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PMS Eating: How Food Can Help!

PMS, or the transition between ovulation and menstruation, can cause hormones to fluctuate and tissue to change. Unfortunately there are some not-so-awesome symptoms that result from these changes, including abdominal cramping, mood swings, cravings, acne, and breast tenderness.

You may not be able to completely avoid PMS, but there are some things that you can do to support your body during this transition and minimize these symptoms. Though it’s always important to eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods, this is especially important during this time, to give your body the tools that it needs.

Helpful foods

Water: Let’s start with the obvious. Water is essential for the body to function. Proper hydration helps the body to flush excess salt and reduce bloating. Water helps to ease muscle cramps and aids in digestion. Dehydration causes headaches, which many are prone to during PMS. Aim to drink half of your body weight in pounds in ounces of water each day OR 2-3 liters of water.

Magnesium: Magnesium is involved in hundreds of body functions and is especially helpful during PMS. It helps to soothe muscles and ease cramps. It is involved in the production and regulation of hormones, including estrogen and serotonin, and can help manage mood swings. Sources of magnesium include dark leafy greens, avocado, dark chocolate and whole grains.

Calcium and Vitamin D: Commonly known for its importance in bone health, calcium also helps the body maintain muscle tone and can help soothe menstrual cramps. Vitamin D facilitates the absorption of calcium, so it is helpful to eat them together. Calcium and Vitamin D have been shown to reduce mood swings that are often experienced during PMS. Yogurt, chia seeds, almonds, soy milk, and leafy greens are great sources of calcium. Vitamin D is found in fatty fish such as salmon and fortified foods.

B Vitamins: B vitamins help the boy with the process of converting food into energy. They are required for the production of neurotransmitters and important for cognitive function. Vitamin B6, specifically, can be especially helpful during PMS. Studies have shown that vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, may help with moodiness and irritability, as well as bloating. Good sources of B6 include pork, poultry, peanuts, oats, and bananas.

Anti-inflammatory foods: The processes that prepare the body for menstruation often lead to increased inflammation. Inflammation contributes to PMS symptoms such as cramping and acne. Eating foods that decrease inflammation can ease your discomfort. All fruits and vegetables fight inflammation. Some of the best anti-inflammatory foods include wild salmon, turmeric, cruciferous vegetables, blueberries, sweet potatoes and green tea.

Foods to Avoid

Just as certain nutrients support the body during the luteal phase, there are foods and habits that can make the symptoms worse. Avoiding these substances can decrease discomfort from PMS.

Salt: Salt causes the body to retain water. This contributes to bloating, which is common during PMS. Reducing your salt intake can improve the discomfort you experience before menstruation.

Sugar: Many women experience sugar cravings before menstruation. It may be tempting to indulge, especially with fluctuating hormone levels. However, excess sugar will ultimately exacerbate your symptoms/discomfort.

Alcohol and caffeine: Both alcohol and caffeine contribute to dehydration, which increases muscle cramps. Caffeine also contributes to irritability, which can be higher during PMS.

Take Care of Yourself/Self-Care is Self-Love

The days leading up to menstruation, the body undergoes many changes. This cannot be avoided. The symptoms may be uncomfortable and inconvenient, but you are not powerless. Care for yourself. Instead of screaming at your body, thank it for the work that it is doing. Avoid foods that make its work more difficult. By making better food choices, you give your body the fuel that it needs to continue caring for you.

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Dr. Candice Seti


California-licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Nutrition Coach, and Certified Personal Trainer

Dr. Candice Seti

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