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The PMS-Free Diet?

What you eat may affect PMS symptoms

Flaxseed for Breast Pain

About 11% of women have moderate to severe breast pain and soreness, according to a recent study.

Another recent study suggests that flaxseed -- already famed for its healthy omega-3 fatty acids -- may also help women with breast pain.

Researchers at the University of Toronto tested flaxseed's effects on premenopausal women with breast pain. For a six month period, one group of women ate a muffin containing 25 grams of flaxseed every day, while another group ate a muffin without flaxseed.

The flaxseed-eating women reported much less breast pain than the other group. This may be because the lignans in flaxseed are plant estrogens that compete with human estrogen.

A B-6 Bonus?

The reviews are mixed, but it's possible that daily vitamin B-6 helps improve PMS-related depression as well as physical symptoms.

Although some sources suggest 50-100 milligrams per day of B-6, the Daily Value for women aged 19-50 is a mere 1.3 milligrams per day. That's a huge gap, and one that can't be realistically filled with food sources of B-6. You'll see what I mean when I list the top B-6-containing foods:

  • 1 banana = 0.7 milligrams B-6
  • 3.5 ounces cooked salmon = 0.7 milligrams B-6
  • 3.5 ounces cooked light chicken or turkey meat = 0.6 milligrams B-6
  • 1 baked potato = 0.4 milligrams B-6
  • 3/4 cup prune juice = 0.4 milligrams B-6
  • 3.5 ounces cooked halibut = 0.4 milligrams B-6
  • 3.5 ounces cooked shrimp = 0.4 milligrams B-6
  • 3.5 ounces cooked dark chicken or turkey = 0.4 milligrams B-6

Even on a "good" day (if you ate 3.5 ounces of light chicken or fish a day, 2 cups of colorful fruit, and 2 1/2 cups of colorful vegetables), you'd take in about 2 milligrams of B-6 from food.

Keep in mind, though, that very large doses of B-6 supplements can be toxic over time -- something that can't happen with food sources of B-6. The 1998 Recommended Dietary Allowance/Dietary Reference Intakes committee set the upper limit for B-6 at 100 milligrams per day for people aged 19 and older.

3 More Anti-PMS Strategies

Here are a few more diet and lifestyle tips that may help reduce PMS symptoms -- and won't hurt in any case:

  • Keep your blood sugar stable. Given all that's going on in your body during PMS prime time, keeping your blood sugar levels fairly stable should help your mood and energy situation. You can help do this by limiting caffeine, not skipping meals, and eating balanced meals most of the time. It also helps to choose nutritious carbs that contribute fiber, like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and beans.
  • Don't eat a high-fat diet. Some suggest that a high-fat diet may have something to do with cyclic breast pain. One recent study found that women with breast soreness tended to eat more fat throughout their cycles than other women. The way I see it, this is yet another reason to avoid eating a high-fat diet.
  • Move it! It just makes sense to exercise regularly. Exercise can enhance energy and lift mood. And a recent review of the research found substantial evidence that exercise can help with PMS.

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