Q: I’m in my mid-30s and generally healthy, but I feel very fragile before my periods. I either want to cry or snap someone’s head off, have food cravings and put on weight. My GP suggests taking the pill but I prefer natural medicine.
A: As many as 30 per cent of women can experience moderate to severe PMS, according to the National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome (pms.org.uk). ‘The symptoms may be severe enough to affect their relationships and ability to cope with home life and work. It can feel like being on a hormonal rollercoaster and may even lead to depression,’ says nutritionist and women’s health expert Marilyn Glenville, author of Overcoming PMS The Natural Way (Piatkus, £8.99).
The term PMS (premenstrual syndrome) describes any symptoms that occur after ovulation and disappear as soon as the period arrives.
Some 150 symptoms are now linked to PMS. Among the most common are mood swings, anxiety, bloating, breast tenderness and swelling, acne, tiredness, weight gain, headaches, crying spells or depression, food cravings, constipation and dizziness.
It’s important to keep your blood sugar levels steady – the higher your intake of sugar (also caffeine) the more severe your symptoms are likely to be. Marilyn advises eliminating sugar completely for two cycles to see how you feel.
Don’t add sugar to food or drink. Avoid sweet foods, and anything with refined white flour. Starchy carbohydrates become sugar in your blood so swap to whole-grain pasta and brown rice. Choose whole fruit, because the fibre slows down the blood sugar hit, never fruit juice as most fibre is discarded. Eat lots of vegetables (except potatoes).
Eat a healthy meal or snack every three hours to prevent blood sugar plunging. This also stops the release of stress hormones, which can block the utilisation of the hormone progesterone in the second half of your cycle.
Include protein (animal or vegetable) in meals and snacks to help stabilise blood sugar levels and satisfy your appetite. Try eggs, fish or full-fat organic yoghurt with nuts and seeds for breakfast, and snacks such as an apple with almonds, an oatcake with mackerel pâté, nut butter or hummus, and nuts, raisins or seeds.
Nutrients including vitamin B6, chromium and magnesium, and herbs such as camomile, siberian ginseng and dandelion, can be very beneficial. Try PM Support, formulated by Marilyn Glenville, £21.97 for 60 capsules, from health food stores and Victoria Health.
In one controlled trial of 170 women, the herb agnus castus improved PMS symptoms by 50 per cent or more in over half the group who took it. Try Periagna Agnus Castus Fruit by Bio-Health, £10.75 for 60 capsules, from Victoria Health.
From October, Marilyn will be launching women’s wellbeing weekends, covering hormones, fertility and miscarriage, and fat around the middle, at Champneys health spa in Tring. For details visit champneys.com or marilynglenville.com
OLD-TIME SWING HAS JOINED THE DANCE FITNESS OPTIONS
alongside Zumba and salsa. Australian banker turned swing dancer Scott Cupit got pedestrians tapping their toes when he lindy-hopped on the empty plinth in Trafalgar Square, with his Swing Patrol dancers performing below. He also went on TV and persuaded the Dragons’ Den panel, including investor Deborah Meaden, to swing their stuff. Swing, which dates from the 1920s, is a fantastic way of getting fit and having fun. Classes are currently London-based or online, but from September there will be Swing Patrol balls across the UK. For details visit swingpatrol.co.uk.
A READER WITH PSORIASIS RECOMMENDS
Malki Dead Sea mineral soaps, particularly the very soothing sulphur version. ‘They all lather up well (despite no sodium lauryl sulphate), don’t dry my skin and have helped heal a couple of new blisters quickly.’ Based on Dead Sea minerals and free of animal fat, parabens and harsh foaming agents, products may help skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. From this Wednesday for four weeks, the Dead Sea products will be on special offer in Boots stores and on boots.com, with three for the price of two on soaps, body lotion, bath salts, shower cream and facial wash.