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Understanding the Difference Between PMS and PMDD.

Experiencing severe premenstrual symptoms is not something to dismiss as normal.

Unfortunately, many women are faced with symptoms that greatly impact their lives and are

often not taken seriously by healthcare professionals. In this blog post, we will explore the

differences between premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder

(PMDD). We'll discuss the standard medical treatments available and shed light on how nutrition

can play a vital role in managing these symptoms. Additionally, we will delve into specific foods

that can provide relief and support if you are dealing with PMS or PMDD.

Understanding PMS and PMDD and the Difference Between

PMS refers to a range of physical, emotional, and behavioural

symptoms that occur in the second half of the menstrual cycle, known as the luteal phase.

These symptoms typically subside with the onset of menstruation. With over 150 identified

symptoms, including irritability, anxiety, low mood, headaches, sleep disturbances, and breast

tenderness, PMS affects up to 90% of women on a monthly basis.

PMDD, on the other hand, represents a more severe form of PMS. It is characterized by intense

mood swings, depression, irritability, and anxiety that significantly impact daily life. If your

symptoms are so severe that they make you feel suicidal or interfere with your ability to function,

you may be dealing with PMDD. Recognized as a mental health condition in the DSM-5, PMDD

affects an estimated one in 20 women.

While the exact causes of PMS and PMDD are not fully understood, hormonal changes during

the luteal phase seem to play a significant role. Progesterone, the hormone produced during

this phase, can have varying effects on mood and anxiety levels. Women with PMDD may have

heightened sensitivity to these hormonal fluctuations. Other factors, such as a history of trauma

and genetics, may contribute to the development of PMDD.

Standard medical treatments for PMS and PMDD include over-the-counter pain relievers,

hormonal contraceptives, and lifestyle changes such as exercise and stress management

techniques. For PMDD specifically, antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors

(SSRIs), hormonal contraceptives, and psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy

(CBT), may be recommended.

In addition to standard medical treatments, nutrition can play a supportive role in managing

PMS and PMDD symptoms. Here are some dietary considerations that I recommend to my


Eat a Nutrient-Rich Diet! Focus on a diet rich in whole grains, brightly colored fruits and

vegetables (8-10 portions a day), and eat protein with every meal to balance blood sugar levels.

These foods provide essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber that support overall hormonal


Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Include foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish, flaxseeds,

and walnuts. These foods have shown potential in reducing inflammation and alleviating PMS

and PMDD symptoms.

Calcium-Rich Foods: Ensure adequate intake of calcium from sources like dairy products, leafy

greens, and fortified foods. Calcium has been linked to symptom relief for both PMS and PMDD.

Magnesium-Rich Foods: Incorporate magnesium-rich foods like dark chocolate, nuts, seeds,

and legumes. Magnesium may help reduce PMS symptoms, including mood swings and


Complex Carbohydrates: Opt for whole grains and complex carbohydrates, such as brown rice,

quinoa, and sweet potatoes. These foods can help stabilize blood sugar levels and manage

mood swings.

Herbal Support: Consider herbs like chamomile, saffron, vitex (chaste tree berry), and Rhodiola

rosea. However, it's important to consult with a Nutritional Therapist before using herbs, as they

may interact with medications.

Differentiating between PMS and PMDD is crucial for women seeking effective symptom

management. Alongside standard medical treatments, adopting a balanced diet that

incorporates nutrient-rich foods can support hormone balance and alleviate symptoms.

If you would like to explore how Nutritional Therapy can further support your PMS or PMDD

symptoms, we invite you to book a free call with us.

Together, we can work towards finding relief and improving your overall well-being.

The Difference Between PMS and PMDD and how to help it

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