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8 Diet Dos and Don'ts to Ease PMS

These strategies may help curb PMS symptoms.

3. Do include whole grains, lean protein, fruits, and vegetables.

Eating well all month long is a better approach to PMS than tweaking your diet when you have symptoms. So enjoy plenty of colorful, fiber-packed fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, such as brown rice, oatmeal, and rye bread.

Fortified breads and cereals also supply B-vitamins. Recent research  found that women with higher intakes of thiamine (vitamin B-1) and riboflavin (vitamin B-2) had a significantly lower risk of PMS. This was true for women who got B-vitamins from food, but not from supplements.

4. Don't overload on sugar.

"If you're craving sugar, you're craving it for a reason," Somer says. That reason is shifting levels of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, which can also decrease levels of the chemical serotonin in the brain. These changes may affect a woman's mood and trigger PMS symptoms.

In fact, studies have shown that some women with PMS may take in 200 to 500 more calories a day. Those additional calories typically come from fats, carbohydrates, or sweet foods.

Rather than turning to sugar to boost serotonin levels, Somer advises eating whole grains instead.

5. Do pay attention to what you're drinking.

Some, but not all, studies have revealed that alcohol use is more common in women who are experiencing PMS or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), perhaps as an attempt to self-treat symptoms. PMDD is a more severe form of PMS, in which emotional symptoms are more predominant. It affects fewer women than PMS.

Although women are often advised to cut back on alcohol and even caffeine, there's not a lot of evidence these steps are necessarily beneficial, Bertone-Johnson says. Her own research did not find that alcohol increased PMS risk. Still, she says, there's no downside to easing up on alcohol and caffeine, and doing so may ease breast tenderness and bloating.

Somer likes to remind women to drink plenty of water to reduce bloating. This may sound counterintuitive, but she says a bloated body is holding on to too much water, likely because of too much salt.

6. Don't overlook salt.

Since nearly everything that comes in a bottle, bag, package, or can is loaded with salt, it's almost impossible to eliminate sodium. But slashing some of it may reduce the uncomfortable bloating and water retention from PMS, Somer says.

To halt the salt, focus on whole foods, rather than overly processed or convenience foods, because sodium is often added during manufacturing. "And if you can't cut back enough, drink lots of water," Somer says, so your body can get rid of the excess sodium. 

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