As the time of month approaches, you might feel especially tired, emotionally fragile, and unusually swollen. You might notice your weight increasing, the quality of your skin or hair worsening, or generally becoming more anxious or irritable.
These are the infamous symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS). It’s not a disease, but definitely a sense of dis-ease that is very common, affecting 8 out of 10 women.
In some women, PMS manifests through mild symptoms; in others, PMS can be intense and painful. It is often associated with increased food cravings, where the desire for a small treat may lead to a binge (who else has been there?). And you end up eating everything and more – reaching a point where you aren’t even truly tasting the food, and can no longer sense hunger or satiety.
Whilst your menstrual cycle is unavoidable (unless you are pregnant or using certain types of birth control), you can reduce the effect of PMS symptoms .
How to reduce symptoms of PMS?
1. Reduce sodium intake
2. Eat more fresh food
3. Increase calcium and magnesium intake
4. Supplement with phytoestrogens
5. Regular exercise
In the ten days preceding the onset of menstruation, adopt a diet low in sodium to offset the water retention that typically occurs with PMS. (Use the app Clue to track your cycle!) You can reduce the amount of salt used when cooking, and avoid high-sodium foods including ready-made meals, smoked or cured meat and fish, canned food and refined baked goods.
Instead, increase your consumption of fresh and seasonal fruit and vegetables, and legumes (except if you have colitis).
In addition, increase your intake of calcium and magnesium to minimise the painful uterine spasms, and also calming your mood. These minerals are found in vegetables, especially in leafy greens, legumes, cacao beans, wheat germ, figs, corn, apples, walnuts, almonds, soy, peaches, bananas and apricots.
Phytoestrogens are also useful substances that mimic the action of estrogens (and therefore, supplement the low estrogen levels during this time). Not only do phytoestrogens alleviate the symptoms of PMS, they also have a protective effect against diseases such as osteoporosis and heart disease. They can be sourced naturally from soy products such as soybeans, tofu, miso, and tempeh.
Don't disregard the effect of regular aerobic exercise - this also has the potential to reduce the severity of your PMS symptoms (1,2). During your period, you can incorporate more relaxing physical activities including yoga, pilates or outdoor walks.
What foods to eat during your period to reduce the severity of PMS?
- Whole grain cereals (e.g. brown rice, red rice and black rice, millet, buckwheat, quinoa and amaranth), choose gluten-free varieties if you are gluten intolerant
- Lean meat and fatty fish (e.g. mackerel, salmon, sardines, tuna, sea bass and sea bream)
- Fruit and vegetables (e.g. potassium-rich bananas, pears to stimulate bowel movement, leafy greens)
- Legumes, as they are rich in phytoestrogens, protein and fibre
- Dried nuts, as they have a high omega-3 content
Say goodbye to the nasty symptoms that come with Aunt Flo!
What's your worst PMS symptom?
P.S. Join our Facebook group "Tasty, but healthy" for easy nutritious recipes and healthy living tips!
1. Ghanbari, Z., Manshavi, F. D., & Jafarabadi, M. (2008). The effect of three months regular aerobic exercise on premenstrual syndrome. Journal of Family and Reproductive Health, 167-171.
2. Samadi, Z., Taghian, F., & Valiani, M. (2013). The effects of 8 weeks of regular aerobic exercise on the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome in non-athlete girls. Iranian journal of nursing and midwifery research, 18(1), 14.