By: Jessica Bippen, MS, RD Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
Your moody, tired, bloated and now you’re hangry. You’ve got some extreme cravings for some carbs and chocolate. We get it. PMS symptoms are real! But they don’t have to be unbearable. What if you could drastically reduce your monthly mood-swings and other PMS related symptoms from some simple diet and lifestyle tweaks? Well lucky for you, it’s 100% possible.
What really is PMS?
Before we dive into how to reduce these monthly symptoms, let’s first take a deeper look at PMS. Premenstrual syndrome is defined as a broad range of symptoms that typically occur one to two weeks before your period. Women can experience one or many of the emotional and physical symptoms associated with PMS. Some of the most common symptoms include acne, fatigue, irritability, bloating, confusion, mood swings, headaches, breast tenderness, fluid retention, cravings, anxiety, weight gain, muscle or joint aches and insomnia. Given such an extensive list of symptoms, is safe to say you’re probably one of the 85% of women who experience at least one of these symptoms.
So now I’m sure you’re wondering why the heck does this happen? The truth is the definite cause is still unclear since there are a lot of variables that can play into PMS symptoms and everyone's body is different. However, most research points to the severity of your monthly hormonal fluctuations and the effect they can have on the chemicals in your brain like serotonin. It’s also thought that some women are more sensitive to these hormonal fluctuations, which leads to more intense PMS symptoms. In addition, nutrition and lifestyle are key players in PMS. Certain nutrients have been shown to play a role in PMS symptoms, so if you’re lacking certain nutrients, your PMS symptoms may be worse!
Food and Nutrition’s Role in PMS
To help reduce PMS symptoms, reducing alcohol, caffeine, salt, and sugar is key, as they can make PMS symptoms worse. It’s been shown that excessive alcohol and caffeine consumption can worsen symptoms and have been associated with prolonged cramping, while salty foods may cause bloating and fluid retention. Even though we start to crave simple carbs and sugar during this time of the month, this craving is actually due to the shifting levels estrogen and progesterone, which can decrease levels of the chemical serotonin in the brain. Carbohydrates and sugar cause a release of serotonin in our brain. Rather than turning to simple carbs like chips and cookies, focus on nourishing carbohydrates like whole grain, sweet potatoes and fruit.
Nutrients That May Influence PMS
Vitamin and mineral deficiencies also can play a role in the development of PMS. There’s evidence that a woman’s diet may contribute to the development of PMS or be related to symptom severity. What women eat and drink, or in some cases, what they don’t eat and drink, can be directly related to PMS symptoms.
Smart Food Nutrition Choices for PMS
Eating a healthy, balanced diet all month long is the best approach to combating PMS symptoms. This helps ensure you are getting all the necessary nutrients, especially those related to PMS. Enjoying a balanced diet that focuses on a wide variety of colorful, fiber-packed fruits and vegetables, as well as lean protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates.
When it’s that time of the month where you’re PMS is the worst, try focusing a little extra on your food choices to makes sure you are getting in foods that are good sources of calcium, vitamin D, B vitamins, magnesium and fiber.
Supplements for PMS
Supplements can play a supporting role in reducing PMS symptoms but think of them as just that - a supporting role. Making necessary diet changes should be your top priority. The supplements can just give you an extra boost. Just a reminder to always check with your doctor before starting any new supplements.
Lifestyle plays a role
In addition to nutrition, lifestyle can play a huge role in your PMS symptoms. Making both nutrition and lifestyle adjustments can make the biggest impact on reducing your PMS symptoms while creating a balanced lifestyle.
Bottom line: You aren’t alone in experiencing monthly PMS symptoms, but it doesn't have to be this way! Making nutrition and lifestyle adjustment can help reduce your symptoms and create a more balanced lifestyle. While it’s important to make nutrition and lifestyle changes first, supplements can play a supporting role. Getting an extra boost from herbs and nutrients you may be lacking may be the missing piece for giving you PMS relief. PMS symptoms can be rough, but remember your period is your power. Show yourself a little extra self-care this time of the month and embrace your monthly flow.