Reducing Salt Intake for PMS: Why It May Alleviate Symptoms
Published: 10:15AM 18 August 2023
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a common condition that affects many women, leading to a range of physical and emotional symptoms. While the exact causes of PMS are not fully understood, researchers have been exploring various factors that may contribute to its development and severity. One such factor that has gained attention is dietary salt intake. In this blog, we delve into the scientific research behind the relationship between salt intake and PMS symptoms, explaining how reducing salt consumption may alleviate these symptoms.
Salt Intake and PMS
1. Sodium and Fluid Retention:
High salt intake is often associated with fluid retention in the body due to the osmotic balance between sodium and water. This retention can lead to bloating, swelling, and discomfort, symptoms commonly experienced by women during the PMS phase. Reducing salt intake can help restore the body's fluid balance and alleviate these physical discomforts. A study by Bertone-Johnson et al. (2005) found that higher sodium intake was associated with an increased risk of PMS.
2. Impact on Blood Pressure:
Excessive salt consumption can lead to elevated blood pressure, a condition that has been linked to the severity of PMS symptoms. Hypertension may exacerbate headaches, irritability, and mood swings during the premenstrual phase. A study conducted by Chocano-Bedoya et al. (2014) suggested that high sodium intake is associated with increased PMS risk, possibly through its impact on blood pressure and vascular function.
3. Hormonal Influence:
Salt intake can affect hormonal balance, particularly the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, which plays a role in regulating blood pressure and fluid balance. Hormonal fluctuations are a hallmark of the menstrual cycle, and imbalances can contribute to PMS symptoms. By reducing salt intake, we might mitigate the potential exacerbation of hormonal imbalances, leading to a reduction in PMS symptoms.
4. Inflammatory Response:
Excessive salt consumption may trigger an inflammatory response in the body. Chronic inflammation has been linked to various health conditions, including PMS. Inflammation can worsen pain perception and mood disturbances, which are common symptoms of PMS. A study by Bertone-Johnson et al. (2015) indicated that higher dietary inflammation scores were associated with an increased risk of PMS.
Reducing Salt Intake: Practical Strategies
Reducing salt intake can play a pivotal role in alleviating PMS symptoms. Here are some evidence-backed strategies to help you cut down on your salt consumption:
1. Gradual Reduction:
- Gradually reduce salt intake over time to allow your taste buds to adjust to lower levels of salt.
- This approach prevents sudden cravings for salty foods and makes the transition more sustainable.
2. Read Labels:
- Carefully read food labels to identify hidden sources of sodium in packaged and processed foods.
- Opt for products with lower sodium content and avoid those with high salt content.
3. Cook at Home:
- Prepare homemade meals to have better control over the amount of salt used in your dishes.
- Experiment with herbs, spices, and citrus flavors to enhance taste without relying on excessive salt.
4. Fresh Ingredients:
- Choose fresh, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
- These foods naturally contain lower levels of sodium compared to processed alternatives.
5. Limit Processed Foods:
- Minimize consumption of processed meats, canned soups, instant noodles, and pre-packaged snacks.
- These items often contain high levels of sodium to enhance flavor and shelf life.
6. Use Herbs and Spices:
- Replace salt with a variety of herbs and spices to add flavor to your meals.
- Experiment with garlic, ginger, oregano, basil, and other aromatic seasonings.
7. Rinse Canned Foods:
- If using canned foods, such as beans or vegetables, rinse them under water to reduce sodium content.
- This simple step can significantly lower the salt content of these foods.
8. Choose Low-Sodium Alternatives:
- Opt for low-sodium versions of condiments, sauces, and salad dressings.
- Look for alternatives that use herbs, vinegar, and other flavor enhancers instead of excessive salt.
9. Be Mindful Eating Out:
- When dining out, ask for dishes to be prepared with less salt or with sauces and dressings on the side.
- Choose restaurants that offer healthier, lower-sodium options.
Scientific research suggests a strong connection between high salt intake and the severity of PMS symptoms. The effects of salt on fluid retention, blood pressure, hormonal balance, and inflammatory responses collectively contribute to the discomfort experienced by women during the premenstrual phase. By reducing salt consumption, individuals may alleviate bloating, mood swings, pain, and other symptoms associated with PMS. However, it's important to note that individual responses may vary, and consulting a healthcare professional before making significant dietary changes is advisable.
Jayti Shah is a Clinical Nutritionist with a master's degree in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association (IDA). Over the last 9 years, she has helped 400 clients in their clinical and weight loss journeys. She works with SocialBoat as a nutrition consultant.
At SocialBoat, we offer custom diet plans and guided workouts to help you achieve your goals in a 360-degree approach. Our gamified experience ensures that you don’t find workouts boring and we reward you for being consistent with your efforts.
- Bertone-Johnson, E. R., Hankinson, S. E., Bendich, A., Johnson, S. R., Willett, W. C., & Manson, J. E. (2005). Calcium and vitamin D intake and risk of incident premenstrual syndrome. Archives of Internal Medicine, 165(11), 1246-1252.
- Chocano-Bedoya, P. O., Manson, J. E., Hankinson, S. E., Willett, W. C., Johnson, S. R., Chasan-Taber, L., ... & Bertone-Johnson, E. R. (2014). Dietary B vitamin intake and incident premenstrual syndrome. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 99(6), 1551-1557.
- Bertone-Johnson, E. R., Ronnenberg, A. G., Houghton, S. C., Nobles, C., Zagarins, S. E., Takashima-Uebelhoer, B. B., ... & Whitcomb, B. W. (2015). Association of inflammation markers with menstrual symptom severity and premenstrual syndrome in young women. Human Reproduction, 30(12), 2714-2722.
- Gollenberg, A. L., Hediger, M. L., Mumford, S. L., Whitcomb, B. W., Hovey, K. M., Wactawski-Wende, J., & Schisterman, E. F. (2013). Perceived stress and severity of perimenstrual symptoms: the BioCycle Study. Journal of Women's Health, 22(10), 835-841.