Womens Health

Cut Your Risk For PMS With Diet

Getting lots of calcium and vitamin D in your diet may just lower your risk for developing premenstrual syndrome (PMS). So says a study that was published in the JAMA/Archives journal called Archives of Internal Medicine.

It's common for women to experience certain mild physical or emotional symptoms just before they get their periods. But somewhere between 8%-20% of all women will experience symptoms that interfere with their everyday activities and may wreak havoc on their interpersonal relationships, too.

Earlier studies have recommended calcium be added to the diet, along with vitamin D which serves to regulate calcium absorption, as a way to reduce the severity of premenstrual symptoms. The new study, however, suggests that these two diet supplements may in fact stop women from having symptoms altogether.

Supplement Intake

The author of this study, Elizabeth R. Bertone-Johnson, Sc.D., who hails from Amherst's University of Massachusetts, worked together with her colleagues to examine the diets and supplement intake of 1,057 women with PMS. The women were between the ages of 27 and 44 and had developed PMS over the past 10 years. The researchers also studied the supplement and dietary habits of a group of 1,968 women who either had no premenstrual symptoms or developed only very mild symptoms during the same time frame.

All of the participants were enrolled in the Nurses Health Study (NHS) and had no PMS symptoms back in 1991 when the study was begun. The researchers measured the women's calcium and vitamin D intake according to their responses on standard NHS questionnaires regarding food frequency and supplement use. The questionnaires were administered three separate times: in 1991, 1995, and in 1999.

"We observed a significantly lower risk of developing PMS in women with high intakes of vitamin D and calcium from food sources, equivalent to about four servings per day of skim or low-fat milk, fortified orange juice or low-fat dairy foods such as yogurt," said the study authors. "These dietary intakes correspond to approximately 1,200 mg. of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D from food sources. While previous studies have observed the benefits of calcium supplements for treating PMS, this is the first, to our knowledge, to suggest that calcium and vitamin D may help prevent the initial development of PMS."

Worthy Endeavor

The authors posit that their findings, in conjunction with the many smaller trials that found calcium supplements to be helpful as a treatment for PMS, show that taking lots of calcium and vitamin D may cut a woman's risk for developing PMS. They suggest that clinical trials would be a worthy endeavor. Meantime, the experts say that since we already know that calcium and vitamin D reduce a woman's risk for developing certain cancers as well as osteoporosis, doctors should be telling even their young female patients to start including these elements in their diets.

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