In Nutrition for Women Part 1, we asked our Nutritionist and Naturopath, Cathy Williams, to shed some light on what some of your PMS symptoms may be telling you.
At PerformancePro we take nutrition for women seriously, recognising its complexity and impact at different stages in life. In the first of our new series of Fitness Insights, Nutrition for Women, we look at the menstrual cycle.
There are now 150 symptoms believed to be part of PMS. The most common include cravings, mood changes and swings, breast tenderness, migraines and headaches, water retention/bloating and weight gain, acne, tiredness and the rest…
PMS is common but not normal and often indicates deficiencies and imbalances within the body. Dietary and lifestyle factors are regularly linked to symptoms, so rather than accepting they’re here to stay, here are ten useful tips that may help.
Studies have found that omega 3, well known for its anti-inflammatory properties, can help to soothe menstrual pain. There are more anti-inflammatory guidelines below. There is also some evidence that omega 3 can drive away period blues too. This good fat may help to bring hormonal fluctuations under control and stabilise your mood.
Increase your omega 3 level with raw nuts and seeds, eggs, fish, algae and olive.
B Vitamins are essential for proper nerve function, brain function, mood balance and energy production. So if your version of PMS is feeling moody, fatigued or experiencing brain fog – get onto a good B Vitamin Complex supplement or up your intake of food sources such as dark leafy veg, legumes, seeds and nuts.
Take the supplement in the morning where possible and don’t worry about the fluorescent urine! It doesn’t mean you aren’t absorbing the nutrients, it actually signifies that your body is metabolising and using them.
Sadly, our food sources are not very rich in magnesium because the soils they’re grown in are depleted. Stress, a diet of refined/processed foods and alcohol, as well as strenuous exercise and some medications can all deplete magnesium levels too.
If you experience painful cramps (whether menstrual or in your back, arms or legs), feel fatigued and/or your moods are out of whack, or if you retain fluid and feel bloated and squishy around your period, a magnesium supplement to top up your levels is a good idea.
Obviously we lose a decent amount of blood over our period cycles. Around 30% of premenopausal women (anyone that hasn’t gone through menopause) are iron deficient. This can make us feel tired, have difficulty concentrating and also affect our physical performance.
Getting your iron levels checked is super easy and definitely worthwhile, especially with plant based/vegetarian and vegan trends increasing. While plant foods do contain iron, it is a different form (non-heme) to what we find in animal products (heme) and isn’t as well absorbed and utilised, meaning deficiencies can be more common.
If your tests show up deficient, see a nutritionist or your doctor for the best food and supplement options for your needs.
Calcium supplementation has also been shown to alleviate PMS symptoms such as depression and fatigue. Zinc is important in the balance of body chemicals to help lower inflammation. Vitamin D is vital for the production of sex hormones and mood regulation.
Eat a good variety of whole foods including dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, oily fish and seafood and get a moderate amount of sunshine on your skin when you can. This will help improve your Vitamin D status as well as ensuring an optimal intake of all the other vitamins and minerals.
Aerobic exercise releases endorphins which are a natural pain relief and can help reduce headaches and mood symptoms by improving blood flow to the brain. But be gentle and listen to your body. If you’re feeling unwell or in a lot of pain, rest can be your best option.
Make the most of the ovulatory phase (around day 14 of your cycle) when energy is higher and aim to keep exercise as a regular part of your daily life to reduce your PMS symptoms. Around your period, go for more gentle exercise such as yoga or walking.
Stress and mindfulness
Addressing your stress levels is an important step in reducing inflammation and cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone which can exacerbate hormonal symptoms, deplete our body of vital nutrients and leave us at higher risk of PMS and cycle disruptions.
Get an early night, enjoy some meditation and make time to do things you enjoy and make you feel good. Do these things regularly to break the stress cycle.
Healthy body weight
PMS cravings have been associated with a higher level of both oestrogen and leptin, a hormone involved in appetite regulation. People who are overweight can have leptin irregularities that may increase cravings at any time, but can worsen around your period. Conversely, periods can stop as a consequence of low body fat or anorexia. This can also happen to long distance runners or athletes with very low body fat.
A healthy level of body fat is required for the storage of fat-soluble vitamins and the production of sex hormones.
An anti-inflammatory diet
A diet high in refined/processed/packaged foods and high alcohol and sugar consumption can lead to greater levels of inflammation in the body. This can result in hormonal imbalances and increased symptoms.
Inflammation is a driver behind just about every chronic disease. So adopting an anti-inflammatory diet in general, not just around your period, will possibly go a long way to reducing a myriad of PMS and other symptoms.
Includes spices such as turmeric, ginger, garlic and cinnamon which may help reduce inflammatory pathways in the body, as well as Omega 3, mentioned above.
Detoxify your body and environment
If your body is overwhelmed with dietary and environmental toxins, it has less capacity to process and detoxify its natural substances such as hormones. This can lead to higher circulating levels of oestrogen which can exacerbate all your typical PMS symptoms.
So, next time your period comes around, try not to think of it as a bad thing. Use it as an opportunity to reflect on your month’s activities. Could you have done more to help make this a more balanced cycle?
Try to be positive as you start to understand and appreciate your body and its complex cycle. By trying to resolve and improve things just a little more for the next time around, you will soon feel a difference.
Body positivity is about so much more than your weight and image.
If you have a condition such as endometriosis, PCOS, fibroids or other hormonal-related conditions, your needs will differ significantly. It’s important that you see a hormonal specialist, ideally one that is also a functional health practitioner.
Look out for Part 2 of Nutrition for Women over the coming weeks. Next time round, we’re looking at Nutrition and Pregnancy. Meanwhile, find out more PerformancePro’s nutrition services >>
Take your next step with the FREE no-strings PerformancePro 75-minute introductory consultation. This includes goal setting, movement analysis, body and fat measurement.
AND if you contact us before 30 June, you can enjoy a FREE Nutrition Consultation too, when you book your first block of training.