My blog this week is specifically for the ladies, and we are going to look at the phenomena that is Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS).
There is still a lot to learn about PMS and why some women experience it more than others. There is research to suggest that PMS is very much a culturally specific syndrome. Meaning that not all women across the world experience it or they experience it differently. It seems worse for women in the West, but this does not mean it’s ‘all in our minds’. It means the way we live, eat and play very much influences how our menstrual cycle affects us.
Some research shows that women who are under a lot of stress, are unhappy in their relationships or lives, and feel unsupported could experience more intense symptoms than women who are happier, supported and fulfilled.
If this is the case, then what we eat and how we choose to live and relax could help relieve symptoms.
PMS is a combination of symptoms that many women get about a week or two before their period begins. Most women report experiencing symptoms such as bloating, mild cramps, headaches and moodiness, all of which are totally normal.
What are the main symptoms of PMS?
The main symptoms of PMS are said to include:
- Mood swings
- Feeling upset, anxious, or irritable
- Tiredness or trouble sleeping
- Bloating or tummy pain
- Breast tenderness
- Headaches or migraines
- Spotty skin or greasy hair
- Changes in appetite and sex drive
There are mixed opinions in the medical world about what PMS really is and there is a range of medical conditions which could make the matter worse. So if you are experiencing cramps so bad that you’re missing work or school – it would be a good idea to have a chat with your doctor to rule out any health condition.
I approach everything from a nutritional and holistic stand and find that, for the most cases, PMS is associated with an imbalance of the hormones, progesterone and oestrogen.
A low blood sugar is quite common prior to a period, and once blood sugar levels are balanced, symptoms tend to disappear. A congested liver can also be linked to PMS, as our liver regulates the balance of hormones.
It’s the changes in hormone levels that can cause some women to have extreme mood swings. So it would make sense to keep our hormones in balance and take care of our liver.
The major symptoms I experience before my period are bloating, water retention, a sharp pain in my legs and headaches. It varies from month to month.
Water retention is the most regular symptom I have and I have found that if I take magnesium, symptoms are so much better.
How can I reduce symptoms of PMS?
You can help reduce symptoms of PMS by avoiding these foods:
- Animal fats, heavy rich meals, and all processed foods, including sausages and bacon.
- All saturated fats.
- Stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol, fizzy or energy drinks.
- Refined sugars.
Instead, include the following into your diet:
- Oats, which contain three nutrients proven to help improve PMS symptoms – magnesium, manganese, and vitamin B6.
- Whole fruit and vegetables, especially green veg.
- Sweet potatoes, pumpkin, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts all support our hormones.
- Lentils, tofu, quinoa, tempeh, and miso, all help balance hormones naturally.
Eat a good protein at every meal, protein fills us up, which helps keep our blood sugar balanced and stops us reaching for sugary snacks. Good proteins include eggs and organic grass fed meat. For good plant based sources of protein go for lentils, quinoa, tofu and chick peas.
Choose magnesium-rich foods such as dark green leafy vegetables, avocados, nuts and seeds, legumes chick peas, lentils seeds such as pumpkin and sunflower, and quinoa.
Drink lots of water, at least 2 litres a day. Water not only hydrates us, it helps flush out toxins which can cause liver congestion.
Replace coffee and tea with herbal teas or green tea.
Useful remedies for PMS
A B-complex containing at least 50g of B6 per day. This can help with the psychological effect of PMS, calm mood, irritability or anxiety.
Omega-3 fish oils reduces tender breasts and helps to improve mood.
Take a good multivitamin for women suited for your age. Make sure it contains a further 50mg of B6 so your daily intake is 100-150mg per day.
Sugar cravings are usually a sign we need more magnesium, so take a good magnesium supplement. I wrote an article on this a few weeks ago. It’s also great for cramps and water retention.
You can also take chromium 150 mcg daily. Chromium works by aiding the action of insulin in the body.
We all remember that teacher at school who dismissed our claims that we could not do PE as we were on our periods – well, she was right to do that!
Exercise is great for PMS, especially aerobic exercise, which boosts your heart rate such as brisk walking, swimming, cycling and running. Not only does it have endorphin-boosting qualities, therefore improving our moods, it can also get more oxygen around our body, improving cramps.
Take time to relax
Stress can make PMS symptoms worse, so take time out to do something which relaxes you, whether that’s walking in nature, yoga, meditation or simply reading or drawing. Calming the mind calms the body, and it can then function better.
If you make these changes and your symptoms don’t improve it’s worth looking at your life and relationships. Keep a journal and note down your thoughts and feelings. Is there a pattern? Is there a part of your life which is just not working anymore? Is there a relationship which is triggering you? There are counsellors, coaches and therapists which can help. It’s important not to suffer in silence. You may find that making a few changes, even if they feel hard to do, really help improve things.
I hope you have found this blog post useful. I would love to find out if any of these changes help you and, as always, message me if you have questions.