Do you ever get the feeling that there may be nothing wrong with you one day, but when you wake up the next, you feel moody and tired...maybe even a new unsightly acne breakout on your chin? How did this manifest?
After all, you've been so good lately. You've been going to the gym, doing your best to eat well and are have even been getting a decent number of hours of sleep. Still, though, the symptoms continue piling on, you feel more bloated than ever and can't stop the cravings for sugary and salty snacks.
You may be suffering from premenstrual syndrome, commonly known as PMS. PMS refers to a group of physical and emotional symptoms that take hold 1-2 weeks before a woman gets her period. The majority of women will experience at least one PMS symptom during each menstrual cycle, varying from mild to severe.
Most symptoms of PMS subside once a woman's period begins, but the physical cramping is often experienced once a woman begins to bleed. Some women can even suffer from Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), a severe form of PMS characterized by the onset of 5 or more PMS symptoms.
What are the symptoms of PMS?
PMS symptoms manifest in both physical and emotional ways. The symptoms can be sub-divided into categories relating to anxiety, cravings, depression and even hydration or lack there-of.
Some of the most commonly experienced physical symptoms of PMS include:
- Breast tenderness
- Fluid retention and weight gain
- Swelling of hands and feet
- Sugar and salt cravings
- Uterine cramps on the days just before a period begins
- Acne breakouts
- Low back pain
The emotional symptoms often experienced with PMS include:
- Mood swings
- Anxious or depressed feelings
- Crying spells
- Aggressive behavior
- Hostile feelings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mental/ brain fog and fatigue
- Changes in libido
The way in which PMS symptoms present themselves can differ from woman to woman. But even if a woman only suffers from mild bloating and irritability, these symptoms can have a negative impact on her daily life.
For those who suffer from severe PMS or PMDD, symptoms can be debilitating, and may even result in missed days of work. Simply addressing symptoms using conventional medications may be problematic as they may be costly and more importantly, they can help to manage symptoms yet they never address the underlying root cause of hormonal imbalance that must be treated in order to ease the uncomfortable symptoms of PMS.
And so, we begin to explore food as medicine. What if there was an easier way to prevent and reduce PMS symptoms? Say, something as easy as a simple change in diet? Let's explore the possibilities...
The effect of diet and lifestyle on PMS symptoms
Research indicates that PMS symptoms may arise from cyclical changes in a woman's hormone cycle, the presence of prostaglandins (substances promoting uterine contractions) and neurotransmitters, but definite causes still remain a mystery.
The presence of PMS symptoms has been linked to estrogen dominance, estrogen withdrawal symptoms, progesterone deficiency, magnesium deficiency, calcium deficiency, deficiencies in B-Complex vitamins, increased inflammation and elevated prostaglandin levels.
These are some of the main lifestyle and dietary factors that may exacerbate PMS symptoms:
- Lack of exercise
- Sugary foods
- Salty foods
- A high intake of processed foods
- The consumption of red meat
Can going meat-free help to reduce your PMS symptoms?
Since consuming red meat is a factor that may exacerbate PMS symptoms, can removing it from ones diet help? Studies have shown that following a vegetarian diet, one that is particularly high in the intake of vegetables and fruits and low in saturated fat can reduce the symptoms of PMS.
Choosing to eat a vegetarian diet means that one chooses not consume any meat products. Being vegetarian differs from being vegan. A vegan diet is one where the individual excludes any and all animal products from his/ her diet including dairy products, eggs and those derived from bees.
Consuming many processed foods may result in systemic inflammation and also affects digestion as it reduces the amount of beneficial bacteria present in the gastro-intestinal tract. These types of nutrient void foods may also depress the immune system and thus hamper its ability to fend off and keep invaders at bay.
It is advisable, on the days before a menstrual period sets in, that, with all of the naturally occurring hormone changes taking place in the body, one should avoid the burden of increased inflammation as this can trigger PMS symptoms.
Red meat consumption can make PMS symptoms worse. This is because red meats contain omega-6 fatty acids that may have a pro-inflammatory effect on our bodies. Arachidonic acid is one of the polyunsaturated fats found in the fat of red meats and has an effect on prostaglandin levels in the body. If prostaglandin levels are too high, one may experience severe cramping before and during a period.
Studies also indicate that consuming high concentrations of saturated fats, found in meats like bacon and fried foods, can worsen the pain and inflammation associated with PMS. Processed meats are also high in salt and this can lead to water retention and weight gain.
For many, following a vegetarian diet means that one will consume more fruits and vegetables which are packed with phytonutrients that have a natural anti-inflammatory action.
What if you do not want to cut out meat?
If you decide not to go meat free to help relieve your PMS symptoms, make sure to consume lean meats which are of the highest quality: grass-fed, free roaming and organically raised. White poultry meat and fish are recommended over the consumption of red meat.
Supplemental support during hormonal fluctuations and if PMS symptoms are present
Deficiencies in vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and iron can contribute to PMS symptoms. If one decides to choose a vegetarian diet, they may suffer from these deficiencies and more because of a lack of meat in their diets. A diet high in processed and refined foods and low in fruits and vegetables may also result in deficiencies.
A whole food supplement such as Bio-Strath will greatly benefit a woman's health and hormonal cycles during the weeks leading up to her period and beyond because it contains all of the minerals and vitamins a woman requires for full body support. Bio-Strath taken as a whole food supplement provides more than 60 of the 100 different nutrients our bodies require daily, in a balanced and bioavailable form.
The nutrients in Bio-Strath include vitamins, minerals, enzymes, building block substances such as amino acids, all of which are required for metabolic functioning as well as balanced and regulated hormone cycles. It is a wonderful complement to a woman's diet to ensure great health, abundant energy, decreased fatigue and an increased rate of nutrient absorption.
Many women suffer from PMS, but the good news is that the severity and frequency of symptoms can be managed and controlled through the proper diet and lifestyle adjustments.
Pro-inflammatory foods including processed foods, those high in sugar, salt and poor quality oils should be avoided.
An excess of red meat can exacerbate symptoms so trying a meat-free diet to see how things improve may be worth if you feel that PMS symptoms have become too difficult to manage. Keeping a diet and lifestyle journal at this time is highly recommended. A quality whole food supplement such as Bio-Strath may greatly help as it provides the amino acids and complete range of nutrients required by the human body.