September’s newsletter – How diet can support PMS.

Welcome to my September newsletter

It’s the one subject I’ve been putting off for a while because its so huge and I cant really cover in a “news” letter but it’s the second most asked for health topic behind IBS so here we are (men look away now!) – its Premenstrual Syndrome (aka PMS or PMT). Over the last fifty years there have been marked changes in dietary and social habits, increased consumption of sugar, alcohol, dairy produce, saturated fat and alcohol and a lower intake of magnesium and essential fats. Many more women now smokegirl_in_meadow than they did and many of these changes have played a part in the increase of PMS in western society.

For those men who read this newsletter you may well know of someone who suffers anyway so might find this quite useful. When the partner of a PMS sufferer joins in my consultation I often gain far more information, particularly when it comes to mood changes! Good nutrition can make a huge difference to the sufferer of PMS so I’ve highlighted some basic tips, although it’s always best to have a one to one consultation for a more tailored approach!

I’m off again to Greece next week and will be looking for new recipes to share. Another huge thank you to everyone for your great feedback regarding these monthly epistles – I seem to be hitting the right tone, although do note that you would like more recipe ideas!

If you would like a free 5 minute chat about your PMS concerns, please contact me on

01323 737814.

bottle8256967 Pre Menstrual Syndrome – the background

An astonishing 5% of the female population have PMS symptoms so severe as to be inactivating and 3 – 4% report symptoms severe enough to interfere with their day to day lives. The women I see in my clinic suffer from mild PMS to those who have only a couple of days a month with no symptoms. Seventy five per cent who have embraced diet change (and that may include supplements) have reported a remarkable reduction of most of their symptoms. This shows the importance of good nutrition in all health conditions.

For many years PMS was dismissed as a psychological problem, but we now know that this is a physically based problem although it is still far from clear what causes all the symptoms. It is possible of course that there is more than one cause of PMS and that there may be different causes of symptoms in different people. One of the main reasons for PMS may be hormonal imbalance, excessive levels of oestrogen and inadequate levels of progesterone as well as a sensitivity to fluctuating hormones. Diet may be an important contributing factor for some women. Unstable blood sugar levels are an important factor as well. PMS as also been linked  to food allergies, changes in carbohydrate metabolism and hypoglycaemia. Other suspected cause of PMS symptoms include erratic levels of beta endorphins (a narcotic like substance produced by the body) vitamin and or mineral deficiencies and an inability to metabolise fatty acids. All of these may play a part in PMS.

Symptoms of PMS

The most common symptoms were categorized by Dr Guy Abraham, a research gynaecologist who was at the forefront of nutrition research in relation to PMS. He and his colleagues sudivided PMT into the following categories:

PMT-A – anxiety, irritability, nervous tension and mood swings

PMT-B – weight gain, swelling of the extremities, breast tenderness and abdominal swelling

PMT-C – headache, craving for sweets increase appetitie, pounding heart, fatigue, dizziness

PMT-D – depression, crying, confusion and insomniasunflower seeds

There are officially nearly 200 PMS symptoms – these are a few of them: Abdominal bloating, acne, depression, backache, breast swelling, cramps, food cravings, fainting spells, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, joint pain, nervousness, water retention, personality changes such as drastic mood swings outbursts of anger, violence and sometimes even thoughts of suicide, heart palpitations, activation of the herpes virus, hives, insomnia, aggression, oedema, weight gain, salt cravings, sore throat, sweet cravings, back pain, and bruising. That’s quite a list – no wonder some women feel so bad.

The disorder usually affects women one to two weeks before menstruation, however symptoms can be so prolonged that some women only have a couple of day per month when they are symptom free.

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Factors that may contribute to PMS

  • High consumption of dairy
  • A deficiency in magnesium. Chocolate cravings have been linked to low magnesium levels. Also alcohol and caffeine have been shown to increase urinary excretion of magnesium. The liver needs magnesium along with B vitamins to metabolise oestrogen optimally.
  • Excessive consumption of caffeine, in the form of soft drinks, coffee or chocolate.
  • Excessive consumption of refined sugar and not enough whole grains and vegetables.
  • High blood oestrogen levels resulting from either overproduction from dietary and body fat or from the decreased breakdown in the liver. High oestrogen levels are associated with deficiencies of vitamin B complex especially B6 and B12. The liver requires these vitamins to break down and inactivate oestrogen.
  • A low level of progesterone, the hormone that works to balance excess oestrogen.
  • Excessive consumption of animal fat which leads to the increased levels of the hormone prostaglandin F2. Interestingly vegetarians who consume a low fat, high fibre diet are known to excrete two to three times more oestrogen in their faeces than non vegetarians.

basket of olivesIt is increasingly common for me to see younger and younger girls who are binge drinking and eating a very low nutrient rich diet, who are already suffering from bad PMS. As genetics dont change that fast in a generation, it could certainly be down to the bad diet and lack of exercise that is causing many of the problems we see today. However for those tricky conditions that do not respond well enough to diet and lifestyle changes, there are many contraceptive pills/devices, targeted medication, anti-depressants, diuretics etc so please do not suffer in silence thinking nothing can be done.

Need help in choosing the correct supplements for your health issues?  Call 01323 737814

Supplements that may help reduce symptoms

(as per all my newsletters please do not self medicate without proper advice!)

  • Acidophilus – helps break down metabolites of oestrogen.
  • Flaxseed oil – essential fatty acids are important in relieving symptoms and aiding in proper glandular function.
  • Calcium and magnesium – studies have shown that calcium and magnesium supplements may reduce many symptoms of PMS by as much as 30%.
  • Vitamin B – may help reduce stress and needed for the adrenal gland, help reduce water retention and increase oxygen flow. Also aids in restoring oestrogen levels to normal.
  • Vitamin E– good for breast tenderness and general PMS symptoms.

Kate’s Diet Tips

  • Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, wholegrain cereals, beans, peas, lentils, nuts and seeds.
  • Eat high protein snacks between meals.watercress
  • Include high complex carbohydrates and a diet rich in fibre. These can help the bodyto get rid of excess stores if high oestrogen is the problem.
  • Avoid salt, red meat, processed food and junk foods. Eliminating salt is especially important for preventing bloating.
  • Eat fewer dairy products which can block the absorption of magnesium.
  • Avoid caffeine – it can make you anxious and jittery and also acts as a diuretic and can deplete important nutrients. (Studies have shown that women who regularly consume caffeine are four times more likely than others to have severe PMS).
  • Although controversial try and choose free range or organic meat, poultry, cheese and eggs.
  • Try to avoid alcohol the week before your symptoms start.
  • Get regular exercise – exercise has been proven to keep hormone levels more stable.
  • Any anti stress technique may be of great help eg yoga and meditation.

Ask your GP to rule out an under active thyroid or other conditions like endometriosis if symptoms are really bad.

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