Help for women with PMS

14 June 2016  |  Editor

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Help for women with PMS

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Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is the name given to the physical, psychological and behavioural symptoms that can occur in the two weeks before a woman's monthly period. It is also known as premenstrual tension (PMT).

There are many different symptoms of PMS, but typical examples are bloating, breast pain, mood swings, feeling irritable and loss of interest in sex. These symptoms usually improve when your period starts and disappear a few days afterwards.

Nearly all women of childbearing age have some premenstrual symptoms, but women in their late 20s to their early 40s are most likely to experience PMS.

Around 1 in every 20 women have symptoms that are severe enough to stop them living their normal lives. This is often the result of a more intense type of PMS known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).

There are many different symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which can vary from person to person and change slightly every month.

For example, you may find that you have similar PMS symptoms every month, but they vary in intensity, or you may have slightly different symptoms every few months. PMS tends to be different for every woman.

The symptoms of PMS usually happen at the same time in your menstrual cycle each month, which can be up to two weeks before your period starts. They usually improve once your period has started and disappear until your cycle starts again.
Common symptoms of PMS

More than 100 different symptoms of PMS have been recorded. Some of the most common are listed below.

Physical symptoms

  • feeling bloated
  • pain and discomfort in your abdomen (tummy)
  • headaches
  • backache
  • muscle and joint pain
  • breast pain
  • trouble sleeping (insomnia)
  • nausea
  • weight gain (up to 1kg)
  • Any chronic (long-term) illnesses, such as asthma or migraines, may get worse.

Psychological and behavioural symptoms

  • mood swings
  • feeling upset or emotional
  • feeling irritable or angry
  • crying
  • anxiety 
  • difficulty concentrating
  • confusion and forgetfulness
  • clumsiness
  • restlessness
  • tiredness
  • decreased self-esteem
  • loss of libido (loss of interest in sex)
  • appetite changes or food cravings
  • Premenstrual dysphoric disorder

While most women with PMS find their symptoms uncomfortable, a small percentage have symptoms that are severe enough to stop them living their normal lives. This is the result of a more intense type of PMS known as premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). The symptoms of PMDD are similar to those of PMS, but are more exaggerated and often have more psychological symptoms than physical ones. Symptoms can include:

  • feelings of hopelessness
  • persistent sadness or depression
  • extreme anger and anxiety
  • decreased interest in usual activities
  • sleeping much more or less than usual
  • very low self-esteem
  • extreme tension and irritability

As depression is a common symptom of PMDD, it is possible that a woman with PMDD may have thoughts about suicide.

PMDD can be particularly difficult to deal with as it can have a negative effect on your daily life and relationships.


Excessive menstrual bleeding is a common complaint which is usually preventable through proper nutritional measures, so long as the cause is determined.  The most common cause is the body producing too much arachidonic acid, which is hormone-like substance (called prostaglandin series 2).  This excess prostaglandin series 2 is probably the main reason for excessive menstrual bleeding and menstrual cramps.

Other factors in heavy periods include iron deficiency, underactive thyroid, vitamin A deficiency, vitamin K deficiency, essential fatty acid deficiency (omega 6), endometriosis, fibroids and birth control devices.

It’s easy to imagine that a woman may develop an iron deficiency if she is bleeding heavily during menstruation, but it’s not so well recognised that chronic iron deficiency can actually be a cause of heavy bleeding.

Nutrition facts & Diet Advice for Heavy Periods

The following nutrition guidelines should be considered:

  • Increase green leafy vegetables, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, almonds and other nuts, all of which will provide omega 6 essential fatty acids, which also have the effect of keeping arachidonic acid levels down.
  • Eat oily fish, pumpkin seeds, linseeds (flaxseed) and walnuts for their omega 3 content.
  • Eat sprouted alfalfa seeds for their vitamin K content.
  • If not pregnant, eat organic liver for the vitamin A content – if you can’t get organic, leave it alone, and get a vitamin A supplement instead.
  • The green vegetables and nuts and seeds mentioned above also contain calcium and magnesium which will help relax muscles and relieve cramps.
  • Reduce animal fats which lead to an increase in arachidonic acid.
  • If you also have PMS, avoid sugar and alcohol and all refined foods.
  • Take regular exercise.