Does a foul mood, weight changes and uncontrollable food cravings sound all too familiar? Your diet could be making your premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms worse.

PMS affects up to 30% of women during their childbearing years. For those who struggle to control their symptoms every month, it can be quite a nightmare.

PMS symptoms can be varied and may include mild anxiety, mood changes, tearfulness, irritability, fatigue, acne and skin changes, breast tenderness, swelling and pain, weight changes, water retention, sleeplessness,, dizziness, headaches, migraine, cramps, backache and cravings for various types of food.

These symptoms usually start about 7 to 10 days before the onset of menstruation, increasing in severity as menstruation approaches. Most women experience the worst symptoms during their actual period and, in some cases, afterwards.

PMS occurs more commonly in women over the age of 30.


Research on PMS is still in its early stages, and no single nutritional or hormonal imbalance has been consistently identified as the cause of this syndrome.

However, a variety of theories have been proposed. These include:


Not just imbalances of the female hormones such as progesterone and oestrogen, but also of hormones produced by the adrenal glands, which may be involved with water-retention symptoms.



For example, an imbalance in serotonin production maybe part of the reason behind cravings for sweet foods and mood changes.



B complex is essential for supporting energy levels and the body’ response to stress. Vitamin B6 is perhaps the most well known B vitamin for the relief and management of PMS.  Suggesting to try supplement with  Vitamin B6 at 50mg/day.

Essential fatty acids may be helpful for menstrual related pain. Evening Primrose oil contains GLA which is commonly used for PMS symptoms. It is believed that many women are deficient in linolenic acid, which is necessary for prostaglandin formation. And prostaglandin imbalance is one of the possible influencers of PMS.

Magnesium is required in neuromuscular contraction, neurotransmitter function and cell membrane stability and there are multiple ways in which it may influence PMS. Magnesium 200mg/day appears to assist in fluid retention associated with PMS. (De Souza et al. 2000)

Alterations in Calcium metabolism have been suggested for a number of the symptoms experienced by women with PMS. 1000mg/day when taken for 3months appears to be useful for reducing PMS (Thys-Jacobs et al. 1989)



At this stage, scientists and doctors can only make general recommendations for the relief of PMS symptoms. Try some or all of the following steps,

  • Reduce  stress by trying some yoga, Pilates or another form of exercise,  breathing exercises, meditation .  regular exercise will promote good mental health and reduce PMS symptoms such as fluid retention and bloating.
  • To help with sleep,  try drinking a glass of warm, low-fat milk before you go to bed. Milk is rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that boosts serotonin production and may reduce premenstrual tension and irritability.
  • Follow a balanced diet that contains plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, unprocessed cereals and grains, lean meat, fish, low-fat milk and dairy products, and oils rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids and vitamin E.
  • Take B-complex supplements that contains a good amount of vitamin B6.
  • Take a calcium supplement if you’re intolerant to dairy or have low dietary intake. Otherwise eat high-calcium foods such as milk, yoghurt, cottage cheese, and other cheeses.
  • Reduce your intake of caffeine (coffee, tea, cola and energy drinks containing caffeine) and sweetened cold drinks.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • If you suffer from cravings, try to resist them, as eating large amounts of salty or sweet foods will make the symptoms worse. Nibble on healthy snacks such as fruit (fresh and dried, for potassium that controls water retention), wholewheat crackers or bread with cottage cheese (provides B6 and calcium) or fresh vegetables like carrots and celery sticks (also high in potassium), and low-fat milk drinks or yoghurt (for calcium and tryptophan).
  • Take evening primrose oil supplements to increase your omega-6 intake or, better still, take a supplement that contains both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.

Consult your doctor or gynaecologist if symptoms persist and unable to manage PMS.


In addition to the above tips, you may also like to try the following superfoods to help manage PMS. They contain key nutrients that support women’s health, hormonal balance:

Maca: try our Banana, Maca and Quinoa porridge recipe.

Cacao: try our Banana Split Smoothie recipe.

Chia Seeds: try our Berry Breakfast Pudding recipe.


This article was provided by our online health partner Health365. For more information on women’s health issues, visit