Can Veganism Vanquish PMS?
I suffer terribly from PMS and heard recently that a vegan diet can really help. Is this true? If not, what do you recommend?
Maybe. A study published in the February issue of "Obstetrics & Gynecology" found that a low-fat vegetarian diet can help control premenstrual syndrome (PMS). The study tracked 33 women, between the ages of 22 and 40, who all suffered from severe PMS. When the women followed a vegan diet for two months, they had fewer menstrual cramps, less water retention, and more energy. However, the diet didn't eliminate menstrual pain for all the women.
The theory behind this strategy is that a low-fat, vegan diet that eliminates animal-based foods helps lower estrogen levels. This in turn decreases production of prostaglandins, the body chemicals believed to cause menstrual pain.
This approach is the latest in a long list of dietary maneuvers directed against PMS, but it isn't an easy way to attack the problem. You would have to eliminate all foods derived from animals, including eggs and dairy products. Vegans risk not getting enough vitamin B12, zinc, iron, and calcium. They must be diligent about consuming vegetable-based foods that provide these vital nutrients -- or take supplements to ensure an adequate intake.
A diet that is very low in fat can also be unpalatable. If you're going to try this approach, I suggest you substitute olive oil and foods that provide omega-3 fatty acids (walnuts, for instance) for the animal fats you're eliminating.
Alternatively, you can try making the following changes, all of which can reduce the severity of PMS symptoms:
Take a calcium-magnesium supplement (1,000 mg of each) for painful menstrual cramps.
Eliminate all caffeine (including the chocolate some women crave premenstrually) and avoid polyunsaturated vegetable oils.
Do regular aerobic exercise -- 30 minutes of daily activity that raises your heart rate.
Take 500 mg of black currant oil or evening primrose oil twice a day and two capsules of dong quai or chaste tree twice a day.
For cramps, drink raspberry-leaf tea, which is sold in health food stores. You can also use a hot water bottle on your abdomen, or take doses of cramp-bark (viburnum). Follow the directions on the package.
Take ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) -- but not on an empty stomach.
Practice the breathing exercises I recommend.