Milk, cheese, and other dairy products are good for women's bones, but would you believe that they could also ward off the mood swings and irritability of PMS? A study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine says they may.
While previous studies have shown that calcium could help women significantly reduce PMS symptoms, this research shows that consuming enough calcium and vitamin D could actually lower your risk of developing PMS in the first place.
PMS (premenstrual syndrome) refers to the mood swings, fluid retention, breast tenderness, fatigue, and other symptoms some women suffer in the days before their period begins. It's estimated that as many as 90% of women experience PMS to some degree, with 30% to 40% reporting symptoms so severe they interfere with daily life in some way.
Researchers at the University of Massachusetts set out to determine the effect of calcium and vitamin D consumption on pre-menopausal women by comparing women who had developed PMS with those who hadn't. Participants were between 27 and 44 years old at the start of the study and hadn't reported any symptoms of PMS. But over the next 10 years, 1,057 women went on to develop PMS, while 1968 did not.
After adjusting for age, smoking, and other risk factors, the researchers found that women who had the highest vitamin D intake,(an average of 706 IU per day) had a 41% lower chance of developing PMS than the women who had the lowest intake. Women who consumed the equivalent of about 4 servings of skim or low-fat milk (providing approximately 1200 mg of calcium and 400 IU of vitamin D) per day also had a 30% lower chance of developing PMS compared to women who got the least calcium.
Recommended daily intake of vitamin D is 400 IU for women under the age of 50 and 800 IU for women over 50 years of age., Calcium intake also varies by age. For example, women between the ages of 19 and 50 should get 1,000 mg a day, while 1,200 mg are recommended for older women. Aside from dairy, foods that can help reach those recommendations include canned salmon with bones, calcium-fortified orange juice, and broccoli.
The study didn't say whether calcium from supplements or from women's diets had a greater impact, however the authors did suggest that "given that calcium and vitamin D may also reduce the risk of osteoporosis and some cancers, clinicians may consider recommending these nutrients even for younger women."
But they emphasize that the study doesn't show that calcium and vitamin D prevent PMS - only that there is a link.
Women may have some success reducing the symptoms of PMS, however, by incorporating exercise into their daily routines, minimizing stress, and limiting alcohol and caffeine. For women with severe symptoms, hormonal birth control or antidepressants may also be effective.
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