You wake up on the day final exams only to look down and see that Aunt Flo had made her monthly appearance. Your head is pounding, you’re tired and you can feel the cramps coming on. Is this really happening? Why ME? Why NOW?
You’ve heard it’s important for a woman’s health to get her monthly period, but what about the headaches, mood swings, bloating, irritability, depression, fluid retention, breast soreness, sugar cravings, and sleep disturbances-or, in short, PMS?
It can be challenging to embrace womanhood when it comes with a slew of inconveniences like the list above. Have you ever asked yourself “is what I’m feeling physical, emotional, or just PMS?”
Depending on genetics and lifestyle, symptoms are individual. If taken into consideration all of the external imbalances in our modern world, it’s no wonder women’s health is suffering. Environmental toxins in air and water can be hormone disruptors, not to mention the hormones and countless “unknowns” in our food supply and cosmetics.
Rather than surviving at the whim of hormones throughout the month, women can take control of the controllable aspects of life in order to counterbalance the aspects that can only be accepted. Lifestyle is one of the few things that are within our domain to change. Here are some lifestyle and diet suggestions to help alleviate PMS, making it easier to honor each and every part of being a woman.
Below are 5 suggestions on how to alleviate and manage symptoms of PMS:
Omega 3 fats– These fatty acids are anti-inflammatory and especially essential to brain health. Thus, Omega 3 fats can help both “somatic symptoms” of PMS like breast tenderness, headache, and bloating, but also neurological symptoms of PMS like depression, anxiety, and nervousness.
B6– Low daily doses of vitamin B6 may help alleviate PMS symptoms, overall. However, because B6 plays a role in producing neurotransmitters, it can be especially helpful in combating depression. 100mg daily is enough to see potential mood improvements.
Calcium’s positive effect on PMS has been well documented. Upping intake of calcium in the diet can ease a broad range of PMS symptoms, all the while reducing risk of osteoporosis. The richest diet sources include yogurt, cheese, collard greens, black-eyed peas, and canned salmon.
Vitamin D status has been shown to inversely relate to PMS intensity. Thus, maintaining adequate levels can significantly lower uncomfortable symptoms. Sunlight and fatty fish are excellent sources, although supplementing with vitamin D3 is the most practical way to counter deficiency.
Magnesium– If you’re someone who suffers from migraines during PMS, your magnesium levels may be low. Even if migraines aren’t one of your symptoms, magnesium may help boost mood since it regulates the mood hormone, serotonin, and even reduce water retention.
Whole Foods that Help:
Ground Flaxseed is full of nutrients supporting healthy menstruation, such as fiber, omega 3 fats, and lignans. Fiber aids in relieving constipation. Omega 3 fats combat inflammation that leads to PMS-related pain, such as breast tenderness and cramps. Lignans compete with female estrogen in the body, which in turn balances hormones.
Fish provides vitamin D, omega 3 fats, and calcium. The richest in these nutrients are small, oily fish that are canned with their bones. Wild-caught salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, and sardines are excellent sources.
Yogurt– Imbalances in gut bacteria can disrupt normal hormonal balance. If constipated, estrogen is able to be reabsorbed in the gut and reenter the blood stream, despite the liver’s effort to get rid of it. Yogurt is also one of the highest sources of dietary calcium. Be sure to choose unsweetened, plain yogurt with the fewest ingredients.
Caffeine and Alcohol can disrupt how the body processes estrogen, which can lead to exacerbating PMS symptoms. Consume in moderation, or consider eliminating altogether.
Sugar and Starchy Carbohydrates in excess increases insulin levels and high insulin indirectly disrupts prostaglandin metabolism, worsening PMS. On the other hand, maintaining blood sugar balance can equalize mood and energy throughout your cycle.
Activity and aerobic exercise keeps hormones balanced to lessen PMS symptoms, including fatigue and impaired concentration, not to mention the release of endorphins to naturally brighten mood.
Femme Premenstrual by Mentagenics
Fish oil in liquid or capsules (1000 mg. each of DHA and EPA/day)
Evening Primrose Oil (1500 mg./day)
Vitamin D3 (depends on levels but approximately 2000 IU/day)
The aforementioned additions to diet and lifestyle may serve to dim monthly discomforts, but also improve overall physical wellbeing. Emotional wellbeing, however, is beyond the body and is often overlooked, yet it deserves equal notice, care, and support. Through processing feelings honestly and compassionately as they come up, rather than suppressing or judging, can ease the emotional side effects that tend to arise every month.
If neglected, unprocessed emotions are likely to come to the surface during PMS and erupt more loudly than if previously nurtured.
Fostering emotional wellbeing along with attention to certain nutrients, a balanced diet and adding activity can go along way towards helping Aunt Flo’s monthly visit become less of a nuisance and more of a notice of health and well-being.
This blog was co-written by Susan Dopart and RD intern Kristen Procter