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Iron-Rich Diet Might Ease PMS Misery

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After adjusting the data for calcium intake and other factors, the researchers found that the women who consumed the most non-heme iron had up to a 40 percent lower PMS risk compared to the women who consumed the least non-heme iron. Non-heme iron is iron that comes from plant-based sources or supplements, rather than from meat.

The risk of developing PMS dropped significantly for women who consumed more than 20 milligrams (mg) of iron daily. The lowest risk was seen in women consuming nearly 50 mg of iron daily. However, the recommended daily intake for premenopausal women is 18 mg per day, according to Bertone-Johnson.

As for zinc, a slightly protective effect for women consuming more than 10 mg daily was also seen.

But, Bertone-Johnson cautioned, both of these minerals can be harmful if taken at above average levels.

The researchers found that higher potassium levels were linked to higher levels of PMS, although Bertone-Johnson said these and other findings from this research need to be confirmed in other studies. Interestingly, the researchers didn't find a connection between sodium, which can make you retain water, and PMS.

"PMS is probably multifactorial, and it's probably way more complicated than one or two supplements or mineral deficiencies might cause," said Dr. Fredric Moon, medical director of general obstetrics and gynecology at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y.

Moon advised women to check with their doctors before starting any type of supplements. Iron levels can be checked with a simple blood test, he said.

Clinical nutritionist Samantha Heller, at the NYU Center for Musculoskeletal Care, agreed. "It's important to speak with your physician before supplementing with any minerals," she said. "Too much iron can cause serious problems, and supplementing with something like zinc can knock your copper balance off. There's a delicate balance in the body, and women need to be very thoughtful before they start using supplements."

Heller explained that it's difficult to tease out the effect of any one particular nutrient. But, she added, "If a woman wants to shift to a more plant-based diet, it may contribute overall to reduced oxidative stress and inflammation, which may help reduce the symptoms of PMS, and heart disease and other conditions."

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