Most ladies are all too familiar with the nagging symptoms of PMS and many would do anything to avoid the feelings of bloating, cramping, irritability, etc. Well we have good news. We are not suggesting any magic pill, but rather, nutrition tips to help you alleviate some of these symptoms. There is no need to fear that time of month anymore. Here are some nutritional guidelines that any woman can adhere to in order to ease these menstrual hang-ups.
PMS or premenstrual syndrome is a collection of symptoms, both emotional and physical, that occur during the second half of the menstrual cycle. Some common symptoms of PMS are irritability/mood swings, depression, anxiety, cravings, breast tenderness, acne, headaches, abdominal cramping, water retention, etc. Many of these symptoms can be explained through the causal mechanism of the hormones in your body and how they fluctuate throughout your cycle.
During your menstrual cycle, some of the chemicals and hormones and your brain are altered. This can be the cause for many of the emotional and mental symptoms of your PMS. These chemicals are dopamine, serotonin and endorphins. The hormones, estrogen and progesterone, alter the levels of these chemicals throughout the month as these levels are dependent on which phase of the cycle you are currently in.
Because your cycle impacts the way your body responds to insulin, you will want to consume mostly low glycemic index (GI) foods. These foods are broken down into the body slower than high GI foods. In terms of nutritional breakdown, you may want to eat about 50% carbohydrates, 20% protein and 30% fats (mostly from plant sources). Spacing these meals out is also a good idea, so having 4-6 smaller meals throughout the day versus 3 square meals, is beneficial for maintaining a regular blood glucose level as well as fighting off cravings and irrational hunger.
Also, contrary to what we are often told about the timing of carbohydrate consumption, staying away from carbs in the morning and saving them until later in the day may be helpful in eliminating blood sugar spikes as well as promoting serotonin and feelings of calmness towards the evening. For this same reason, it is important to make sure that you eat breakfast to avoid unwanted spikes as well as hunger and even more intense cravings later in the day.
There have been mixed reviews on the effects of alcohol consumption on PMS symptoms, but some studies show that moderate drinking can prevent headaches and mood affiliated symptoms.
Calcium and Vitamin D intake has also been found to be associated with less signs of PMS. Increasing the amount of foods that contain these elements, such as orange juice, yogurts and other dairy products, may be beneficial to your mood-related symptoms, in particular.
You will want to stay away from refined, high sugar and processed products as much as your body is telling you how badly you want to eat that bowl of chocolate candies. These spike the blood glucose and are often high GI foods.
Similarly, many packaged items are filled with excess sodium, which can be bad news for your PMS, especially if you tend to get bloated. Limit your salt intake and drink plenty of water to rid your body of a surplus of salt.
Caffeine is another item that you may want to stay away from in order to avoid exacerbating anxiety, depression and other mood swings during PMS. This includes coffee, tea, sodas and energy drinks.
Even though moderate alcohol consumption may actually alleviate certain PMS symptoms, excessive consumption can be even more problematic to these factors. This is because your liver is polluted by excessive alcohol and therefore, cannot regulate hormone levels. As mentioned before, imbalanced hormones are the reason for PMS symptoms to begin with.
In addition to your nutritional guideline, there are some supplements that might be worth taking.
Omega-3 fatty acids are especially helpful for fighting symptoms of bloating, inflammation, cramping and depression.Similarly, Gingko Biloba is an herb that can also be taken in tablet form and acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, eliminating bloat. Vitamin B may also be helpful for treating some of the mood issues that come along with PMS. If you tend to lose a lot of blood during your cycle, you may be at risk for low levels of iron, and therefore, need an iron supplement. Other supplements to consider are Vitamin E, Calcium, Magnesium, and a general multivitamin.
PMS does not have to be part of your monthly routine. There are ways, as demonstrated by this nutritional guideline, to eliminate or at least lessen some of the symptoms. Understanding the basic causes of PMS is useful as well, as we can be mindful going forward, of which elements alter our hormones in a negative way. In the meantime, attempt some of these suggestions of a more pleasant “time of the month.”