Foods to Help Ease PMS Symptoms
While the medical community is not in complete agreement about the causes of PMS, there is little doubt that the mood swings, energy drain, cramping, aching breasts and belly aches are a severe problem for many women. If your symptoms are interfering with your life, you may need help from your physician, but many women find relief with self-help, food & lifestyle changes.
Many experts suspect that the fluid retention associated with the menstrual cycle is either directly or indirectly responsible for a great deal of symptoms. This is good news to some extent, because there are several lifestyle and dietary habits that may help modulate fluid retention.
The primary goal would be to develop overall healthy habits to achieve a good fluid balance. The basic recommendations would include: regular exercise, drink plenty of water, avoid sugar, salt and too much caffeine. Also, for most people a boost in the quantity of fresh fruits and vegetables (5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables daily) will improve digestive regularity, provide powerful nutrients and help regulate fluid balance.
Furthermore, there are several foods that have a significant diuretic effect. By including these foods during the time of the worst symptoms, some relief may be provided: celery (seed and plant), parsley, dandelion greens, asparagus, artichoke, melon (all kinds), watercress, and to a lesser degree: cucumbers and strawberries.
Caffeine is also a powerful diuretic, but should be used with caution during menstrual distress because too much caffeine may increase stress levels and contribute to irritability. Many teas have a diuretic effect, such as: licorice, astragulus and teas especially formulate as PMS supportive. These are generally safe, but use in moderation (2-3 cups per day) because too much diuretic may back-fire and cause a craving for salty foods.
A modest increase in protein consumption also serves as a mild diuretic, and when combined with carbohydrates, may have the added benefit of providing sustained hunger satisfaction and energy.
One of the best ways to calm carbohydrate cravings is to consume the right amount of good, whole grain, complex carbohydrates. While the high protein trend has moderated, many people still shy away from eating adequate complex carbohydrates and then find themselves craving sugar.
Find and use a reliable tool for estimating an appropriate amount of wholesome carbohydrate foods like MyPyramid.gov. While you may not consume that amount of carbohydrate foods on a regular basis, you can use the amount as a guide during the difficult time of the month to provide some “insurance” against craving sugars and other simple carbohydrates.
There are many wonderful complex carbohydrates that are naturally sweet, packed with beneficial nutrients, high in fiber and provide sustained blood sugar energy: sweet potatoes, brown rice, oats, winter squashes, quinoa and all types of legumes.
Essential fatty acids have shown positive impact on the balance of blood sugar and there is some evidence that they may help fight depression. Essential fatty acids can be taken in supplements, but are found in many wonderful foods, such as: nuts, seeds, flax seeds and fatty fish.
Having an appropriate amount of healthy fats daily will also keep your hunger satisfied, aid in regularity and keep you from craving “bad fats.”
Sample Meal Plan for PMS
Breakfast: 1 cup oatmeal, 1 cup of strawberries, 1 hard boiled egg, Licorice tea
Snack: Cucumber & watercress sandwich on 2 slices whole grain bread with light mayonnaise, 12 cashews
Lunch: Big salad: mix 1 cup of dandelion greens with your regular greens, tomatoes, celery, any other veggies, 2-3 ounces of lean protein, ½ cup of any type of bean (garbanzo, kidney, pinto), 2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds and 2 Tablespoons of a light salad dressing
Snack: Chocolate, 2 whole grain crackers with ½ Tablespoon almond butter & a protein shake (1-2 scoop of protein powder and 8 oz. of skim or soy milk)
Dinner: 3-4 oz. Salmon, ½ cup sweet potato, 1 cup green beans, 1 cup broccoli (optional - cook up the rest of the dandelion greens - 1 cup cooked)
After dinner treat: ½ cup sorbet, 3-4 graham crackers, 1 cup fresh fruit
While this type of menu will not cure all your symptoms, it may help to minimize the discomfort. The mix of good, complex carbohydrates, substantial protein, high fiber, high nutrition, essential fatty acids and diuretic foods should help ease symptoms.