Did you know that the foods you eat before your next period can affect PMS symptoms? If you have suffered from PMS you know how rough it can be. From the bloating, cramping, mood swings, and food cravings it is easy to get overwhelmed and feel like there is nothing you can do. The good news is that by making a few lifestyle adjustments, it is possible to experience decreased and fewer PMS symptoms.
It is estimated that PMS affects about 40 percent of women in their childbearing years. While exact causes of PMS are inconclusive, some studies report that it is because of hormone sensitivity. Integrative physician Dr. Mark Hyman, MD states:
“The real cause for PMS is simply this: Your hormones become unbalanced, your estrogen levels increase and progesterone levels decrease, either relatively or absolutely.”
Women typically have a range of symptoms and not all women have the same issues. The most common complaints include bloating, cramps, cravings, depression, headaches, fatigue, irritability, and tenderness. The majority of women have symptoms five to seven days per month.
Reaching for a bag of chips or a bar of chocolate might seem appealing in the moment, but they bring very little PMS relief. What the body needs this time of the month is key nutrients and exercise to help stay balanced from the inside out. It might sound weird to eat for your PMS, but if you experience symptoms five to seven days a month, you probably want to feel better. Science has proven time and time again that our lifestyle and food choices have a major influence on our well-being.
PMS usually occurs in the second half of the luteal phase of a woman’s cycle with severity increasing right before the menstrual phase. Many women have symptoms the first couple days of their period as well. The easiest way to work with your PMS symptoms is before they start. If you aren’t sure when your luteal phase is coming, learn to chart your cycle phases with an app like iPeriod or Kindara. If you know when your luteal phase is approaching you can make sure you are stocked up on these foods beforehand.
How many times have you been super emotional or irritated only to remember later it’s that time of the month? By learning the phases of your cycle you will automatically connect more to your body. This way you will have an idea of when your period is coming and be able to make supportive changes. There is no magic food that is going to completely remove all of your symptoms in one month. It takes anywhere from 3-6 months of consistent practice to notice dramatic changes. If you’ve suffered from PMS for years be gentle with yourself during this process. By incorporating these foods one step at a time, you are bringing your body into balance and learning how to take the best care of yourself around your period.
Potassium plays a big role in keeping mood swings in check. This important mineral also helps to reduce fluid retention and decrease bloating. Lack of adequate potassium can lead to muscle cramping which you want to avoid when menstrual cramps are around the corner. Apples are a wonderful source of potassium. They’re also naturally sweet and loaded with fiber.
Dark Leafy Greens
Studies show that magnesium can help reduce bloating, cramps, and fluid retention that so many women experience. Dark leafy greens like collards, Swiss chard, mustard greens, and spinach are loaded with magnesium to alleviate these symptoms. The fiber in these vegetables also helps move excess estrogen through the intestinal tract. Estrogen dominance during the luteal phase is often a cause of PMS symptoms. To keep things simple steam your greens or sauté in a little butter or olive oil. Eat 2 servings of leafy greens per day during your luteal phase and 1-2 servings during your period.
If PMS has you feeling tired and down in the dumps you probably need more B vitamins in your diet. These heavy lifters play a key role in keeping our energy levels and mood stable. Brown rice is an incredible source of B vitamins, which also help to stave off sugar cravings. Enjoy one serving per day with veggies, fish, or chicken during your luteal phase.
Curbing sugar cravings is as simple as eating more sweet vegetables. Sweet potatoes are loaded with natural sugars, antioxidants, and fiber. These natural sugars help with the agitation and irritability symptoms that can be a result of lower estrogen levels during the second half of the luteal phase. To pull the most flavor out of this delicious vegetable bake your sweet potato with a touch of olive, salt, and cinnamon. Sweet potatoes are excellent mashed, baked as fries or used as in a soup with other root veggies like beets and carrots.
Studies have shown that essential fatty acids, particularly Omega 3’s significantly reduce PMS symptoms and in some cases act as an antidepressant. Healthy fats are very important for boosting your mood and easing PMS symptoms. Wild salmon is a great food source of Omega 3’s, which also help to regulate hormone balance. Enjoy 2-3 servings of wild salmon per week during your luteal phase. Salmon can get expensive, rainbow trout and sardines are great alternatives. It can also be very helpful to supplement with high quality fish oil.
In addition to focusing on these foods during your luteal phase it is important to cut down on excess refined sugar, alcohol, processed carbohydrates, and junk food. All of these foods spike blood sugar levels which increases irritability, mood swings, and exhaustion. It’s important during your luteal phase to nourish your body with foods that will stabilize hormones, supply ample energy, support digestion, and balance your mood. If you experience debilitating cramps and depression during your cycle it could be related to PMDD and it’s best to seek out a qualified professional for support.
The bottom line, use your luteal phase as a chance to pay closer attention to you body. When you know how to take care of your PMS you become more empowered in all areas of your life.
How are you going to incorporate these foods into your life? We would love to know!