You know what they say: You are what you eat.
That old saying is particularly apt when it comes to the monster known as PMS. If your PMS symptoms turn you into a creature you barely recognize, it’s no surprise you might refer to it as “the beast.” Food doesn’t prevent your hormones from fluctuating over the course of your menstrual cycle; in fact, such fluctuations are perfectly normal. What does change, however, is your body’s ability to manage them.
Stress is another of these factors; while it can intensify the symptoms, it can also lead to compensatory behaviour that pushes you to “pamper” yourself by eating junk food for the few moments of pleasure it provides. Unfortunately, these moments of bliss are usually followed by feelings of guilt and digestive chaos, and invariably, a hormonal roller coaster. The result: the beast! You’re better off doing something to manage your stress!
Starve the beast
When PMS is in full swing, it’s best to deprive the beast of its favourite foods:
- Coffee! The last thing you should feed the monster is caffeine. When your mind is already racing because of your hormones, there’s no point switching into turbo mode and only making matters worse. Watch out, because some soft drinks contain caffeine. To reduce your coffee consumption gradually, make a cup with half coffee substitute and half your regular coffee.
- Dairy products. They can lead to an increase in the production of prostoglandins, which cause cramps. What’s more, the fats in dairy products are mostly saturated fats, which can cause inflammation and irritation and will only aggravate your period pain.
- Fatty meats—yes, even bacon. If you can see fat in your meat, it contains saturated fats. Just like dairy products, red meat increases prostoglandin production.
- Processed foods, including canned foods and ready-made meals, contain loads of sodium and additives. After eating them, don’t be surprised if you feel swollen, tired and dehydrated.
- Sugar. It’ll have you reaching delicious peaks of unparalleled energy, only to suddenly push you into a ravine of apathy and grumpiness.
- Alcohol affects your mood. Haven’t we all seen how booze can turn someone who is a little down in the dumps into a sobbing mess?
Though avoiding certain foods once in a while can reduce the intensity of symptoms, it won’t be enough to make the beast roll over on its back to have its belly rubbed, particularly if you’ve spent the rest of the month feeding it all the goodies that make it breathe fire. Certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies will make the situation worse, and the only way to remedy that is to eat healthy food on a daily basis. Make sure you get:
- Vitamin B: Choose foods rich in B complex vitamins, like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, leek, wheat germ, beets and nuts. According to a number of studies, vitamin supplements aren’t as effective as food-source vitamins.
- Complex carbohydrates. Choose whole grains, which are also a good source of fibre. They’ll help you maintain more stable blood glucose levels, which will keep sugar cravings and mood swings at bay.
- Good fats. Not all fats are made equal. Your body needs good fats, and some of them, including omegas-3 fatty acids, have an anti-inflammatory effect. Unfortunately, you won’t find any in chips or bacon.
- Magnesium will help you avoid headaches, mood swings and tension. Look for it in green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds.
If your hormones are too out of whack for all this advice to be of any use, Vitex will help you re-establish an equilibrium. Within just a few menstrual cycles, this plant will restore harmony and allow for a more regular menstrual cycle, which will relieve the symptoms.
And remember that in addition to food and stress, exercise has the biggest impact by relieving fatigue and improving your mood. Aim for 20 minutes a day, every day if you can. Because physical activity also helps relieve stress, you’ll get twice the bang for your buck.
If you’re just about ready to blow up, let off some steam by taking out your anger on a punching bag: it’s cheaper than breaking dishes and it counts as exercise to boot! In fact, studies have shown that breaking dishes is next to useless as a cardio exercise!