The PMS Diet: How To Fight The Cravings

Are you PMS-ing so badly your husband is afraid to make eye contact as though you’re a wild animal, you hurt all over and look four-months pregnant from the bloating, your moods are more dysfunctional than Christian Grey in Fifty Shades Of Grey, and even your beloved dog is hiding away from you?

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When your PMS terror threat level is severe, crazy sugar and/or savoury cravings can be incredibly hard to fight. But are there actually certain foods we can all eat to relieve the physical and emotional horror of PMS?

Research suggests up to 80 per cent of women experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS), previously known as premenstrual tension (PMT). It occurs after the ovulation stage and lead-up to your period. And its oh-so-pleasant symptoms can include irritability, swollen and sore breasts, bloating, cramps, moodiness, acne, mood swings, migraines, food cravings, depression, fatigue, digestive upset and more. The struggle is real, ladies. Very real.

PMS cravings, PMS diet plan, nutritionist advice

What on earth should we eat at this heinous time of the month? Sydney dietitian, nutritionist and author Susie Burrell, who specialises in treating people with hormonal disorders, says it’s true – hallelujah – there is some evidence some foods may lesson PMS symptoms.

“Herbal teas may reduce bloating; carb-rich foods such as sweet potato, brown rice, pasta and bananas may help to produce serotonin in the brain which may help with mood; and magnesium-rich foods, including nuts, leafy greens, avocados and legumes such as kidney beans appear to help in stress management and help reduce headaches,” Susie says.

So, should we all be on a special PMS diet? Yes and no, Susie says – it’s all about fuelling our bodies the right way.

“Most importantly, it comes down to eating really well at that time each month – whole foods, plenty of grains, seeds, nuts, leafy greens and fish to tick the nutritional boxes thought to help prevent and manage some of the symptoms of PMS,” she says.

“One of the most powerful things that can be done is limiting the intake of salty foods around this time as most women will gain 1-2kg of water weight which is why we often describe feeling bloated and puffy. High-salt foods such as pizza, Asian dishes, soy sauce, processed meats and fast food will only increase this fluid retention.”

Warning: New PMS Studies May Induce Rage

Why do we crave just nutritional nasties with a bad bout of PMS? And is PMS a legit excuse to smash down a block of chocolate?

“The interesting thing about the menstrual cycle is that women actually need about 250-300 extra calories each day about a week before a period is due, which may somewhat explain the cravings for sweet, carb-rich foods that are experienced,” Susie says.

“Knowing this, we can then try and limit ourselves to one extra sweet treat or snack rather than a whole day’s worth. For example, if you are craving chocolate, rather than buy a whole block, buy a snack size and feel comfortable that you can eat a little more when your period is due. The key message here is manage your cravings rather than let them manage you.”

What do you think about the PMS diet? Or does eating your bodyweight in pasta help alleviate your PMS?

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Lady Business: Why Australia Needs A Period Help Centre

Has your period arrived like a punch in the face (and uterus), forever ruining your beautiful, new luxurious designer white lingerie?

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Take heart, sister – the exact same thing is happening to millions of other women right now. Small comfort, I know.

I have long though there should be an emergency period help centre for PMSing women and those who’ve just started their period.

“Excuse me, is that the Period Help Desk? I need 20 packets of Tim Tam, a hot water bottle, a packet of Nurofen and a vat of chardonnay right now!

“Oh, and I also need you to take my husband far, far away!”

periods, women's health, PMS

And while as far as I can tell no one’s actually launched this service in Australia – sad face – some bright sparks in the US have stolen my idea, sorry, launched genius business The Period Store via

But before you get too excited about a cool monthly package service that allows you to choose awesome lady products from around the globe – they don’t actually ship to Australia just yet, but easy tiger, they’re working on it.

The cool and clever New-York based start-up allows you to customise your monthly package, to coincide with your menses, whereby you can choose from traditional, alternative, international and/or eco-friendly period products.

Want something decadent and sickly sweet? Or how about some super-comfy period undies? Heat therapy for your poor, sore lady parts? The Period Store has it all and more.

periods, women's health, PMS

You can also pre-order a thousand pads and tampons so you never run out and instead have to rummage around in your bathroom cabinet on a desperate hunt for “feminine hygiene products” when your period unexpectedly arrives in the middle of the night.

Oh the frigging joys!?

God damn, I wish I’d thought of this online store first! It’s awesome, in my opinion and we desperately need The Period Store to start delivering to Australia.

Anyone want to start a petition?!

What do you think – would you buy a monthly care package via a period store?

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Warning: New PMS Studies May Induce Rage

Did anyone else experience PMS-like rage when watching radio and TV presenter Fifi Box on The Project last Wednesday night? Box, in a segment on a controversial, new PMS study (more on that later) boldly declared she would no doubt offend the sisterhood with her somewhat-smug confession she doesn’t suffer PMS.

