Unless you’re in the lucky minority of women who don’t experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS), that week before your period is no walk in the park. Our bodies go through a natural cycle of hormone fluctuation each month, but for almost 75 percent of American women, those hormone fluctuations are severe, causing cramps, bloating, fatigue and excessive mood swings.
A number of factors can help minimize PMS symptoms, none more so than what you eat. Changes in your diet can decrease the amount of free-flowing estrogen in your body—the culprit behind all those unpleasant changes you experience a week to two weeks before your period. Consuming the right kinds of food can minimize hormonal fluctuations, while eating the wrong kinds of food can throw your body’s hormonal balance out of whack. If you want to make your PMS symptoms more tolerable, try avoiding these seven foods.
Hormone fluctuations before your period can lead to cramps, bloating, fatigue and mood swings. Control your symptoms by changing your diet! Photo By Asturnut/Courtesy Flickr.
Red meat contains high levels of saturated fat, which can increase estrogen levels. Some meat also contains added hormones, which can enter your bloodstream and mess with your own hormone levels. Keeping your diet low in meat and buying your meat from trusted sources that raise their animals without hormones can reduce hormone fluctuations that cause PMS symptoms.
Although calcium can actually improve PMS symptoms, dairy products will make it worse. Like red meat, dairy contains high levels of saturated fat.
Sugar causes blood-sugar levels to rise dramatically, increasing the likelihood of mood swings and worsening fatigue, headaches and the ability to focus. Highly refined sugars can also deplete the body of its natural stores of essential vitamins and minerals such as magnesium, zinc and B vitamins, which the body needs to function properly. Limiting your sugar intake throughout the month and cutting back the two weeks before your period can keep PMS in check.
Ice cream may sound like the perfect comfort food, but the saturated fat in dairy products and the extra sugar can actually make PMS symptoms worse. Photo By Asurroca/Courtesy Flickr.
If bloating is a common PMS symptom for you, avoid salt, as it will cause you to retain water. Watch your diet carefully to avoid excess sodium intake. High levels of salt are everywhere from the obvious (processed foods) to the not-so-obvious (“natural” chicken).
Mood swings and stress will make you want to reach for sugary foods, many of which are high in caffeine. Although chocolate may be yout go-to comfort food during this week, caffeine will actually worsen your PMS symptoms, negatively affecting your mood and increasing breast tenderness.
Alcohol dehydrates the body and wreaks havoc on blood sugar levels, which can make fatigue and mood swings worse.
Susan Melgren is the Web Editor of Mother Earth Living. Find her on Google+.