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What is PMS (premenstrual syndrome)?

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a blend of physical and psychological indicators that some women experience post-ovulation and before the start of their menstruation. PMS signs usually dissipate within several days from when a woman’s period begins as hormone levels begin increasing. You might feel sad, angry, anxious, or down the first few days before your period. These feelings usually disappear 2 or 3 days after your period starts.

Why do you experience PMS?

When you have ovulated, your levels of oestrogen and progesterone fall if you do not become pregnant, leading to chemical changes in your brain. These changes can lead to mood swings, particularly if you are tired and unable to get enough rest and sleep to recover. If you have a family history of depression, have high levels of stress or have a personal history of depression, including postpartum depression, have high levels of stress, you might be more likely to experience PMS.

As you reach your late 30s or 40s, the leading edge of menopause, PMS symptoms may worsen. Hormone levels become unpredictable over this time period as your body moves toward menopause, resulting in more extreme mood changes that can feel similar to premenstrual syndrome or even become worse. If you are experiencing hot flushes or anything that disrupts your sleep, including the need to urinate at night, this continual sleep deprivation can lead to exhaustion, physical distress, and anxiety and make these feelings worse. When menopause arrives and your period stops, the symptoms of PMS should cease entirely.

These symptoms may be particularly intense if you face sudden menopause through chemotherapy, hormone treatment such as tamoxifen, ovarian suppression or hysterectomy due to a sudden lack of production of oestrogen and progesterone from the ovaries.

Food and mood

We know that eating well is essential for good physical and mental health. Whilst diet alone can’t cure PMS or mood changes with peri-menopause, it can support your mental health. But what can you eat to help you?

Eat a Mediterranean diet

Recent studies have found that eating a Mediterranean-style diet can help improve the symptoms of depression. This diet is rich in vitamins and minerals, especially B vitamins, zinc and folate, and these nutrients have been shown to be important in managing depression.

Load up on:

· Different coloured fruits and vegetables

· whole grains

· beans, lentils, and pulses

· nuts and seeds

· mono-unsaturated fats such as extra virgin olive oil

Eat more tryptophan

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid, one of the building blocks of protein, and is another important nutrient that can support if you have depression. Tryptophan is used to make serotonin, a chemical messenger that is thought to contribute to stabilising your mood and help with sleep.

Serotonin affects mood and behaviour and is sometimes called the happy chemical.

Our bodies can’t make tryptophan, but we can eat tryptophan-rich food to help increase our serotonin levels.

Foods rich in tryptophan:

· turkey and other poultry

· meat

· dairy products such as cheese, yogurt

· fish

· eggs

· soy products

Eat more oily fish and fish oils

Some small studies suggest that eating omega-3 fatty acids, particularly Two omega-3 fatty acids — eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)- can prevent and treat depression. Eating fatty fish or other foods rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids can support brain health and decrease the risk of depression and anxiety.

Eat more:

· oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and trout

· walnuts and walnut oil

· flax and chia seeds


The mineral selenium is thought to improve mood, manage depression and reduce anxiety.

Load up on:

· wholegrains

· Brazil buts

· Some seafood

· organ meats

Get more sunshine and vitamin D

Vitamin D can improve symptoms of depression. Whilst we usually obtain much of our vitamin D from the sunshine, anyone who has just had a baby should take a vitamin D supplement.

Foods rich in vitamin D include:

· oily fish

· fortified dairy products

· liver and offal

· eggs

In summary, eating a Mediterranean diet packed in fruit and vegetables, wholegrains, nuts and seeds, beans, lentils, oily fish, monounsaturated fats, and tryptophan-rich protein can help with symptoms of PMS and peri-menopause. This type of diet supports sleep and recovery, which can help with depression and anxiety. (SMILES trial)



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