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Winning the War on PMS

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Look at Your Lifestyle continued...

Many physicians believe dietary changes will do a great deal to lessen PMS symptoms. Steven Goldstein, MD, says severe salt restriction during the second half of the menstrual cycle is often helpful. It's not enough to stop using the saltshaker, he emphasizes. You have to check the labels on all sorts of prepared foods, and be aware of the high sodium content in many dishes when you eat out.

"I've had patients come back to me and say, 'I hate your guts. My diet is bland as hell -- but it does make a difference in my PMS symptoms,'" says Goldstein, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at New York University School of Medicine. He also recommends a moderate dose of water-soluble, time-release vitamin B-6.

Different women may benefit from different programs, says Steven Rosenzweig, MD. But in his experience, it is generally helpful to take a stepwise approach and begin with the quality of diet, exercise, and rest.

"Your diet should balance carbohydrates, proteins, and fat at each meal. Emphasize whole grains, natural oils rather than margarine and saturated fats, and vegetable sources of protein. If you follow this sort of diet, many of the mood swings and energy issues associated with PMS can be solved," says Rosenzweig, director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.

It's extremely important to follow a lifestyle with a natural rhythm of rest and activity. Get an appropriate amount of sleep, and pursue some form of daily exercise followed by the relaxation response. "This will improve the quality of sleep at night and often reduces the total sleep requirement," he says.

And as Rosenzweig cannot resist mentioning, this sort of diet and exercise program has health-promoting effects that extend far beyond control of PMS.

He recommends a good multivitamin, the full range of B vitamins (not just B-6), and often extra magnesium.

"Women with a predisposition to PMS symptoms often tend to have low magnesium stores. But the single most effective supplements, in my opinion, are evening primrose oil and flaxseed oil," he says. While women's needs vary, a usual starting dose would be about 1,000 mg of each per day.

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