Don't feel blue on those difficult days

PUBERTY in a girl comes with a baggage of physical and mental change. It is seldom discussed and hardly ever understood completely by Indian women. Questions about it are often left unanswered. Today the approach to such cloistered subjects like menstruation and its side effects is more open. During such times a woman was confined to a secluded part of the house or her menstrual related behaviour declared as insanity. Today, women acknowledge it as a period of mental and physical change and are coping with it better.

Premenstrual syndrome or PMS produces physical and mental changes, which generally begin, from two to seven days before the onset of menstruation and usually clears as soon as the period starts. Women feel irritable and it is usually accompanied with backache, cramps, headache, tenderness of the breast and a `bloated' sensation. At times, women find that their clothes do not fit them. They turn moody and behave strangely. Few cry for no reason at all, thus spoiling the family atmosphere. They become irritable, nervous and have poor concentration. Some crave for sweets while others yearn for particular foods.

This period can be frustrating not only for the individual but also for the people around her. Attention to diet and exercise goes a long way in reducing the problems associated with menstruation. Women over 30 are more prone to suffer from PMS.

Premenstrual syndrome is related to the production of female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, which controls the monthly cycle. Around 50 - 80 percent of the women under go these mood swings, emotional and irrational behaviour in varied severity. In PMS, symptoms can be controlled to some extent by the making dietary changes. Studies suggest that a diet high in carbohydrate and low in fat is helpful. Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) dietary supplements help patients of PMS to counter premenstrual depression, lethargy and even water retention, which is characterized by `bloating', breast tenderness and swelling of fingers, toes and face. Cutting down on salt intake helps to reduce water retention. Foods rich in vitamin B6 are fish, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables. Wheat germ is a Vitamin E rich food, which helps to reduce breast tenderness. Calcium helps reduce menstrual pain and the premenstrual tension. Foods rich in calcium are milk, curd, `paneer', fenugreek leaves, drumstick leaves, and ragi. Aromatic primrose oil is very effective in alleviating PMS related pain and discomfort. Regular walking, abdominal and pelvic exercises greatly help in reducing premenstrual syndrome symptoms. Studies suggest that caffeine can worsen the symptoms of PMS. Abruptly cutting down caffeine in coffee and tea can make things worse so the intake should be reduced gradually. Women who suffer from PMS have a craving for food especially for sweets. It satisfies their hunger and boosts their mood by increasing their sugar levels. But this may lead to headaches, palpitations or fatigue. To counteract this, eating of small meals regularly is recommended as it keeps blood sugar levels stable. Chocolate should be avoided since it aggravates mood swings and behaviour changes. Other foods to be avoided are refined carbohydrates, tobacco, and oily, fried and spicy foods. Following a vegetarian diet is advisable during the period as the weight gain is about a kilo or more. It is advisable to take diet consisting of plenty of sprouted pulses and wheat, fruits and vegetables and low in fat from one week prior to menstruation.

Even though this is a temporary period of change, PMS can be harrowing for women.


1. Have diet high in carbohydrate and low in fat.

2. Consume Vitamin B6 and Vitamin E rich foods like fish, whole grains, and wheat

germ and green leafy vegetables.

3. Take foods rich in calcium such as milk, curd, `paneer', fenugreek leaves,

Drumstick leaves and ragi.

4. Use evening primrose oil.

5. Regular walking, abdominal and pelvic exercises are recommended.


1. Caffeine containing food items like coffee, tea and chocolate.

2. Refined carbohydrates, sugars and tobacco.

3. Foods that are oily, fried or spicy.

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