I used to be a really stereotypical girl. When I was in high school, I was super friendly and chatty and positive...most of the time. The obvious exception, and most women will understand this, was that one week of every month when I was pretty annoyed by pretty much everything. For those seven days, I was always uncomfortable - physically and mentally - no matter what I did.
The symptoms of premenstrual syndrome and numerous, and vary in their severity, but the most common are:
- Painful cramping
- Fatigue and Headaches
Another downside for people trying to be healthy: PMS makes you crave the wrong kinds of food and throws your diet plans out the window.
Even though we usually assume periods come at the ends of things, your period actually begins your menstrual cycle. Estrogen and progesterone, the two primary sex hormones in women, fluctuate throughout the month, and levels of both drop sharply pre-period, which is why symptoms of PMS begin slightly before the onset of your period and taper off a day or two in.
Even if PMS didn't mess with your diet plans and exercise goals, it'd be a real drag. Not to mention the fact that, if you completely abandon your healthy lifestyle while you're menstruating, you're ultimately losing 25% of your life to bad foods and a Netflix queue of television shows.
While there's no way to avoid PMS, there are steps you can take to ensure it doesn't destroy your mood and zap your will to keep your health and diet plans on track.
- Make sure you're getting enough calcium: There is some evidence that getting the recommended daily dose of calcium lessens the effects of many PMS symptoms. You can get calcium from sources you've always known about (dairy, albeit sparingly), and some you may not have (leafy greens, broccoli and sardines)
- Smaller, more frequent meals and less salt: Bloating is one of the main causes of PMS discomfort. No one likes it when their clothes are too tight. Avoid big meals, and limit your intake of salt, which may increase water retention (and, by extension, bloating).
- Stock up on complex carbs and fiber: There's evidence that complex carbs and foods rich in fiber can improve mood and help you control cravings. Go for whole grains, legumes, fruits and veggies.
- No sugar: If you've been following BD for long, you already know about my aversion to sugar. Add this to the list of reasons to banish it from your diet plans: spikes in your blood sugar can make you irritable. Stay off processed foods (preferably always) and cut back on sugars as much as possible.
- No caffeine or alcohol: It's just a week! There's evidence that caffeine makes cramps worse, while alcohol may increase symptoms of PMS
- Sleep and Exercise: Remember that your diet plans don't stop with your menu. Getting a good night's sleep is essential to a positive outlook even when Mother Nature isn't working against you. Meanwhile, exercise releases endorphins, which help boost your mood and lessen feelings of depression that sometimes accompany PMS. Exercise also increases circulation and improves feelings of fatigue.
Some women - in very rare cases - suffer from PMDD, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, which may require medication. But for most women, sticking to healthy diet plans and remembering to exercise will make "that time of the month" just another week.