Here’s a shocking news flash for menstruating women: premenstrual syndrome (PMS) – the bloating, cramping, sensitivity, breast tenderness, and irritability that comes after ovulation and before menstruation – is not an inevitable occurrence.
In fact, research shows that you can actually relieve PMS symptoms through diet. That’s great news for the roughly 75 percent of menstruating women who experience any number of PMS symptoms.
Experts believe that the hormonal shifts before, during, and after menses play a key role in PMS, but the cause is unknown.
That said, many studies have been conducted examining the role diet plays in PMS. It turns out there are specific foods to avoid and foods to consume that can help your body move through the menstrual cycle with fewer problems.
So, why suffer any longer?
Let’s take a closer look at how food can affect your PMS symptoms…
Foods to Avoid
Many healthcare professionals recommend eliminating foods that spike your blood sugar and cause bloating during the stretch of time before menstruation. That includes fatty foods, salty foods, and refined carbohydrates.
Deep-fried foods, and foods high in saturated fat, are associated with cramping. Sodium (salt) can cause your body to retain fluid, which exacerbates bloating, swelling, and breast tenderness.
Also, sugary sodas, cereals, snacks, and pastries are all pro-inflammatory offenders. These refined carbohydrates also spike blood sugar, affecting insulin levels, which can cause intense cravings and moodiness.
It’s important to limit your caffeine and alcohol consumption. These are both disruptive to sleep. When your sleep is interrupted, it throws off your hormonal balance – which, in turn, complicates premenstrual hormonal shifts.
If you think one cup of coffee won’t hurt, think again. According to well-known women’s health expert, Dr. Christiane Northrup, even if you only drink one cup of coffee per day, eliminating caffeine can make a huge difference for some women.
Best Foods to Relieve PMS Symptoms
Of course, it’s much more fun to contemplate what you can have than what’s off-limits.
Here are the foods and nutrients that were shown to help mitigate PMS symptoms. Enjoy them!
Rich in nutrients, antioxidants, and fiber, complex carbohydrates enter your bloodstream gradually over time causing only a moderate and manageable rise in insulin levels. Complex carbs help curb cravings and level off your mood.
There may be a reason you crave chocolate prior to menstruation. It contains unique natural substances that may enhance mood, and even trigger an uplifted feeling similar to that of being in love.
Chocolate is also rich in iron and magnesium, which help to alleviate a host of PMS symptoms (see below). Just be sure to choose a small serving of quality, low-sugar dark chocolate to receive these benefits. You won’t get them from a cheap, sugar-laden, conventional milk chocolate bar.
If you want to quell PMS symptoms such as moodiness, forgetfulness, and bloating, vitamin B6 can help. Additionally, vitamins B1 and B2 are associated with fewer PMS symptoms.
You can find rich concentrations of all these B vitamins in foods such as pork chops, salmon, avocados, fortified tofu, and asparagus.
Calcium, Vitamin D and Omega-3s
Studies suggest that high intake of calcium and vitamin D may help reduce PMS. Also, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help with PMS-induced bloating, headaches, breast tenderness, low mood, anxious feelings, and lack of concentration.
Great calcium sources are milk, yogurt, kefir, and cheese, as well as cruciferous vegetables, kale, soybeans, and almonds. You’ll find vitamin D in fatty fish (such as salmon or sardines), mushrooms, tofu, and eggs. Omega-3s are abundant in leafy green vegetables, fatty fish, nuts, and flaxseeds.
Magnesium is known for its relaxing properties. This is especially beneficial when it comes to PMS cramps and sleeplessness.
Magnesium promotes calmness, which counters premenstrual irritability and anxiousness. Some magnesium-rich foods include spinach, pumpkin seeds, almonds, lima beans, brown rice, avocados, bananas, and chocolate, as mentioned above.
It’s important to increase iron intake before and during your period to replace what you lose each month. Without adequate iron, you may experience premenstrual tiredness.
While red meat (preferably a lean cut) is known to be iron-rich, legumes such as white beans, lentils, soybeans, and chickpeas are too, and they have fiber, which further helps to alleviate PMS symptoms. Also, clams, oysters, quinoa, and dried fruit (sugar-free and without added preservatives) are all rich in iron.
Bottom line: if you carefully watch your diet, limit caffeine and alcohol while ensuring you get plenty of these nutrient-rich vegetables, healthy fats, and quality proteins, you’ll likely reduce or eliminate many premenstrual symptoms. These foods are also good for your general health too!
PMS-free and healthier…what woman doesn’t want that?
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