You know when it’s that time of the month. You’re bloated, miserable as fuck, you get breakouts like when you were 16, and just about everything makes you want to cry, run, hide and have an emotional meltdown. But that’s not all – our monthly friend can also de-rail our healthy eating habits! Your once strong willpower to resist anything that has chocolate or tastes sweet and delicious gets completely thrown out the window along with your diet.
What is PMS?
Premenstrual Syndrome, or PMS, is the result of fluctuating levels of that pesky little female hormone estrogen, which can cause serious shifts in mood and uncontrollable cravings! When estrogen levels fall, so do levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin. And, when serotonin is low, not only does mood decrease, but cravings for carbohydrates, or basically anything that is sweet, goes up! But, that’s not all that happens.
The second hormone that regulates the ovulation cycle – progesterone, which also drops right before your cycle, can cause levels of the stress hormone cortisol to skyrocket! Cortisol can cause anxiety, sleeplessness, increase blood sugar levels and increase muscle breakdown! Yikes!
Downward Hormonal Cascade to Nowhere
Even worse, the increase level of blood sugar subsequently can increase the release of insulin, causing more sugar to be stored as fat! And, if that weren’t enough, progesterone also plays a role in water regulation within cells. When progesterone drops, the balance of sodium and potassium is disrupted causing an influx of sodium and water into cells. The result? The bloating and swelling that is commonly associated with PMS.
Despite all these factors, there is a way to ‘outsmart’ PMS, or at least minimize its negative impact. Exercise can have a huge impact on alleviating your symptoms by improving your mood and keeping water weight down, but the foods you choose to eat around your cycle can have a huge impact too! Here are five foods to help you stay in control of your diet, boost mood and banish bloating!
Hormonal Food #1 – Turkey
Tryptophan is an essential amino that is needed for the production of many neurotransmitters involved in mood, including serotonin and the important sleep hormone melatonin.
As more tryptophan enters the brain, more serotonin is synthesized in the brain and our mood goes from moody and miserable to happy and lovable. Certain carbohydrates, including oatmeal and brown rice, can also boost tryptophan.
But, if you are on a strict low carbohydrate diet, getting enough tryptophan from these sources can be challenging. Turkey is a good source of tryptophan, but so is chicken or any poultry for that matter. So, up your intake of these particular protein sources for better mood control!
Hormonal Food #2 – Fatty Fish
If you want to get better control of hormones, your mood and help preserve your lean muscle tissue, fatty fish which is high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fats is a good way to do so! Omega-3s have also been found to have a positive effect on relieving PMS symptoms. It was shown that women who took a 2g dose of Omega-3 had a greater reduction in symptoms than women who took a lower dose. What’s more, it was found that the symptoms were cumulative over the course of 6-months. Fish like wild salmon, mackerel, herring or sardines are good sources of Omega-3, but so are Omega-3 eggs, flax seed, chia seed and walnuts.
Hormonal Food #3 – Asparagus
This green vegetable offers up a host of healthy benefits when it comes to combating PMS – especially when it comes to water retention and bloating. Asparagus contains asparagine, a natural diuretic that can help reduce excess water retention. It also contains inulin, a fiber that helps promote the growth of friendly gut bacteria. This keeps the digestive system healthy and belly bloat to a minimum. Asparagus is also high in B-vitamins, which can assist in helping regulate energy levels, mood and metabolism. Have asparagus as a side with salmon or turkey for a PMS fighting meal!
Hormonal Food #4 – Beans and Legumes
A diet rich in the B-vitamins thiamine and riboflavin can significantly reduce the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome when obtained from food sources such as beans and legumes. One study showed that symptoms were reduced by as much as 35 percent, when consumed regularly for 2 to 4 years. Beans and legumes are not only packed with B-vitamins, they also offer up fiber and are a slow digesting carbohydrate that can help control cravings and keep hunger subsided!
Hormonal Food #5 – Greek Yogurt
Calcium is one mineral that many women do not get enough of, especially if dairy has been eliminated from the diet. But many studies have shown supplementing the diet with calcium, whether from dairy, fortified foods like juices or just tablet form, reduces PMS. Calcium regulates hormones involved in the menstrual cycle. Falling calcium levels give rise to hormones that contribute to symptoms of PMS, including irritable mood and bloating! Despite the positive research, you are probably not going to start eating a lot of milk products or drinking fortified juices anytime soon, but you may want to try a serving of non-fat Greek Yogurt once a day. This dairy product is low in lactose, offers 18 grams to 20 grams of protein and about 220 milligrams of calcium per 6 oz serving.
Hormonal Food #6 – Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate contains polyphenols that can help boost mood including a cannabinoid neurotransmitter called anandamide – no not the cannabinoid that can get you high, but it certainly can help improve your moodiness. Additionally, dark chocolate can help stimulate endorphin release that cannot only affect mood but also pain perception, improving menstrual cramps and back pain! Dark chocolate also delivers minerals – magnesium and potassium that can help alleviate cramping too. Just make sure you choose chocolate that is about 70% dark cocoa. And don’t eat too much – just one ounce will do.
Be Fierce & Rule the World,
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Filho E, et. Al. Essential fatty acids for premenstrual syndrome and their effect on prolactin and total cholesterol levels: a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled study. Repro Health. 2011. 8: 2.