According to a 2005 study in the Archives of Internal Medicine, there’s an easy way to slash your risk of experiencing premenstrual syndrome (PMS or PMT) by as much as 40%:
Get a daily intake of 1,200 mg. of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D.
Always read nutrition labels to confirm, but this would be equivalent to about four servings of fortified skim or low-fat cow milk, fortified orange juice or low-fat yogurt. (However, avoid full-fat dairy, since the researchers point out that a diet high in saturated fat actually increases your risk of developing premenstrual symptoms.)
Okay, so now that you know calcium and vitamin D can slash your risk of getting PMS, want to know how these two nutrients actually work their premenstrual magic?
It seems to boil down to calcium’s ability to balance out your hormones, making you less prone to unpleasant side effects when estrogen dips in your premenstrual week.
The problem for some of us–likely most of us, really–is that we’re not getting enough calcium in our daily diet. And, on top of that, the researchers explain that calcium levels naturally dip around ovulation–possibly because the elevated level estrogen on these days makes the body process it faster–causing a natural deficiency.
By getting a daily supply of at least 1,200 mg. of calcium, we can keep our stores up so we avoid a shortfall of this important mineral, making our premenstrual week happier.
And what about the vitamin D? The need for this nutrient likely stems from its ability to help your body take in more calcium–a mineral that can be stubbornly difficult to absorb, especially as you age.
This particular study focused on consuming foods rich in calcium and vitamin D to reach these levels. However, other research (such as this and this) has shown that taking supplements has a similar PMS-busting effect. Which is good news for women who don’t eat dairy foods or don’t consume enough to meet the daily recommendations.
If you take calcium in supplement form like I do, be sure to space it out, taking 500 mg. of the mineral twice daily. (You’ll likely get that other 200 mg. from other calcium-containing foods already in your diet.) Multiple doses helps the body absorb more of this mineral.
And whether you get your calcium from food or supplements, here’s another nifty way to get your body to absorb more of this PMS-busting nutrient: Eat a teaspoon of honey with it.
If you try this tip and eat honey after your calcium supplement or consuming calcium-containing food, stick with raw honey, which some reports suggest is healthier than the traditional honey you find on supermarket shelves that could possibly be mixed with water or unwanted contaminants or have its health-boosting nutrients filtered out.
I hope these tips help you have a happier premenstrual week!
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[Photo: Purple Sherbet Photography]