Last updated on: 4/9/2008 | Author:

Does Drinking Milk Reduce the Symptoms of PMS?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

Janice E. Daugherty, MD, Associate Professor at East Carolina University School of Medicine, wrote in a July 1998 article titled “Treatment Strategies for Premenstrual Syndrome,” published in the American Family Physician online, that:

“Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) refers to a group of menstrually related disorders and symptoms that includes premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PDD) as well as affective disturbances, alterations in appetite, cognitive disturbance, fluid retention and various types of pain. The metabolic and behavioral contexts of menstrually related disorders are being carefully studied.

Premenstrual symptoms sufficient to impair daily life and relationships are estimated to affect up to 40 percent of women of reproductive age, with severe impairment occurring in approximately 5 percent. PMS may have an onset at any time during the reproductive years and, once symptoms are established, they tend to remain fairly constant until menopause.”


PRO (yes)


The California Milk Processor Board wrote in its Nov. 30, 2005 press release “Campus PMS” published on the Got Milk? website:

“Something all women know, but few men seem to, is that when a group of women work or live together in close proximity, their menstrual cycles begin to concur, and alas, so do their symptoms for Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS). Known as ‘synchronous menstruation,’ this phenomenon can stir up campus anxiety from college dorms to sorority houses and even the classroom. But thanks to recent research, a glass of good old fashioned milk can help off-set the symptoms of PMS…

By conservative estimates, one in every two menstruating women suffers from moderate to severe PMS each month. According to St. Luke-Roosevelt Hospital researchers at Columbia University, calcium – naturally occurring in milk – cuts the physical and emotional symptoms of PMS in half. They found that women on high-calcium diets were less irritable, weepy, and depressed. Plus, they averted backaches, cramping and bloating – symptoms that can make any woman feel less than royal!”

Nov. 30, 2005


Elizabeth R. Bertone-Johnson, ScD, Associate Professor in the Department of Public Health at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and Susan E. Hankinson, ScD, Associate Professor of Medicine at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, et al. wrote in their 2005 article “Calcium and Vitamin D Intake and Risk of Incident Premenstrual Syndrome,” published in the Archives of Internal Medicine:

“Frequent milk consumption was also associated with lower risk [of PMS]. Participants consuming 4 servings or more per day of any type of milk had an RR [relative risk] of 0.68 compared with those reporting 1 serving or less per week. Whole milk intake was associated with a modest increase in risk, while women who frequently consumed skim or low-fat milk had a significantly lower risk of developing PMS; the RR for women consuming 4 servings or more per day of skim or low-fat milk compared with those reporting 1 serving or less per week was 0.54. The relationship between milk intake and risk of PMS did not vary by level of calcium or vitamin D supplementation…

Findings from our nested case-control study suggest that a high dietary intake of vitamin D and calcium may lower the risk of incident PMS. We observed a significantly lower risk of developing PMS in women with high intakes of vitamin D and calcium from food sources, equivalent to about 4 servings per day of skim or low-fat milk…

The finding that frequent milk intake is protective against PMS is consistent with our results for calcium and vitamin D. Each serving of fortified milk contains approximately 300 mg of calcium and 100 IU of vitamin D; 4 servings per day would provide women with approximately the amount of calcium and vitamin D from food sources at which we saw a significantly lower risk of PMS. It is unclear why frequent consumption of skim or low-fat milk and whole milk may be differently related to PMS.”



