Premenstrual Syndrome

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March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.

Up to 85 percent of women experience some form of premenstrual syndrome during their childbearing years. While symptoms vary, common ones include:

  • Tender breasts
  • Headaches
  • Swelling in feet, hands and ankles
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating
  • Weight gain
  • Anxiety and depression.

Despite research efforts, the exact causes of PMS are not known. PMS is a medical condition that should be diagnosed by your doctor or other health-care provider. If PMS is diagnosed or suspected, your health-care provider may ask you to keep a symptom log, in which physical, mental and emotional changes are recorded for two to three months. Keeping a record can help pinpoint a diagnosis and answer questions such as: How long do symptoms last? When do they occur? Do certain foods or lifestyle behaviors trigger them? Does weight gain happen at a certain time in your cycle?

Diet and PMS

Although PMS cannot be prevented, smart food choices may help relieve some of the symptoms.

These strategies may help:

  • Eat less salt to help decrease bloating and fluid build-up.
  • Cut down on caffeine and alcohol.
  • Limit foods high in solid fats and added sugars.
  • Eat an overall healthy diet including high-fiber foods such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables and calcium-rich foods like low-fat or fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese.
  • Physical activity may offer benefits. Walk, bike or jog on most days of the week.

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