Reducing Your Risk of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
by Amy Scholten, MPH
Since it is not known exactly what causes PMS, no specific methods of prevention are available. However, one or several of the following lifestyle factors may be helpful in preventing symptoms.
Eat a Healthful Diet
Eat a diet that is low in saturated fat and rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Decrease your consumption of caffeine, alcohol, salt, and sugar, about 2 weeks before your menstrual period begins. Drink plenty of fluids such as water or juice. Some studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish such as salmon and mackerel, may reduce premenstrual discomfort.
Studies have found that women who engage in moderate aerobic exercise at least 3 times a week tend to have fewer premenstrual symptoms than women who do not exercise. Exercise helps improve circulation, reduce stress, and enhance mood.
Try to Reduce Your Stress
High levels of stress tend to worsen PMS symptoms. In addition to reducing your overall stress level, you should get more rest and relaxation during the week before your period begins. You may also benefit from relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, progressive relaxation, yoga, and biofeedback. These techniques help you recognize bodily tension and provide a "release" mechanism. Pleasurable activities can also help you relieve stress.
Should you be unable to reduce stress levels on your own, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can be very effective in improving how you feel in the weeks before your period arrives. This type of therapy will help you to examine your feelings and thought patterns, learn to interpret them in a more realistic way, and apply various coping techniques to real-life situations. With CBT, you can learn to identify and cope with sources of stress, restructure your priorities, and manage obstacles, frustration, and discomfort.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
Vitamin and mineral supplements may help reduce symptoms of PMS. Supplements are usually recommended only after dietary changes do not work. Dietary supplements that may be helpful in reducing the symptoms of PMS include the minerals calcium, magnesium, and manganese, as well as possibly vitamin E.
Talk to your doctor or a dietitian to determine if you should try supplements.
Premenstrual syndrome. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated June 9, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2016.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at:
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Updated April 2014. Accessed August 18, 2016.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) fact sheet. Office on Women's Health website. Available at:
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Updated December 23, 2014. Accessed August 18, 2016.
Last reviewed September 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP
Last Updated: 9/17/2014
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