbalances in the body and many women rely on painkillers or anti-depressants to manage their symptoms. But there are also dietary changes you can make that may help reduce these symptoms more naturally. Every month an estimated 80% of women in the UK suffer from some form of PMS, with 30% suffering moderate to severe symptoms. These range from mood swings and fatigue to bloating, cramps, cravings and headaches. In fact, over 150 different symptoms have been identified!
Any foods that help to produce or process hormones in the body should also help to reduce PMS. Here are 5 ways to help balance hormones through your diet:
1. Fibre from vegetables and fruit
All plant-based foods are great sources of fibre – think broccoli, not bran flakes! Fibre from our diet is essential in order to absorb excess hormones and remove them from the body. We should aim for 8-10 portions a day, and choose a rainbow of colours to give us a wider range of nutrients too. Fibre also helps to control blood sugar levels, so if you increase the fibre in your diet, you may also help to reduce mood swings and fatigue.
2. Essential Omega-3 Fats
Omega-3 fats are needed as a raw ingredient for hormone production and they also have a general anti-inflammatory effect in the body. A recent study found that women taking a 2g supplement of essential fats per day showed significant improvement in PMS over a 3 to 6 month period. Try to include oily fish or nuts and seeds in your diet every day. You could also take a good quality fish oil supplement to ensure you are getting enough.
3. Vitamin B6
Vitamin B6 is also essential for producing hormones in the body. This vitamin has been shown to have a beneficial effect on the more emotional symptoms of PMS. It is found in whole grains, fish, bananas, spinach and sunflower seeds. Stress and alcohol can deplete Vitamin B6, so you may need extra to compensate for these.
This mineral has a generally calming and anti-inflammatory effect on the body and studies have shown that it is often deficient in sufferers of PMS. If you ensure you have enough in your diet, you should help to reduce anxiety, tension, cramps and headaches. Good food sources include green leafy vegetables, pumpkin seeds, almonds, avocado and dark chocolate – yay!
5. Blood Sugar Balance
Eat small, regular meals and snacks throughout the day to help keep your blood sugar levels steady. This will help with energy levels and mood control. Healthy snack ideas include a small handful of nuts and seeds, raw veg sticks with houmous, oatcakes with avocado or a home-made fruit and veg smoothie.