Premenstrual Syndrome affects many (approx. 80%) women to varying degrees during the 7-14 days before their period begins. The female body is constantly changing throughout the menstrual cycle and many of us are aware of different feelings, mood and needs at different times of the month.
Reasons for PMS:
Hormonal imbalance – an excess of oestrogen and inadequate progesterone.
Unstable blood sugar – leading to cravings and mood swings.
Poor nutrition – the body is missing nutrients that help balance hormones and ease inflammation and cramping and there may be an excess of foods that aggravate this condition.
Poor liver function – this may be an overload of toxins such as coffee, processed foods, medication or alcohol. The liver has the role of breaking down and eliminating hormones to prevent their re-absorption.
Always remember to check with your GP if there is anything you are suspicious about.
Acne, anger, anxiety, bloating, backache, breast tenderness, cramps, cravings, crying for no particular reason, depression, general lack of energy and motivation, fainting, irritability, mood swings and over-spending.
There are three hormones that work together and cause mischief... if one raises, the others will also. They are :
Every time you raise your insulin levels by eating sugary snacks or carbohydrate rich meals, you will raise your cortisol levels, and your oestrogen levels. Every time you are stressed and have a cortisol stress response, you will raise your insulin levels and your oestrogens. When your oestrogen levels raise, you also increase the amount of cortisol and insulin!
Before you know it, you are in a viscous circle.
The key is to avoid stress (easier said than done ) and avoid sugars and refined carbohydrates.
What to Avoid:
Sugars and refined foods – they upset the blood sugar balance and rob the body of nutrients whilst giving nothing back. They raise insulin levels, cortisol levels and oestrogen levels. This is the first and foremost thing you must address to balance your hormones.
Alcohol – can further upset the blood sugar balance, accelerate nutrient loss and increase levels of oestrogen. It also puts pressure on the liver, who`s job it is to deactivate oestrogen that is no longer needed. If the liver is sluggish, this won`t happen as effectively and the oestrogens that should be eliminated will re-circulate in the blood instead.
Caffeine – linked to increased breast tenderness and can make you more anxious and jittery. Caffeine can also hinder nutrient absorption especially minerals such as magnesium that can help alleviate cramping and balance blood sugar levels. Caffeine causes a stress cortisol response, which we know increases insulin and oestrogen.
Dairy – it can increase the body’s oestrogen levels and block the absorption of magnesium, particularly important at this time to help ease cramping. For those who are unable to digest dairy products, there may be digestive discomfort and excess gas.
Salt – excess especially from processed foods can contribute to cramping, bloating and water retention.
Xenoestrogens - these are the chemical oestrogens that are in our environment. They are commonly found in beauty products and toiletries, cleaning products and plastics. Use glass food storage containers and avoid plastic bottles. Explore more natural makeup products like Tropics, Green People and my personal favourite - Lily Lolo. Use more natural household products like faith in nature, or make your own.
Red Wine - Red wine has been proven to increase oestrogen, something that you want to avoid if you are oestrogen dominant. Wine is generally a very sugary beverage which can also upset the delicate hormonal balance between insulin, cortisol and oestrogen.
Your intake of a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, essential for vitamins, minerals and fibre. Aim for 60% of your plate to be veggie goodness. The fibre will help to eliminate the excess circulating oestrogens and balance your blood sugar.
Do not go hungry! This is will do nothing for your mood, everything seem 100 times worse on a grumbling tummy. Eat little and often, around every 4 hours. Make sure all your snacks include protein and a healthy fat.
Whole grains – they help to balance blood sugar by releasing energy steadily and they are a source of fibre needed to clear out old hormones and toxins. They also contain far more nutrients than refined grains and are a good source of B vitamins and magnesium.
Essential fats – nuts, seeds, oily fish, avocado and eggs – they help reduce the inflammatory response and balance hormones.
Exercise – a brisk walk a day is better than nothing, but aim to make it a regular part of your lifestyle – choose something you enjoy. It can enhance blood flow to the pelvic area and lessen bloating and cramping.
Thrive Clinical Nutrition and Naturopathic Health Eve Morley BA hons. NT. FNTP. AMNNA. Soc Nat
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