Last week was the worst. Not because we were sick, but because I was dealing with the “red tide.” What, you’ve never heard someone call a period that? There are a lot of names, actually. Want to hear some more?
- Aunt Flo.
- Shark Week.
Whatever you want to call it, fifty percent of the population deals with it. And I’ve yet to meet any woman who thinks they’re fun. I personally don’t mind the period part so much…it’s the PMS symptoms that absolutely kill me.
Contrary to what tampon commercials would have you believe, I’ve yet to celebrate my period by wearing head to toe white while rolling around in a field of daisies.
That being said, periods are kind of cool. I mean our body creates an environment to nourish a baby every month and then if said baby doesn’t come, disposes of it. And even if you don’t think that’s interesting, you still have to deal with it. For some women, their period is merely a minor annoyance. For others, like me, one week a month can wreak havoc on my life because of PMS.
The causes of PMS aren’t fully understood, but fluctuating hormones and brain chemicals are thought to have an impact. Dr. Christopher Calapai, D.O., a Manhattan Osteopathic Physician board certified in family medicine and anti-aging medicine, says that what women eat and drink also has an influence on how our bodies react to PMS.
Skip PMS Symptoms Next Month
I am cleaning up my (already pretty clean) diet starting now. I have been doing a lot of research about something called the Auto Immune Protocol, or AIP, and I started my elimination phase today. Which got me thinking…if I am going to do this for my thyroid, then why not my period?
Who’s with me? It’s seriously so simple. EIGHT little rules that you have to follow for a week each month.
1. Get More Calcium
Some studies have shown that calcium levels are lower in women with PMS, and that those with the highest intake of calcium reported the mildest PMS symptoms.
Dr. Calapai suggests sourcing your calcium from foods such as low-fat milk and dairy, calcium-fortified breakfast cereals and orange juice, and leafy greens. If you’re struggling to get enough calcium from food, consider a plant-based calcium supplement.
2. Don’t Consume Excessive Sodium
Salt increases water retention. Let that sink in for a minute. If you suffer from premenstrual bloating, limit the amount of sodium you consume in the time before your period.
Eliminate the salt shaker, and cut back on the canned foods, processed foods and condiments, all of which are overflowing with sodium.
3. Drink More Water
Dr. Calapai stated that water can actually alleviate PMS-related fluid retention. Drink plenty of H2O — aim for 8 to 10 glasses a day; more when you exercise — to flush toxins out of your system and reduce premenstrual bloating.
4. Eat Dark Chocolate
Craving the sugary confections like chocolate and cupcakes is totally normal. Try and reach for dark chocolate when you need to satisfy your sweet tooth. As a bonus, dark chocolate has been found to boost your mood as well.
5. Avoid Caffiene
First of all…don’t shoot the messenger! While you may need that daily cup (or two) to function, studies show that caffeine increases levels of anxiety.
Dr. Calapai explains that your blood vessels contract when caffeine is present in your body, which worsens menstrual cramps. Also, for those with loose stool while on their periods, adding caffeine to your diet will make it difficult for your body to retain water and worsen diarrhea.
6. Eat Your Greens
Losing a lot of blood can cause iron deficiency, which could result in lightheadedness or nausea. To counteract this problem, I recommend stocking up on darker greens like spinach, kale and broccoli to get your iron levels back up, but avoid eating them raw.
One of my favorite ways to prepare greens is to sauté them with minced garlic and olive oil for a warm, flavorful bundle of nutrients. It really is delicious.
7. Skip Alcohol
It will only worsen feelings of depression and moodiness. One study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology also found that regular alcohol consumption increased the length and severity of cramps in women who experience cramps during PMS.
It’s just a week.
8. Eat Bananas
Sleep disturbances right before your period are surprisingly normal for many women. Experts at John Hopkins University in Baltimore found that too little sleep made women more susceptible to pain (meaning those cramps will feel even worse).
So make sure to get your z’s by eating bananas, which contain melatonin—a sleep-aid hormone that’s secreted at night and helps regulate our body’s natural rhythms.
That’s it! It’s really quite simple to get your body back on track for the few days each month we girls have cramps, bloating, and fatigue. And, if I can do it, so can you.