For some women, their menstrual cycle is more like a monthly sentence – to pain, mood swings, cravings and pure misery. Move over salad greens – where’s the chips and chocolate! Why is it that women crave certain foods and feel like a tick about to pop just before their monthly cycle... blame it on hormones.
Estrogen and progesterone rise and fall like a roller coaster within a woman’s cycle. However, too much estrogen can cause severe cramping, constipation, headache and well… pretty much you name it.
Managing your cycle with nutrition is one of the easiest, cheapest and most effective ways to cope and diminish – even eradicate PMS. In fact, nutritious eating gets the best results hands-down because this is what your body is looking for. If you suffer from severe PMS, do consider diagnostic testing first to rule out other complications such as diseases of the reproductive system.
What to Eat:
Your body doesn’t want all that estrogen – so, dump it! Foods high in dietary fiber, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and anti-inflammatory foods are tremendous for reducing and relieving PMS. Omega-3 essential fatty acids will help reduce inflammation (foods like cold water fish, tuna, walnuts, flax or take a quality supplement). Avoid caffeine, as it will just increase your mood swings and add fuel to the fire. And sugar? It will just pack on the pounds, add to your headache and make you feel bloated and fat. Especially in the days before your cycle begins, (called the luteal phase – after ovulation) eat a diet rich in cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, radishes, dark leafy greens of all kinds including kale, and cabbage and cauliflower. Don’t like them cooked – eat them raw or steamed. Go for fresh veggies and avoid canned, pre-cooked or pre-frozen varieties to get the maximum benefits of these estrogen-lowering vegetables. Picks like these contain a substance called Indole-3- Carbinol – powerful plant phytochemicals that grab excess estrogens and pull them out of the body. They are loaded with anti-oxidants and detoxifiers, as well as help to maintain hormone levels in the body. Try adding a variety of these foods to your diet each day to maintain hormone help all month long. Avoid heavy dairy and meat, as these foods add to the distress of PMS. Foods high in B vitamins – such as whole grains will help substantially as will taking a calcium and magnesium supplement. If you have any questions about your diet and cycles, it is best to consult with a Registered Nutritionist or Natural Health Practitioner, as they can direct you to where your body needs to go to alleviate PMS and put a smile back into your month.
by Erin Bell, Nutritionist, R.h.A., Herbalist