Ah, PMS: the hormonal once-monthly shit-show that over 90% of women begrudgingly endure. Headaches. Mood swings. Bloating. Cramping. Constipation or diarrhea. Swollen or tender breasts. Backaches. Reduced tolerance for light and/or noise. Exhaustion. Sleep irregularities. Changes in appetite. Anxiety, depression, trouble concentrating and reduced interest in sex: these are the more common charming assortment of PMS symptoms. But what if we told you that you could mitigate the less than rosy concomitant of the double X chromosome through a few relatively diet tweaks? 'Cause you can. Even women who experience severe PMS are afford some relief through a proactive PMS diet.
The PMS DIET
Let's first repeat that the PMS diet may not alleviate all PMS symptoms, but can certainly help to reduce them. Proper nutrition has been shown to be essential to promoting hormonal balance in the body and since hormonal flux is what's causing pesky PMS, it makes sense that a finely tuned diet can help smooth things over. The tips and tweaks we're about to impart are easy enough to implement in theory, but—depending on your current diet—may be more challenging to adopt in practice.
If you're really struggling with diet right now, don't compound the problem by trying to refine a shoddy diet. Start with a solid foundation. Our Nutrition Guide and Meal Plan Bundle has everything you need to develop any understanding of and appreciation for proper, balanced nutrition. Just like there's no use building a relationship on a lie, you don't want to try to adopt the PMS Diet without a good understanding fundamental healthy eating principles first. And, a lot of them carry over to the PMS Diet, so you'll have less to tweak when it comes to trying it out.
What to Eat on the PMS Diet
Here are the best foods to eat and avoid when you're going through PMS.
EAT THIS: Lots of Fruits and Vegetables
High in vitamins and minerals, the fruit and veggie rainbow of whole foods will provide your body with many of the nutrients they need for optimal hormonal balance.
AVOID THIS: High Salt Foods/Drinks
Bloat much? Then avoid high salt foods and drinks. The best way to avoid excess sodium is to make your own meals from scratch, since processed foods and fast-foods are loaded with salt. Again, this is where our Nutrition Guide and Meal Plan Bundle will come in handy. There are over 70 recipes and snacks suitable for all dietary lifestyles.
EAT THIS: Calcium-Rich Foods
Research suggests that calcium can alleviate a host of PMS symptoms. Dairy is the obvious choice, but plant-based foods like almonds, chia seeds, lentils, rhubarb, amaranth, soy, figs kale, spinach and collard greens are all solid sources of calcium.
AVOID THIS: Refined Carbs
The anxiety and depression that are part and parcel of PMS can increase cravings for the quick (and short-lived) fix of refined carbs. Thank the alternating levels of progesterone and estrogen which can reduce your levels of happy-hormone serotonin. Opt for complex carbs and whole grains, which are processed by your body at a more leisurely pace, and will not cause drastic spikes in your insulin levels, which can lead to mood swings and more cravings.
EAT THIS: Iron-Rich Foods
For some women, PMS goes away before menstruation, but for others, it can linger for the first couple of days. Regardless, a solid PMS Diet (and strategy in general) involves bumping up your iron levels just before and during your period to replenish what you lose when your period is in full force. Lean cuts of meat are always a good choice, as are shellfish, legumes, spinach, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, soy and dark chocolate (aim for 70% dark chocolate or greater).
DRINK THIS: Lots of Water!
The ol' 8 ounces a day rule is a good guideline, but is not specific enough to account for every factor that impacts our daily water requirements. Your PMS Diet hinges on proper hydration. Drinking plenty of water will reduce bloating, aid in digestion, help quell cravings, and improve focus. Try these infused waters if you enjoy your water with a twist!
How much water should you drink per day?
The exact number can depend on age, gender. Medical conditions and even where you live in the world. A still general, but slightly more accurate way to calculate your water needs is to take your body weight in pounds, divide it in half, and then presto—that’s how much water you should aim to drink/day in ounces. So, if you weigh 150lbs, you should drink 75 ounces of water/day.
AVOID THIS: Alcohol and Excessive Caffeine
Here's the deal: alcohol messes with your hormones, negatively affecting mood, sleep and your metabolic efficiency. You may think a drink or three will help you relax, but it's a short-term fix to a longer-term problem. Excessive amounts of caffeine can also make you irritable and anxious, and thanks to PMS, you might be feeling that way already. Instead, reach for a soothing herbal tea, like chamomile, and sip your way to a more relaxed mind and body.
And relaxed is what we’re all aiming for, since a stressed out mind and body is a body that can’t function. Granted, your PMS may be so severe that even with a PMS diet, you can still barely function some days, but proper nutrition could be the difference between shutting yourself away for a few days a month, and being able to cope.
What are your PMS coping tips? Share in the comments!