Updated 19 October 2018

Dietary changes and supplements can help PMS

A combination of dietary changes and certain supplements should be the first port of call for dealing with premenstrual syndrome (PMS), says British nutritionist Patrick Holford.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is often the subject of jokes but the reality is that seven out of ten women do suffer from PMS - with one in ten experiencing it severely.

The most common symptoms of PMS are acne, anxiety, fatigue, irritability, fluid retention, forgetfulness, mood swings, bloating, breast tenderness, sugar cravings and weight gain.

The main causes of PMS are a decrease in oestrogen (mood swings), a decrease in progesterone (increased anxiety), hormonal changes and stress, an under active thyroid and nutrient deficiencies (especially B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, and essential fats).

Symptoms can include depression, lethargy, loss of concentration, panic attacks, poor temperature tolerance, weight gain, indigestion and constipation. For some women the associated mood changes can be completely debilitating with irritability, anger, internal tension and mood swings.

Underlying blood sugar imbalances

According to world renowned nutritionist Patrick Holford, there is an intricate balancing act between the body’s hormones (including those required for blood sugar balance), the body’s response to stress, thyroid functioning and menstrual cycles.

“For this reason it’s vitally important to deal with underlying blood sugar imbalances by following a low-GL diet, the sources of stress and the possibility of thyroid imbalance,” said Holford.

He reports that of the 45 000 women who took part in his 100% Health Survey (conducted in 2011) 63% reported often experiencing PMS, 60% menstrual cramps, 51% breast tenderness, 51% cyclical water retention and 42% irregular/heavy periods.

Conventional treatment for PMS usually focuses either on Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) or anti-depressant drugs.

“There is evidence that for many women, oestradiol patches, which suppress ovulation, do work. However, it is not an ideal solution given the risks associated with prolonged HRT. A more personalised approach is to have your hormone balance measured and then receive a tailor-made combination of deficient bio-identical hormones,” said Holford.

“For some women, especially in the peri-menopausal years, it is progesterone that is lacking. SSRI anti-depressants are often given, sometimes only during the second half of the luteal phase of the cycle, with some evidence of effect,” he said.

Dietary changes and supplements

Holford advises a combination of dietary changes and certain supplements as the first port of call for dealing with PMS. These include:

  • A strict low GL diet to keep blood sugar levels even as many of the symptoms of PMS are blood sugar related
  • Increasing phyto-estrogen intake from beans, nuts and seeds as these assist to keep hormones in balance.
  • Increasing cruciferous vegetables which help to eliminate excess oestrogen. These include cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, turnip, swede, radish, horseradish, mustard and watercress.
  • Increasing essential fats (both omega 3 and 6) from oily fish as these are vital for keeping hormones in balance.

According to Holford, the best evidence for relieving PMS symptoms comes from studies giving vitamin B6 (usually 100mg) and magnesium (200 to 300mg a day).

“There is also evidence that magnesium has also been shown to reduce PMS symptoms – especially water retention and mood swings. Both magnesium and zinc keep hormones, neurotransmitters and prostaglandins in balance. Research has shown there is evidence that both zinc and magnesium levels tend to be lower in PMS sufferers, especially in the luteal phase. Both appear to boost serotonin levels and there is evidence that zinc has an anti-depressant effect,” said Holford.

A former patient of Holfords, describes her experience, “My PMS starts a week before a period. For the first two days I can handle it, then my stomach starts churning, I get worse and worse, won’t listen to anyone, I go nuts, get breast tenderness, and have heavy, painful periods".

“But since following Mr Holford’s advice I haven’t had any PMT - none of my outbursts and no breast tenderness. I’ve stuck to the diet completely. My energy has gone through the roof. I just feel like a completely different person. I can’t believe it’s happened so quickly. My husband can’t believe the change…I’m really enjoying the diet. I’m trying new foods and the taste is great.”

For further information on PMS visit

(Press release)

- (Health24, August 2012)

Read more:

Natural Remedies for PMS


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