The Tampax commercials and feminine product magazine advertisements are misleading. I don’t know about you but I have never in my life experienced a “happy period”. What part about bleeding for 5-7 days is happy?
To top it off, if you have a history of PMS (like the before, before your period comes) then it basically feels like you wish you could travel back in time to rip that apple out of Eve’s slimy little hand and smack her with it.
If you couldn’t tell, my symptoms are anything but mild. It honestly feels like a freight train is hauling through every part of my body at 100 mph and specifically stopping only in my lower half to make symptoms even worse.
What do I mean by that?
- immense breast tenderness/low back pain
- irritability levels to rival someone with kids going through their terrible two’s
- acne- worse than I ever had in even my teens!
- fatigue, fatigue, fatigue!
- appetite of a pack of wolves and lions combined
- zero motivation/creativity
My entire life is consumed by these symptoms about 3 weeks out of the month. When I was heavier, they used to only pop up a week before and weren’t as intense. The talking heads of the world keep pushing me to take birth control pills and other hormones to balance me out, but being a holistically inclined individual I think not.
I have been my own science experiment over the past few months dabbling with different ways to alleviate these wretched symptoms. Seriously, Aunt Flo doesn’t just bring herself, she brings her entire family and parks them in my body every month. Uninvited. Unwelcomed. Rude. Not cool.
During the course of my research, I have put together a list of foods/beverages/activities that are known triggers of PMS which we all should cut back on or AVOID completely altogether.
1. Caffeine- this innocent bean is totally frontin’. Caffeine is said to worsen symtpoms associated with PMS due to it being a stimulant. It increases mood swings, hot flashes, and ability to sleep. It can be very difficult for some women to completely cut back on due to its addictive qualities. (Don’t I know! Recovering addict over here!) Luckily there are herbal tea options and other ways to curb the craving for it which I will discuss later.
2. White flour/starches- I know the first thing you want when you experience PMS is some mac n cheese, bread with butter, or (insert white frankenstarch here). Unfortunately these have no nutritional value and will also aggravate your symptoms. The gluten in most of these frankenfoods can cause bloating, gas, and other kinds of intestinal problems. Eating these can also cause a snowball effect- causing you to eat more leading to unwanted weight gain. (This is so me too- I always scream WHY DID I EAT THAT? when I actually didn’t even want it in the first place. Stupid hormones!)
3. Sugar- Along with processed flours and starches comes sugar. As many of us already know, sugar exacerbates our nervous systems. (Ever see a little kid down a Coca-Cola? It’s like a legal reason to jump off the walls!) Most sugar is refined in our food supply and even if it isn’t our bodies weren’t made to consume it. Much like starches, sugar can initiate a binge. Sugar strips away any nutrients you had in your body which would have enabled you to have a somewhat normal period.
4. Dairy- Another one of my loves. I’m in dairy rehab as after learning about its harmful effects on the body, our animals, and our environment, I chose to severely limit my intake. Dairy should also be avoided before PMS due to its high amounts of arachidonic acid which increases prostaglandins (in layman’s terms- the chemical in your body responsible for producing pain and those awful cramps!)
5. Red Meat- The high saturated fat content in red meat is a recipe for PMS disaster. It increases your estrogen levels and makes for a more bloated, tender period.
6. Sodium - Salt retains water which causes bloating. Put down those chips and opt for a high fiber food which will kill your salty craving while filling you up with proper nourishment.
7. Alcohol - You don’t “need a drink”. At least not during or before that time of the month. Alcohol is much like caffeine in that it disrupts your sleep cycle and depletes your body of essential nutrients like calcium which actually eases PMS symptoms.
Focus more on eating high fiber, low sodium foods. Fiber facilitates estrogen in the body which enables your hormones to be more balanced. When you consume processed foods which contain high amounts of sodium and no fiber before menstruation, it increases toxins and a chemical known as prostaglandins (responsible for lower back/chest pain/cramps) in the body. Most reasons why women live in agony the week before their periods are all solvable by revising their diets.
Here are a few foods to incorporate into your diet before menstruation:
1. Avocados- these conveniently portable oval-shaped nuts are packed with vitamin E and tons of healthy fat. Eating one per day will help your magnesium levels and also curb cravings for trans fatty foods.
2. Greens- I’m not just talking your typical salad from McDonald’s, which is usually iceberg lettuce, and it that case you may as well just have a glass of water. I’m talking: collard greens, swiss chard, broccoli, bok choy, cucumbers, kale, spinach…etc. Consuming more greens will produce a detoxifying effect and allow you to have a less painful period. The vitamin D contained within greens helps to move toxins out of the liver and kidneys quickly.
3. Seeds & Whole Grains- By whole grains I mean unprocessed like bulgar, millet, farro, couscous, brown rice. Both seeds and whole grains contain high amounts of healthy fats, fiber, and protein which will soothe your cravings and give you tons of energy
4. Kombucha- This is an ancient fermented tea. Fermented foods and beverages enable our bodies to process everything much easier. Kombucha happens to have tons of probiotics and B vitamins which have been said to aid in not only digestion but women’s PMS relief.
5. Dark Chocolate- Okay, it’s obvious that this one would make the list! I literally have a few squares of an organic dark chocolate bar every day. It helps regulate magnesium levels which is responsible for your sleep cycle.
6. Watery fruits & vegetables. I know that may not sound the most appetizing, but fruits and vegetables are basically half water. What are our bodies? 70% water! It just makes sense. Fiber is abundant within these often overlooked powerhouses! Try watermelon or cucumbers.
7. Vitamin C. I suggest having tons of citrus or supplementing with a vitamin C capsule before menstruation. I sometimes take Airborne (fends off sickness before it starts) which has an ample amount.
The most important take away from this post should be that these symptoms are accumulating. Basically, the foods and ways you are eating now affect your cycle later. If you start revamping your diet now, you’ll notice your next period’s symptoms diminish slightly. Eventually after cleaning the toxins and chemicals out of your body after a few months time, the hormones balance out and PMS will just be an abbreviation of the past.
Do you notice any changes before your period? What kinds of foods and activities do you gravitate towards?
I nosh on tons of fruits and vegetables (thankfully now) and have found that adding some protein powder into a smoothie really curbs craving and some of my bipolar mood swings. I still will get an occasional jones for some soft italian bread though!
Peace, love, and symptom free periods!