How Diet Changes And Exercise Help With PMS

Written by Dr. Pakanich Maria Petrivna on Tue, 01 August 2023


Cramping, mood swings, tiredness. Do all of these things make up your monthly ritual? If yes, then you are not the only one. Don't worry, there's nothing wrong with you lashing out at people abruptly or craving candy all of a sudden.

This is all a part of premenstrual syndrome or PMS, which affects nearly every woman during her reproductive years. Does this mean there's nothing you can do about it? Absolutely not! We will be discussing two key ingredients that can help with your PMS: exercise to reduce PMS and diet to reduce PMS symptoms. Let's go!

What are PMS and PMDD?

Many women experience certain physical and mood changes during or before their menstrual cycle. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) refers to a group of physical and behavioral changes that some women experience before their menstrual periods every month. These changes are caused by hormonal fluctuations, especially by the female reproductive hormones.

Don't have time to read? Listen instead.

If PMS symptoms get too severe and start to affect your regular life too much, it could be a sign of PMDD or premenstrual dysphoric disorder. PMDD affects very few women, however, one must consult a doctor if the symptoms start deteriorating your quality of life.

Common symptoms of PMS

  • As discussed before, PMS symptoms can be both physical and mood-related. Physical symptoms include abdominal pain, headaches, swelling in hands or feet, food cravings, breast tenderness, skin problems, etc.
  • These symptoms are often accompanied by mood changes such as irritability, angry outbursts, feeling emotional, bloating, depression, crying spells, insomnia, anxiety, changes in sexual desires, unusual sleeping patterns, etc.
  • These symptoms usually occur 5 days before your period and end within 4 days after your period starts. To understand your menstrual cycle and to know if you have PMS, keep a record of your symptoms and talk to your doctor.

The link between dietary patterns and PMS

Your dietary patterns can reflect a lot about your ailments. There's no surprise here that your food choices and PMS are connected. Nutrition and PMS symptoms are highly interlinked, and there are special diets to help PMS.

  • The excess or deficiency of certain nutrients has been linked to changes in hormonal levels.
  • Furthermore, a diet rich in vegetables and which is low in fat, and high in fiber can lead to decreased estrogen levels, reducing the symptoms of PMS.
  • On the other hand, sugary, sweet foods, fried and junk food can lead to the development of symptoms of PMS.

A study was carried out among women with confirmed PMS and healthy individuals recruited from healthcare centers. These women were grouped into three categories, based on their dietary patterns. These were:

  • Western Dietary pattern: Women who had a high intake of fast foods, soft drinks, and processed meats.
  • Traditional Dietary pattern: Women who consumed more amounts of eggs, tomato sauce, fruits, and red meat.
  • Healthy Dietary pattern: Women have a diet rich in dried fruits, condiments, and nuts.

According to the results of this study, women who indulged in a Western dietary pattern were associated with PMS symptoms, whereas the case was the opposite for women in the Traditional and Healthy dietary pattern group. This shows that diet has significant implications on the development of PMS symptoms.

Diet to reduce PMS symptoms

Here are some simple diet changes you can implement for better menstrual health:

  • Eat foods rich in complex carbohydrates such as whole-wheat bread, pasta, lentils, cereals, barley, brown rice, etc. This can help control your mood swings and food cravings.
  • Include calcium-rich foods like green leafy vegetables and dairy products in your diet.
  • Avoid excess caffeine and alcohol.
  • Reduce the amount of salt, fats, and sugar in your diet.
  • Make some changes to your eating schedule. For example, eat six mini-meals in a day rather than three large meals.

Sometimes, changing your eating habits may not be enough to counteract the nutritional imbalances that come with the hormonal fluctuations. Your doctor may advise you to take supplements like calcium and magnesium for your PMS symptoms.

How exercise can relieve PMS symptoms

Bodyweight and BMI are also closely associated with the development of PMS symptoms. Women who are overweight or obese are more likely to have PMS symptoms than women who are of a healthy weight.

BMI more than or equal to 27.5 is associated with an increased risk of PMS. Excess weight may be may plausibly be related to PMS through a variety of hormonal, neural, and behavioral mechanisms. Losing weight can be a valuable solution for overweight/obese women experiencing moderate-to-severe PMS symptoms.

Exercising regularly can help in weight loss as well as reduce the psychological, physical, and behavioral symptoms of PMS. Regular exercisers experience lower pain intensity, fewer behavior changes and lesser impaired concentration. Exercise improves blood circulation throughout the body, including the lower abdomen, and reduces cramping. Moreover, regular physical activity can also help in correcting certain hormonal imbalances that lead to extreme PMS symptoms.

Best exercise for PMS

  • Aerobic exercises are extremely effective in reducing PMS symptoms. This includes walking, running, dancing, certain high-intensity training exercises, etc.
  • Core-engaging exercises can also help with cramps and abdominal bloating.
  • Along with physical activity, one must incorporate some relaxation exercises and techniques in their daily routine as well. This could be in the form of yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation. Massage therapy can also be helpful. This can help you destress and improve your mood.

The power of exercise for health and fitness is tremendous when it comes to menstrual health! So, make sure you stay motivated to diet & exercise with these tips.


Dr. Pakanich Maria Petrivna

Dr. Pakanich Maria Petrivna graduated from Ukraine's Uzhhorod National Medical University, Faculty of Medicine, in 1999. She further pursued her post graduation studies at Lviv National Medical University between 1999-2000. She then spent 16 years (2000-2016) at the same university as the resident doctor neurologist. Since 2016,Dr. Pakanich Maria Petrivna has been associated as a medical representative with Mega We Care.

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  1. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) | ACOG. Available at ACOG  
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Our team of experts frequently monitors developments in the health and wellness field, and we update our articles when new information becomes available.

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Aug, 01 2023

Written By

Dr. Pakanich Maria Petrivna