Managing the triggers of premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

For many women, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a real monthly struggle that can have a severe effect on work, education, relationships and general daily activities.

What many women don’t realise is that there are ways to relieve the unbearable burden of PMS and put an end to their monthly suffering.

World-renowned nutritional therapist Patrick Holford takes the guesswork out of managing and relieving these unwanted symptoms with advice on understanding the triggers of PMS and managing these with simple dietary changes.

PMS triggers

Holford stresses that in order to effectively treat PMS it is necessary to understand what causes it, but explains that “the reason so many women suffer through it is because the precise cause of PMS remains elusive and is, at best, quite technical to understand”.

“Ovulation appears to be the common denominator, with evidence suggesting that the symptoms are generally a result of changes in brain chemistry triggered by fluctuations in ovarian hormones. Both oestrogen and progesterone levels tend to change sharply before a period and this sudden fluctuation is thought to trigger PMS.”

These hormones influence the production of some of our major brain chemicals such as the “happy hormone”, serotonin, the calming chemical gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and dopamine, the chemical that affects your emotions, movements and sensations of pleasure and pain.

“If you consider some of the common symptoms of PMS including anxiety, depression and irritability, cravings, clumsiness and water retention, this makes sense.”

Don’t let PMS beat you

To combat PMS, Holford advises that a well-balanced diet is the best way to ensure all three of these brain chemicals are working at an optimal level.

“A fundamental principle for managing PMS for most women is to eat meals and snacks providing both protein and carbohydrates that will work to balance your hormone levels.”

Follow Holford’s optimum nutrition principles for the best results:

• Don’t be afraid of carbs: balancing blood sugar is key to stabilising hormones. Eat complex, unrefined carbohydrates such as wholegrains, beans and plenty of vegetables and cut out all refined carbohydrates and any foods containing added sugar.

• Get the right five a day: Vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower are especially beneficial for PMS sufferers as they contain a substance called diindolylmethane (DIM), which has been shown to mop up excess oestrogen.

• Out with the bad, in with the good: replace ‘bad’ saturated and hydrogenated fats, which trigger headaches, menstrual cramps and endometriosis discomfort, with the essential fats found in oily fish, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils to prevent inflammation and reduce abnormal blood clotting.

• Bulk up: fibre plays a key role in balancing female hormones in addition to aiding digestion and reducing cholesterol.

• Cut the caffeine: caffeine not only removes vital minerals and vitamins from your body due to its diuretic effect, but it’s linked to PMS, in particular breast pain and tenderness as well as being a stimulant, which means it affects blood sugar levels.

• And the alcohol: the liver is one of the key organs for controlling and balancing hormones as this is where excess hormones can be removed. If the liver is over-taxed by a poor diet and alcohol, this elimination will not occur.

• Consider soya: plant-derived substances called phytoestrogens, which are found in high amounts in soya products, various vegetables and a wide range of legumes, are similar to oestrogens but actually work to reduce the PMS-causing problems of oestrogen dominance.

• Supplements: at a basic level, consider taking supplements such as B3, B6, zinc, magnesium and a combination of fish oil omega-3 fats with borage oil for omega-6 fats.

Kempton Express

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