We might not be able to agree on the best flavor of ice cream but we can be unanimous in our shared hatred for PMS (premenstrual syndrome).
It’s one of those grim side effects of menstruating that you wouldn’t wish on anyone. Not even that housemate who finishes a food item and puts the empty container back in the fridge.
For all the PMS warriors out there, this article is for you. Understand your symptoms and learn how to find relief as we look at which superfoods can ease PMS.
What Are The Symptoms of PMS?
PMS is really common, affecting more than 90% of people who menstruate. It’s widely believed that it occurs due to the dramatic drop in estrogen and progesterone levels in the days after ovulation.
Symptoms typically start five to 11 days before your period and usually disappear when you start to bleed (although you can get cramps and other unpleasant symptoms while on your period). They include:
- Mood swings
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Food cravings (especially for sweets!)
- Sore breasts
- Sensitivity to light or sound
To say PMS symptoms suck is a royal understatement, especially for the 32% of people who experience moderate to severe symptoms. If your symptoms are affecting your daily life, it’s important you go and see your doctor to rule out other causes such as endometriosis, anemia and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
But, my dear readers, do not despair. If you are suffering from PMS and not something else, there are lots of ways to minimise your pain. The easiest? My favourite F word - FOOD!
Food to Help Ease PMS
Add delicious food packed with nutrients and minerals to your diet and calm the storm that is PMS.
To Fight Insomnia
Nothing brings a night of tossing and turning quite like the fluctuating hormones that accompany your period.
To make matters worse, not getting enough sleep can make you more susceptible to pain. So how can you get more ZZZ’s when you’re PMS-ing? Eat food containing melatonin!
Darkness naturally causes your body to produce melatonin helping you maintain healthy sleep-wake cycles. A study by Douglas Mental Health University recently found that low melatonin levels can make PMS symptoms worse, especially insomnia.
To combat this naturally, you can eat fruit containing this hormone such as:
Indulge in this scrumptious recipe to get your beauty sleep: Mango Pineapple Smoothie Bowl.
To Boost Your Mood
Do you get a bit cranky or anxious just before your period? PMS might be the cause. Combating this could be as simple as boosting your intake of complex carbohydrates and Omega-3.
Complex carbs, like oats, brown rice, sweet potatoes and chickpeas are magic mood boosters. They’re packed with protein, B-vitamins, magnesium, iron, calcium and potassium - essential nutrients that encourage the production of feel-good hormones.
They also give your brain a steady stream of glucose which helps you maintain peak energy levels throughout the day, decreasing your cravings for sweet things.
And then we have Omega-3 - a fatty acid that functions similarly to antidepressants giving you a sweet dose of serotonin (that’s a happiness hormone!) It can be found in fish, nuts, seeds, plant oils and soybeans.
Cook this recipe to feel shinier: Brown Rice with Fish and Spinach
To Beat the Bloat
Bloating can be super uncomfortable. It often gives you nausea and makes you recoil at the thought of wearing jeans and other tight clothing (because your abdomen feels so tender).
PMS causes bloating for a lot of people and sometimes the last thing you want to do is eat. However, there are certain foods and beverages you can consume to help you banish the bloat.
Your first line of defense is avoiding gassy foods like peas, beans, dairy products and fizzy drinks since they can contribute to a swollen abdomen. To get fast relief, boil some ginger in a pan of water to make a hot drink (ginger is anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic) or brew a soothing cup of peppermint tea.
Food wise, asparagus and yogurt are full of beneficial bacteria that aid digestion. Pineapple is great for bloating too as it contains bromelain, a digestion-promoting enzyme.
Sometimes bloating is caused by water retention. If that’s the case, add some celery and fennel to your dishes. They are natural diuretics that can help flush out the excess water you're retaining.
Try this recipe to banish your bloat: Fennel and Asparagus Soup
To Clear Your Skin
Hormones can make your skin angry - especially around your chin. Clear up hormonal acne with a healthy dose of Vitamin A.
Vitamin A stimulates healthy cell production, protecting your complexion from infection while keeping your skin firm and clear. It also slows oil production which can prevent your pores from becoming clogged with dead skin cells and bacteria.
Foods rich in Vitamin A are:
- Oily fish
- Milk and yoghurt
- Liver pâté (only consume this once a week as it contains a large dose of Vitamin A - if you consume too much you might get dizziness, nausea, headaches or worse!)
- Sweet potatoes
- Red peppers
Make this recipe for clearer skin: Sweet Potato and Spinach Curry
To Curb Your Cravings
When you’re experiencing PMS, the temptation to consume sugary foods can easily get the better of you, leaving you with a mouth full of regret and a bed full of Oreo crumbs.
Keep your cravings at bay by eating a breakfast rich in protein and healthy fats. Even if you’re not someone who wants to eat a big meal first thing in the morning, starting the day with a good breakfast is so worth it.
It’ll help you feel full for longer and abolish those pesky cravings for sweet things. Think: eggs, nuts, oats, avocado, fish and tofu. Once you’ve made a delicious breakfast out of these dreamy ingredients, you’ll never look back.
Try this recipe to ward off your cravings: Tomato, Cheese and Avocado Omelette
To Soothe Your Headaches
PMS headaches often occur due to low levels of estrogen. While there’s not much you can do about fluctuating hormones, you can conquer your menstrual migraines by adding some headache-fighting foods to your diet.
What you’re looking for are foods rich in magnesium. 75% of Americans aren’t getting enough of this super nutrient and a magnesium deficiency can make you much more susceptible to headaches, especially around the time of your period. Plus, magnesium can help alleviate cramping too!
Beans, bananas, nuts, dark chocolate and leafy greens are all groovy sources of magnesium. Whether you chow down on some cashews (they contain 83 mg of magnesium per 1 oz) or whip up a scrumptious dessert with dark chocolate (95 mg per square!), your brain will love you.
Whip up this recipe for quick headache relief: Almond, Kale and Banana Smoothie
To Calm Your Cramps
When you’ve got a bad case of period cramps, duvet days, hot water bottles and pet cuddles are a must.
But sometimes we can’t put off our daily duties and have to soldier on through the pain. To make those tough times more bearable, try and maintain a healthy diet as often as you can (especially leading up to your period).
All of the foods we mentioned above can help you reduce period pain. Dark chocolate is especially soothing, not only as a comfort food but because it contains lots of magnesium which is a natural cramp buster.
Omega 3-rich foods like salmon and flaxseed also work wonders on period pain as anti-inflammatories. Studies show that people who consume lots of Omega 3 have milder cramps.
Tuck in to this recipe to soothe your period pain: Dark Chocolate Mousse
Become the Reigning Ruler of Your Uterus
When PMS rears its ugly head, it can feel like you have no control over your body. Thankfully, it only takes a few small changes to make those sucky symptoms much more bearable.
Start by incorporating the yummy foods we’ve mentioned today into your diet, especially during the week running up to your period. We also recently asked our Facebook friends to share their best tips on reducing PMS symptoms. Read them here to alleviate your monthly woes.