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How to Combat PMS with Food

What is PMS?

Yes, PMS is actually a thing. Those mood swings, aches and pains–that overall feeling of pure crapiness–is not in your head. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a cyclical set of physical and behavioral symptoms that occur 7 to 14 days before the menstrual cycle and stop with the start of menstruation[1]. Common symptoms include anxiety, depression, irritability, mood swings, insomnia, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, brain fog, back pain, sugar cravings and headaches. It’s estimated that more than half of all menstruating women experience symptoms of PMS, with up to 5% experiencing symptoms severe enough to impact their everyday lives.

It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of PMS, but it is most likely the result of fluctuating hormone levels that naturally occur during the menstrual cycle. Changes in estrogen and progesterone levels can lead to anxiety, depression, and irritability. Aldosterone, a hormone that regulates blood pressure and fluid retention through sodium and water absorption from the kidneys, tends to be elevated during the menstrual phase after ovulation and before your period starts. This could be the reason behind common PMS symptoms, like water retention, weight gain, and bloat[2].

So what’s the connection with food?

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Fiber

 

The Science
Believe it or not, fiber actually plays a very interesting, and very essential role, in hormone regulation: it is required for the removal of excess estrogen. The liver processes excess estrogen and sends it to the gut to be excreted. Fiber has the important role of binding estrogen so it can then be passed out of the body via your stool. Without adequate fiber, estrogen will re-enter the bloodstream and your body will continue to feel the consequences of the extra estrogen.

 

The Bottom Line
Studies have shown that consuming high-fiber diets can significantly lower serum estrogen and reduce symptoms of PMS [3].

Nourish Rx:

  • Eat 25-30 grams of fiber a day to maintain hormone balance. If you’re new to eating fiber-rich foods, add them in slowly to avoid abdominal discomfort.
  • Add two tablespoons of flaxseeds either to smoothies, or sprinkle on salads, or veggies

 

Magnesium

 

The Science
Magnesium is a super mineral in my book. It helps ease headaches and anxiety, treat depression, and reduce muscle cramps and tension. In hospitals it’s used to help save lives during seizures and heart arrythmias and is used to prevent preterm labor. Low magnesium levels have been found in women who experience PMS. One study found that after three months of taking 250mg of magnesium daily, PMS symptoms like cramps, headaches, anxiety, and insomnia were reduced by over 30% [4,5].

 

The Bottom Line

Nourish Rx:

  • Try to get a least 2-4 cups of leafy greens a day (particularly spinach, kale and collard greens) for fiber, magnesium and calcium
  • Enjoy a piece or two of Dark Chocolate (70% or more cocoa)
  • When going for a piece of fruit, pick bananas or figs which are two fruits that contain the most magnesium

Calcium

 

The Science
Calcium is important for not only bone health but for regulating muscle contraction, signaling of neurotransmitters, and cell communication. Calcium levels fluctuate during the menstrual cycle, decreasing when estrogen levels are increased. Studies have shown that getting anywhere from 500-1200mg of calcium a day can reduce severity and symptoms of PMS [5].

 

The Bottom Line

Nourish Rx:

  • Eat an ounce of parmesan cheese, which has more calcium than most other cheeses
  • Try eating canned salmon or sardines for a quick lunch that offers a non-dairy alternative to calcium
  • Make your smoothies with a good quality whey protein
  • Add a couple tablespoons of chia seeds to your smoothie or make a chia seed pudding for a vegan source of excellent calcium

Check out the following recipes to help beat PMS, as well as our Anti-PMS Food Farmacy Guide to make grocery shopping that much easier.

Sources

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