Orhan Derman, DO, Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Ihsan Dogramaci Childrens Hospital at the Hacettepe University School of Medicine, et al., wrote in their 2004 article “Premenstrual Syndrome and Associated Symptoms in Adolescent Girls,” published in the European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, that:

“In the group of girls who consumed more than 200 ml of milk, 300 ml yoghurt and more than 50 g of cheese per day, the frequency of PMS was less. The relation between calcium consumption and the symptoms of PMS was also found to be statistically significant. It was found that the girls whose consumption of milk was greater had significantly less abdominal bloating (P ¼ 0.017) and less cramps (P ¼ 0.017), less craving for some foods (P ¼ 0.021) and a lower incidence of increased appetite (P ¼ 0.021)…

Calcium was effective on negative affect, water retention, food cravings and pain. Calcium was not found to be effective during the menstrual or intermenstrual phase of the cycle. Similarly we pointed out that girls with the higher dietary calcium consumption had symptoms of PMS (negative affect, pain and water retention symptoms) to a lesser extent, regardless of additional calcium treatment. However, the only statistically significant relationship was between increased milk consumption of the girls and decreased severity of some symptoms (abdominal bloating and cramps, craving for some foods and increased appetite).”


CON (no)


Christiane Northrup, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Vermont, wrote in the 1998 edition of her book Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing, that:

“It has been my clinical experience that many women get relief of symptoms such as menstrual cramps, heavy bleeding, breast pain, and endometriosis pain when they stop consuming dairy foods. This is not true for everyone, but it works often enough to be worth a try. Though it’s not clear why dairy foods seem to be associated with women’s pelvic symptoms, I have a few theories. One possible explanation is that most milk today is produced by cows treated with BGH (bovine growth hormone)… Both hormone and antibiotic residues in the milk may stimulate the female hormonal system in some way we are not yet able to pinpoint…

Some women equate menstrual cramps and PMS, but PMS is different from menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea). This difference is not always clearly stated in writings on PMS. Many women with PMS have completely pain-free periods. Many women with severe cramping have no premenstrual distress…

A variety of nutritional factors contribute to PMS…[One of these factors is] high consumption of dairy products.”



Neal D. Barnard, MD, President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), wrote in a PCRM fact sheet titled “Nutritional Factors in Menstrual Pain and Premenstrual Syndrome,” published on the PCRM website (accessed Dec. 10, 2007), that:

“For some individuals at least, diets that avoid animal products [including milk] and keep vegetable oils to a bare minimum cause a marked reduction in menstrual pain…

Some evidence suggests that getting into better calcium balance can help reduce both menstrual pain and PMS. The effect is probably not a large one, however, and not all women notice an effect.

Most people think that improving calcium balance means ingesting more calcium either through supplements or dairy products. And, indeed, calcium carbonate supplements have been shown to reduce PMS symptoms.

But potentially much more important is to reduce the amount of calcium your body is losing minute by minute. Researchers have clearly established that animal proteins increase the loss of calcium by increasing the amount of calcium your kidneys remove from the blood and excrete in the urine. When people avoid animal proteins, their calcium losses are cut to less than half of what they had been.”

Dec. 10, 2007


Guy E. Abraham, MD, former Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Endocrinology at the UCLA School of Medicine, and Ruth E. Rumley, MD, former Physician in Charge of the Student Health Department at the University of Colorado at Fort Collins, wrote in their June 1987 article “Role of Nutrition in Managing the Premenstrual Tension Syndromes,” published in the Journal of Reproductive Medicine, that:

“A nutritional survey of 14 normal women and 39 PMTS [premenstrual tension syndromes such as PMT-A] patients revealed a significant difference in the consumption of some macronutrients. The PMTS patients consumed more refined sugar, refined carbohydrates and dairy products than did the normal women. Women with PMT-A [anxiety, irritability and nervous tension] symptoms consumed more protein, more dairy products and more refined sugar than did PMTS patients without PMT-A…

Low red cell magnesium levels have been found in PMTS patients. In an open trial of 192 PMTS patients, magnesium supplementation during the week preceding menses significantly improved nervous tension, mastalgia and weight gain in 89-96% of the patients.

PMT-A patients consume excessive amounts of calcium, mainly from dairy products. Since calcium interferes with the absorption and utilization of magnesium and other nutrients and the main source of calcium in PMTS patients is dairy products, our dietary goal is to lower the intake of dairy products and increase the magnesium and potassium intake from vegetable sources. Limitation, but not restriction, of sodium is also advised.”

June 1987