Nutritional Support for PMS – Part 2

Nutrition for PMS

While all women who tend to have PMS could benefit from a diet that’s rich in fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean proteins, Dr. Susan Lark describes more specific dietary strategies for specific PMS types in The PMS Self Helf Book. According to Lark, there are five main types of PMS characterized by their predominant physical and emotional or psychological symptoms.

Type A stands for premenstrual tension that is dominated by feelings of anxiety or a mixture of anxiety, irritability and mood swings. This type of PMS responds well to extra B vitamins, particularly vitamin B1 (thiamin) and B6 (pyridoxine) to help deal with emotional stress. Foods rich in these B vitamins include lean proteins like pork tenderloin, garbanzo beans, rainbow trout, chicken breast, and sunflower seeds as well as “good” carbohydrate foods like baked potatoes, corn and green peas. Supplemental magnesium may also help to relax tense muscles that occur in type-A PMS. Women who are prone to being very anxious during the first half of their monthly cycle may also benefit from avoiding foods that contain phenylenthanolamine, a psychoactive compound found in chocolate, hard cheeses and bananas.

Type C PMS is characterized by cravings for carbohydrates that are often triggered by stress, fatigue, headaches or mental confusion. To help manage blood sugar and avoid cravings, women with type-C PMS are advised to eat small frequent meals that are low in refined sugar with a source of lean protein at each snack and meal. In addition to avoiding the usual high sugar cookies, cakes and candy, be wary of sugary drinks like iced tea, juice and milk beverages as well as hidden sugars in condiments, breakfast cereals and granola bars. Chromium is also helps to control dramatic rises and falls in blood sugar and can be obtained in supplement form or in foods like raw onions, tomatoes and Romaine lettuce. A fresh green salad with ripe juicy tomatoes and a few sliced of red onion may be just the thing for PMS cravings!

Depression is the main symptom of type D PMS which can helped by increasing intake of the amino acid tryptophan, which is used to produce the mood-balancing neurotransmitter serotonin. Best food sources of tryptophan are high protein foods like lean beef tenderloin, chicken breast, salmon, turkey and soybeans. Another amino acid, L-tyrosine, may also help restore energy and improve mood and can be found in supplements or protein foods like eggs, spirulina and cheese.

If you find getting into skinny jeans difficult during your PMS days, you probably have type H or W PMS,which stands for “hyperhydration” or water retention. Women with this type of PMS also experience breast tenderness and swelling and weight gain due to water retention. Again, B vitamins pyridoxine and thiamin are beneficial as well as extra potassium to help balance sodium that contributes to water retention. Fresh fruits and vegetables are high in potassium with cherries, grapes, and apples exceptional great sources. Type H and W PMS women may also consider supplementing with evening primose oil as a source of gamma linolenic acid, an essential omega-6 fatty acid that helps regulate hormones. Regular exercise also helps a lot with this type of PMS.

The fifth type of PMS is type-P for pain from dysmenorrhea and other pain problems. Nutrition therapy to manage the pain includes higher intake of magnesium, a mineral involved in muscle relaxation, in a two to one ratio with calcium. As with all type of PMS, B6 is also helpful to alleviate PMS pain, as is extra vitamin E from supplements or foods such as avocados, almonds, wheat germ and sunflower seeds.


Staying Healthy with Nutrition by Elson Haas. Celestial Arts, Berkeley, 2008. Chapter 17, pages 720-723.

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