There’s no getting around it – PMS just plain stinks. Women all over the globe experience premenstrual syndrome, which affects up to 75 percent of women who menstruate. While some people report only mild effects of PMS, others have severe symptoms including intense shifts of mood, pain, fatigue, headache, weight gain, and changes in bowel habits.
Diet changes to consider that may help with symptoms of PMS
As you may have experienced, your life can turn upside down when Aunt Flo is in town! So when ibuprofen won’t cut it, you might begin to wonder if changes to your diet can make things better. Here’s what we know about how diet can help with PMS symptoms.
For a better mood: Add more omega-3 fatty acids
Essential fatty acids may play a role in improving cognition, mood, and other PMS symptoms. But before you run out to buy supplements, you should know that science hasn’t yet proven they offer relief. One study showed that after 90 days of supplementation, participants taking two grams of omega-3’s had improved depression, anxiety, nervousness, concentration, and bloating when compared to a placebo group. In another recent study, symptom improvements were seen in both the treatment and control groups with no significant difference.
Since the jury is still out on how much to supplement for PMS, a better idea is to mix healthy fats into your diet. Regularly eating foods like fish, fortified eggs, walnuts, flaxseed, and vegetable oils provide the omega-3’s your body needs. It can be as easy as switching from butter to olive oil, throwing some flax meal into your smoothie, or topping a salad with some nuts.
For weight gain and bloat: Say no to salty foods
Do you find yourself wearing a bigger size pant with PMS, and feeling uncomfortably full? Then you should consider where there may be sources of sodium in your diet – especially hidden ones. Processed foods are the largest source of salt in the diet, and we aren’t talking about TV dinners.
Sandwich bread, deli meats, soups, and takeout meals are among the top ten sources of salt, and can cause water retention and make you feel weighed down and tired. Instead, focus on foods that help rid you of the bloat, like fiber-full veggies. Try preparing simple meals from scratch so you can be mindful of how much salt is used in the recipe.
To keep you satisfied and energized: Add more protein and complex carbs
When the PMS cravings come knocking, be prepared to answer with a healthy snack. Pairing a lean protein with a carbohydrate will maximize fullness and give you long-lasting energy. For example, try yogurt with fruit, low-fat cheese with whole grain crackers, unsalted nuts with popcorn, or tuna salad in a whole wheat pita. Having something nutritious to enjoy between meals can manage your appetite and fight the fatigue.
For headaches: Mind the magnesium
You may not need another reason to enjoy dark chocolate, but I’ll give you one! It is a rich source of magnesium which has been shown helpful to improve menstrual migraines. Other foods abundant in magnesium include nuts like almonds and cashews, dark leafy greens like spinach and swiss chard, and legumes including edamame, black beans, and peanuts. For those with severe migraines, talk with your doctor about whether supplements are recommended.
For acne: replace sweets and simple carbs
Pimples can be an annoying aspect of PMS. If you are prone to breakouts, cutting out sugary treats in your diet can improve your skin. Refined carbohydrates like sugar, white breads, white rice, and potatoes are also associated with a rise in hormones that cause acne. Instead, satisfy your sweet tooth with fruits and small amounts of dark chocolate, and switch to whole grains and non-starchy vegetables for meals and snacks.
About the author: Jennifer is a dietitian passionate about connecting good nutrition with tasty food. She runs a private practice, Nourish for Life, where she works with new moms and parents of young children to help them eat well and have a healthy relationship with food. She is a mom of one tiny human and two fur-babies, and loves creating yummy new recipes in her free time.
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