My Hormonology

Are you bothered by premenstrual symptoms, such as anger, sadness, anxiety, fatigue, or pain, cycle after cycle?

Pre-period problems like these are caused primarily by plunging estrogen and progesterone. As the levels of these hormones descend, they can trigger mood changes and physical aches by altering levels of certain brain chemicals.

Not every woman gets PMS

Thing is, some women are plagued with lots of premenstrual woes while others get few or even none. And researchers have been trying to figure out what differentiates women who suffer from intense PMS symptoms from women who get the least.

One culprit they’ve discovered is that some of us are naturally wired to be more sensitive to hormone fluctuations. It’s in our genes.

But, they’ve also found that healthy lifestyle habits play an important factor, with women who are less stressed, exercise regularly and sleep better reporting fewer complaints leading up to their period.

Three new PMS clues

Now a new study adds three more important pieces to the premenstrual puzzle: Turns out, women who get more zinc and antioxidants and less trans fat in their diets are less likely to suffer from premenstrual symptoms, reports the International Journal of Reproductive BioMedicine.

To find this out, the researchers used food questionnaires and blood tests to compare the dietary habits of 23 women who experience moderate to severe premenstrual symptoms with 25 women who don’t experience premenstrual symptoms.

Turns out, the PMS group had significantly lower levels of zinc and antioxidants and consumed more foods that contained trans fat than the PMS-free group.

What’s the link between PMS and food?

As the researchers explain, zinc plays a key role in stabilizing your mood and is involved in the binding of progesterone to receptors and menstrual regulation. As a result, too-low levels of this essential mineral can trigger anger, depression and other mood issues in response to plunging hormone levels.

In addition, too few antioxidants can throw the ratio of oxidants to antioxidants in your system out of balance, triggering oxidative stress that’s been linked to mood problems and inflammation that worsens pain.

And trans fats are believed to cause more oxidative stress, exacerbating this imbalance.

How to use this information

If you experience premenstrual symptoms, consider including more foods in your diet that contain zinc, such as oysters, beef, fortified cereal, chicken and yogurt. And consume more foods that contain antioxidants, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

If you’re on a restricted diet or can’t fit in the types of foods that deliver these nutrients, take a daily multivitamin that contains up to 8 mg. of zinc as well as the antioxidant vitamins A, C and E.

And, finally, cut back on foods that contain trans fat, which include some doughnuts, frozen foods, margarines, pie crusts and other items made with hydrogenated oils. To find out which foods include trans fat, check the nutrition label.

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