I’ve tried lots of different things for premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and now I hear that a low-fat diet can help. What do you think?
You’re not alone; in fact, it’s estimated that a third of reproductive-aged women are affected by PMS. Despite the fact that this collection of symptoms has been written about since the time of Hippocrates, we still don’t know what causes it and have no lab test to help make the diagnosis.
Treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms and usually includes a combination of behavioral changes and medications. Limiting caffeine and salt intake helps many women but for others it makes little difference. Well, now a new study shows that a low-fat vegetarian diet may be the answer.
Researchers at Georgetown School of Medicine studied 33 women with moderate to severe symptoms of PMS. For two months the women followed a low-fat vegetarian diet, and for the next two cycles they ate their usual diet. During the study period, they ate unlimited amounts of grains, vegetables, legumes, and fruits; animal products, added oils, fried foods, avocados, olives, nuts or nut butters, and seeds were excluded. Roughly 10 percent of their total calories came from fat, and the diet was nutritionally balanced except for vitamin B-12, which was added as a supplement.
Their findings, published in Obstetrics & Gynecology are impressive. The study participants did significantly better on the low-fat vegetarian diet. There was less weight gain and less menstrual pain, both in terms of duration and intensity. Women on the diet also had fewer PMS symptoms related to concentration, behavioral changes, and water retention or bloating.
The results of this study offer another link between diet and hormones. Low-fat diets can reduce estrogen levels and have been shown to reduce the risk of uterine fibroids. A diet rich in phytoestrogens can help alleviate symptoms of menopause and perimenopause. And while the diet in this study was low in fat, it was high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to favorable effects on the brain. It’s more good news about the benefits of eating a healthy diet.