PMS and painful periods affects approximately 30 to 60% of women, and it SUCKS.
I grew up in a very open, woman-strong household. I know second-hand (obviously not first) how awful one rough month can be, let alone every month.
You shouldn’t have to deal with that much discomfort every single month, I mean, come onnnnn…..
Symptoms of PMS include anxiety, depression, cramping, bloating, breast tenderness, cravings, skin issues and fatigue
While there is no cookie-cutter, clear-cut reason as to why some women experience symptoms and others don’t, there are several contributing factors that have been shown to play their part in the equation including hormonal imbalance, thyroid dysfunction, blood sugar imbalance, nutrient deficiencies, food allergies, poor diet and lack of exercise.
And remember, everything in the body works together, so all of those categories I just mentioned work symbiotically with each other. They all fit into the giant puzzle that is your body.
But the good news -- small changes can go a long way to help you! Here are some small changes you can add to your routine to make that time of the month less of a hassle.
5 Foods to Love
Vegetables and Fruits (in that order): women who eat a more plant-based and consequently high fibre diet tend to have less intense and fewer PMS symptoms. (1) So include lots of greens, colourful fruits like carrots, beets and radish, apples, berries. (This does not necessarily mean vegetarian/vegan diet, rather that the ratio of vegetables to other food groups in the diet is considerably higher.)
Cruciferous veggies (ex. broccoli, cauliflower, kale): these are rich in I-3-C, a phytonutrient that helps detoxify estrogen. If you have excess estrogen in the body, and are not detoxifying it and/or eliminating it properly, it can lead to a condition known as estrogen dominance. This is a causative factor in a lot of PMS conditions as well as ovarian cysts, endometriosis, PCOS and fibrocystic breasts.
Nuts & Seeds: Good fat is essential for blood sugar balancing. Be sure to include lots of raw nuts like pumpkin seeds, almonds, sunflower seeds and brazil nuts.
Flax: in addition to being a soluble fibre (helping you poop regularly), it’s a wonderful seed involved in estrogen metabolism. Try 1 tbsp. ground up in your oatmeal!
Adequate Protein: clean protein is essential for proper blood sugar balance, and in turn, hormonal balance. Clean proteins include wild-caught salmon, grass-fed meats, organic poultry, tempeh and organic sprouted tofu.
5 Things to ditch
Sugar: Processed sugars (not fruits) found in baked goods, sugary coffee drinks, candy, etc. wreak havoc on your blood sugar, mood and hormonal balance. If you tend to be a PMS food binger, it’s essential that you ditch this.
Alcohol: Limit/ditch the booze especially in the 2 weeks leading up to your period. Alcohol is a depressant, and as serotonin (the “feel good neurotransmitter”) levels have been found to be lower during the PMS symptom window, this will only make you feel worse. (2)
Plastics: Many plastics contain xenoestrogens, which are harmful estrogens that can worsen your periods, and your body in general. Ditch the plastic containers (especially if you microwave with them!!), and opt for glass as much as possible. Look for BPA-free canned food when possible, and limit touching of printed receipts (coated in BPA).
Caffeine: Like alcohol, limit this in the weeks leading up to your period. Caffeine is hard on your system, and can exacerbate depressive symptoms, especially for those who are prone. Switch out the coffee, and opt for lower caffeine items like green tea, or no caffeine items like herbal tea.
Food Allergies: If you know or suspect you have one, eliminate it. Allergies can make things SO much worse. Common culprits can be dairy, gluten, soy and eggs.
Supplements for PMS
This one is especially for those of you who experience any cramping on the days/weeks leading up to your period. It’s one of the largest deficiencies in North America (3) and makes a huge difference in a lot of my clients.
Dosage: 400 - 600mg per day
Preferred form: Magnesium Bis-Glycinate/Glycinate - it’s the most absorbable form and won’t give you the runs like some other Magnesiums.
Food Sources: Spinach, salad greens, avocado, dark chocolate and anything green!
This B-Vitamin has been shown to help alleviate PMS symptoms in many women; it also helps magnesium actually get into cells.
Dosage: 25mg, 2x/day
Food Sources: spinach, cabbage, grass-fed beef, sweet potato and garlic.
There’s that word again. Omega 3’s are involved in reducing inflammation in the body, and as inflammation is implicated in many PMS symptoms, we want to keep inflammation in check. (4)
Dosage: 2 tsp. of fish oil per day, or 2 capsules 2x/day
Food Source: Salmon (wild), eggs, hemp seeds, flax and chia seeds.
This omega 6 fatty acid has been shown to reduce PMS symptoms in some women, particularly those who experience breast tenderness. Bonus perks of this supplement include supple, glowing skin. (5)
Dosage: Borage Oil (richest source of GLA), 2 capsules 2x per day with food
Chaste Tree (also called Vitex) extract
This is one of the best herbs for women who have irregular cycles, as it helps get things back on a more regular rhythm. It reduces PMS symptoms, helps treats endometriosis, reduces acne and is used to enhance fertility, among many other attributes.
Dosage: 250 - 400 mg daily, preferably on an empty stomach. Available in tincture or capsules.
Be good to yourself! Eat wonderful whole foods, limit sugar, caffeine and alcohol (especially 1 - 2 weeks leading up to your period), ensure you’re getting enough magnesium (strongly consider supplementing with it if you are prone to cramps) and get enough exercise and rest!
If you really are adverse to taking supplements every day, but do experience PMS symptoms, I strongly recommend supplementing with Magnesium and Omega 3 during the 1-2 weeks leading up to your period, as well as during.
It’s true, I don’t know what’s it’s like to have PMS (although men do have their own hormonal ‘rhythm’ as well), but I do sympathize, and more importantly, I know how to help!
My hope for you is the best, smoothest period possible! If you have any questions, please let me know.