Several of the problems associated with the menstrual cycle can be helped by careful attention to diet. However, frequent or heavy blood loss, irregular bleeding or unusual levels of pain should be investigated by your doctor.
Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, produces physical and mental changes which typically begin from mid-cycle onwards, or in the premenstrual week, and clear up as soon as the period starts. Symptoms include backache, headache, water retention, cramps, breast tenderness, irrational behaviour, anxiety, depression and poor concentration.
PMS may be related to the production of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone, which control the monthly cycle, and to a woman’s sensitivity to changing hormone levels.
Some doctors may suggest taking vitamin B6 – which is involved in the breakdown of estrogen in the liver – and perhaps evening primrose oil supplements. Sometimes hormones will be prescribed; many women find that their PMS symptoms disappear when they are on the pill.
Supplements may help to counter premenstrual depression, lethargy and water retention – characterised by a bloated stomach, swollen fingers, toes or face and tender breasts. It may help to increase intake of foods which contain useful amounts of vitamin B, such as meat, fish, whole grains and green leafy vegetables. Cutting down on salt can also help to reduce water retention. Eating foods high in Vitamin E, such as cold pressed oils and wheatgerm, may help to reduce breast tenderness.