Say, what?! I’m actually happy for her if she doesn’t, because it sure as hell isn’t something you want another person to have to suffer.

Research suggests up to 80 per cent of women experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS), previously known as premenstrual tension (PMT). And while I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what it is, dear lady reader, but for any men out there reading this: PMS is a condition entailing varied physical and emotional disturbances, due to some pretty serious hormonal fluctuations in a woman’s menstrual cycle, and it affects women and girls of all ages. It occurs after the ovulation stage and lead-up to your period.

PMS symptoms can include irritability, swollen and sore breasts, bloating, cramps, moodiness, acne, mood swings, migraines, food cravings, depression, fatigue, digestive upset and more. Lucky you, Ms Box! Please, tell us your secret?! Hell, I was once so premenstrual, post-babies, with crazy hormones still swirling around, that I may or may not have kinda, sorta, accidentally on purpose nudged my husband with my car upon exiting a fight. His fault for not getting out of the way fast enough, clearly!

So, back to this latest, bizarre new PMS finding, as also revealed on The Project: Professor Michael Gillings  from Macquarie University’s Department of Biological Sciences has controversially claimed an evolutionary basis for PMS. Yep, the good professor believes PMS is actually nature’s way of making women unbearable to live with so that we can get rid of an infertile male to make way for a new, virile male partner whose manly, fertile seed shall populate the earth. OK, I’m exaggerating here, but you get the drift.

“We’ve stigmatised a perfectly normal consequence of fertility at work,” says Prof Gillings, “PMS is not a disease or syndrome, but a normal consequence of evolutionary adaptation ‘similar to morning sickness’,” he says.

And, yet another bizarre, recent PMS study conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto basically said the condition did not exist. Hmmm, try telling that to the eight out of ten sufferers, I say!?

And while some women are very mentally sensitive to hormone changes, while others are not, can we all just agree PMS exists, regardless of its supposed evolutionary role, and look at better ways for women to manage it? Good PMS management involves comprehensive collaboration between a woman and her GP, and an integrated treatment approach, experts say.

And keeping track of what symptoms occur and when, can also make life easier: try some of the highly rated period iPhone apps on offer. My favourite is the free Period Tracker. Or wine – sweet, sweet liquor helps ease PMS pain too, I find.

Period Pain, PMS, PMS Pain, PMS symptoms. PMS studies

How do you cope with and manage your PMS?

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How to Relieve PMS Pain?

It starts with the craving for sugary or carbohydrate type foods, leads to a feeling of disgust for having little or no control over what you put in your mouth and escalates into moods swings, short temper and tears. All that we may be able to cope with, but to add insult to injury the final product generally finishes with tender breasts, abdominal pain and a heavy period. Sound familiar? These are the symptoms of PMS, these symptoms simply indicate that you are out of balance with the natural flow where your hormones work in concert sending signals around your body. Hormones are the messengers that tell your body what to do, they do not just affect the reproductive system.

Your periods can be the best key performance indicator as to how in balance your health is. If you have a healthy diet, get some regular exercise and live a life with minimal stress, you will find that your hormones will follow suit and work in harmony sending messages around the body, as they should. However, the number one hormone disrupter is stress. There are others but let’s deal with this one first. To reduce PMS symptoms you need to ensure that the two major female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone are in balance; PMS symptoms are a result of oestrogen excess.

Stress, creates a physiological response from the body, raising heart rate, blood pressure, releasing free fatty acids and adrenaline. This places the body into a survival state; in this state the body prioritises and deals with only the most important functions. If you are experiencing stress around the time that you ovulate, in survival state the last thing your body is going to do is plan a pregnancy when there is a possible life threatening situation. Of course if you are on the pill then your body doesn’t ovulate at all! Your body thinks it is pregnant due to the massive hormone doses it is spoon-fed on a daily basis. Your doctor will advise if your pill is inappropriate for you. If you are not on the pill, progesterone is made by the corpus luteum, (the crater left behind in the ovary after ovulation); if you don’t ovulate then you don’t produce progesterone. There is however a back up plan, your adrenal glands can make progesterone, that is of course if they are not exhausted through stress, caffeine, alcohol and inadequate rest.

Stress management is one of the first places to start when dealing with the symptoms of PMS. Next stop, balanced diet. It is imperative that you normalise your blood sugar levels by eating low glycemic index carbohydrates. Also ensure that you eat 25 grams of essential fatty acids (omega 3 and 6) daily. Reduce intake of saturated fats to no more than 5 grams a day. Eat protein at each meal: lots of oily fishes, only organic chicken and up to 2 red meat meals a week. Consume loads of green leafy vegetables, 3 pieces of fruit a day and drink lots of water. Not only will you reduce the symptoms of PMS, you will look and feel great too.

By Sharon Kolkka, Program Director, The Golden Door Health Retreat

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