Could the discomfort and other awful symptoms that affect women the world over really be reduced by extra Vitamin D and calcium?

The test highlighted in this article shows it can work

Many women can understand far too well at least one of the many symptoms of Pre Menstrual Syndrome (PMS), things like swollen breasts, mood swings, lethargy, irritability, bloating or just plain tearfulness – for many women these things are passed off as just a mere inconvenience.

But for some women the symptoms are extremely severe causing difficulties at work, problems in the home, relationship breakdowns or maybe even severe depression.

The causes of PMS have been attributed to many things, but in truth they are not fully known.  However, there are studies that suggest that blood calcium and Vitamin D levels are lower in women who suffer from PMS, and that simply by supplementing with calcium the symptoms can be reduced.

However, it is yet to be proven whether or not the calcium supplementation may prevent the initial development of PMS.

It should be remembered that the main job of Vitamin D in the body is to help the body absorb calcium, so oftentimes if we are deficient in calcium that means that we may also be deficient in Vitamin D.

Now the biggest source of Vitamin D is ultraviolet radiation in sunlight.  But there are many foods also that contain higher proportions of Vitamin D than others.  Things like beef liver, oily fish, going on down to eggs, milks and cereals.

Whilst foods high in Vitamin D and calcium have been shown to make improvements to PMS sufferers, foods that are high in carbohydrates have been shown to make the symptoms a lot worse.  That’s because the mood affecting neuro-transmitter, serotonin, plays an important part in deciding how severe PMS symptoms are.

Scientists have seen that sufferers with PMS have lower levels of serotonin than non-sufferers, which suggests that PMS moods and so forth can easily be improved by eating more serotonin-friendly foods.

The study conducted by Nick Pannay, used a diet designed by Nigel Denby.

It took 3 groups of 8 women, all of whom had been recruited through advertising in the press and PMS self-help organisations.

The respondent’s answered a brief questionnaire and those whose responses showed that they were PMS sufferers were interviewed further, until eventually, the final 24 were chosen.

The group of 24 women were then broken down into 3 groups – 2 active groups following either the double diet, which was designed to achieve very high levels of calcium and Vitamin D; or the glycemic load diet, where they were eating low glycemic index foods; and the last group was the control group in which the women were given a placebo supplement.

How it worked

Both the intervention and the controlled diets were carried out for a period of three months.  Throughout the month, the women in each of the active groups either received deliveries of food to their homes or they bought the food themselves from a list.

Each of the women completed a questionnaire each day for a month before starting the diet, and then again every day during the three-month study.  The questionnaire was designed specifically to describe fully any Pre Menstrual distress that the women recognised within themselves.

The questionnaire allowed the researchers to chart the severity of eleven key PMS symptoms, and track them throughout the monthly period cycle.  Without knowing which of the groups each of the women were in, researchers then analysed the results which you can see in the table below.

Results Analysis.

The results for the high calcium, high Vitamin D diet, are consistent and it has been shown that there are significant improvements in both the physical and psychological symptoms, compared with the control group.  The second group, who had the glycomic index based diet, also showed some improvement although in such a small number of women that the result should be treated with a little bit of caution, but even so the trends are quite interesting in themselves.

It’s interesting to note that in the control group, whilst the physical symptoms of swelling and bloating showed a very small improvement, and mood swings showed a similar though small improvement, the depression as reported by the subjects actually got a lot worse.

Doing it for Yourself

If you want to take advantage of the benefits that you may get by increasing your calcium and Vitamin D intake, then you might like to consider the following:

If you live in a hard water area you are actually at an advantage, as drinking hard water can provide up to 200mg of calcium each day.

Good plant sources of calcium include things like tofu, green leafy vegetables, seeds and nuts.
Some green leaf vegetables, such as kale, are absorbed better than others, because they are not as high as other vegetables in oxalate.
Other calcium-rich foods you can try are black molasses, seaweeds, water cress, parsley and dried figs.

As an example, you want to aim for 2 or 3 portions of calcium-rich food every day.

These are things like a third of a pint of milk; about 150g of cheese; a small yoghurt or a milk-based pudding, like custard or rice pudding (but make sure they fit in with your carb count for the day).

Increasing the level of calcium may help more than problems with PMS.

In another article you will see that calcium helps the body to pass through unwanted fat instead of digesting it.

That is good news.