PMS affecting your day to day? Our registered dietitian shares her top tips on how to manage these symptoms.
A monthly visit from Aunt Flo can be bothersome, especially if you have pre-menstrual symptoms (PMS). PMS symptoms vary amongst women, ranging from feeling lethargic to having headaches, cramps, bloating and breast tenderness. PMS does not only affect your physical well-being, it may also affect your mood and sleep. Having multiple PMS symptoms may even affect your productivity and social life. There are natural remedies that can help with relieving PMS symptoms; however, eating right and exercising regularly are probably the most effective and natural solutions to overcome these dreadful symptoms. So, we have asked our registered dietitian to share her top nutrition tips.
A good starting point for minimising PMS symptoms is eating a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods from all four food groups. Steer away from certain foods and beverages a few days prior to the start of your period will also help relieve the symptoms. The following foods have shown to worsen PMS symptoms one way or the other:
If you notice you crave for more carbs days before that time of the month, you may want to watch your carb intake, particularly on sugar and refined carbohydrates, as they may worsen your mood swings. You can find sugar present in various forms, including table sugar, honey, agave syrup, maple syrup and fructose, to name a few. Refined carbohydrates can be found in white bread, white pasta, white rice, sweets, cookies, desserts and sweetened beverages like pop and fruit drinks. Your blood sugar level spikes up as you consume foods with sugar and refined carbohydrates. Indeed, you will have temporarily happiness, which will also take your mind off from the dreadful PMS symptoms momentarily. However, once the sugar high is gone, a sharp decline in your blood sugar level may then bring your mood down.
Dietitian’s Tip: Not all carbs cause mood swings. A few days before your period, choose more complex carbohydrates as part of your meals and snacks, which include foods such as nuts, sweet potatoes, whole grain breads, whole grains like brown rice, quinoa and barley, and fruits like blueberries, oranges and pears. Two common elements amongst these foods are: lower in glycemic index and the presence of dietary fibre. Fibre helps to slow down the digestion and absorption of glucose, the building blocks of carbohydrates, so you will not experience the sudden spikes and declines in your blood sugar levels.
Consuming moderate amounts of alcohol can be part of a healthy diet. Some may have a drink or two (or more) thinking that alcohol will help with relaxation and alleviating PMS symptoms. However, a recent research study reviewed 19 previous research studies confirmed that there is an association between alcohol consumption and PMS symptoms. The more you hope drinking may help with relieving PMS symptoms, the more exacerbated symptoms you may experience.
Dietitian’s Tip: Abstaining from alcohol and opting for healthier options like carbonated water infused with fruit during this time is likely the best option. If you are out for happy hour and are craving for a drink, enjoy a mocktail or two instead. Keep in mind though, mocktails are sweet and have added sugars, which is another contributor to PMS symptoms.
Drinking a cup of coffee or tea is part of many people’s morning routine. Some may also drink these beverages throughout the day to boost their wakefulness and energy level. Contrary to the popular belief, drinking caffeinated beverages does not increase alertness but rather may increase irritability, reduce attention span, aggravate mood swings and disrupts sleep patterns. There is conflicting information about whether PMS symptoms are worsened with caffeine consumption, but if you find yourself experiencing more severe PMS symptoms after having caffeine, it may be best to stop altogether days before your period.
Dietitian’s Tip: If you must have your caffeine fix in the morning, opt for decaffeinated coffee and tea or keep your caffeinated beverages to the minimal days before the start of your period. Better yet, choose healthier beverage options, such as milk and non-dairy alternatives like fortified soy milk, fortified almond milk and fortified cashew milk.
Days before that time of the month, some ladies experience bloating, fluid retention and breast tenderness. Eating foods with salt, however, will only worsen these symptoms. In fact, the more salt is included as part of the diet, the more fluid will be retained, and the more unnecessary water weight may be gained. While the weight gain is temporarily, some may be bothered by the number on the scale or by how snugged the clothes have become. To overcome this, some may either restrict themselves from eating or binge on comfort foods to feel better emotionally. Neither tactic is physically nor mentally healthy.
Dietitian’s Tip: Reduce your salt intake overall, not only on days before your period, is probably best for your overall health. You can shake the salt by following some proven strategies: choose lower salt foods, avoid the salt shaker, eat out less and make your own meals. If you are looking for adding flavours to your foods, you can always use healthy alternatives, like herbs, spices and lemon juice in place of salt.
A healthy diet cannot cure or prevent PMS, but it is an effective first line of treatment to manage the symptoms. Reducing the intake of sugar, alcohol, caffeine and salt is one of the nutritional strategies for managing PMS.
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