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Beyond Chocolate: Food solutions for PMS



by Susan Fekety, RN, MSN, CNM



PMS? In a NUTRITION column? PMS is about hormones, right? About moping around because your life is a waste, and the people you live with are slobs, and the people you work with are jerks, and your pants don't fit, and maybe you need drugs – it's just how women ARE at "that time of the month," right? Survey says: wrong. PMS is almost exclusively a disorder of Western civilization; in other cultures, the ovulation-to-period phase is considered a time of creativity, insight, and personal clarity. (How we managed to wire this up as a "curse" has always perplexed me.) Since food styles reflect culture, it shouldn't surprise you to learn that changing culture-triggered food habits can affect many, maybe most, cyclical symptoms. Food based remedies for PMS really work.

Busy women with small children plus work responsibilities are prime PMS candidates, I suspect because they often eat on the run. Toast crusts for breakfast, cheddar bunnies for lunch and sweetened cereal for supper, right? Say hello to the common metabolic triggers behind PMS: the blood sugar roller-coaster plus protein and mineral depletion. Low magnesium is especially common in women with PMS; the best source is green leafy vegetables, and who gets enough of those? Eating sugar further depletes minerals. Refined flour products had all the minerals get taken out of them. Try a bed of spinach instead of rice, and see if you can snack on almonds or something with vegetables and protein every 3 hours. Stopórestóeat food!

Another food habit that can foul up your hormones is eating someone else's, or eating chemicals that act like hormones. If you struggle with PMS, see what happens if you go mostly organic for a couple cycles, especially for animal products (hormone-free meats, poultry, dairy, eggs.) Pesticides and other toxins in and on food often act like hormones in our bodies – and who needs that?

Fiber helps you clear hormones from your system, so focus on whole grains, crunchy fresh fruits and vegetables, especially figs, flax seeds, prunes. Whole foods also contain B vitamins ("stress vitamins") which help with hormone metabolism; that gorgeous rainbow chard you picked up yesterday is just the ticket!

See if you can swap out a coffee or cola habit for a lower caffeine drink or green tea – gradually. Ditto on getting rid of "trans" fats; try to bring in more olive, fish, nut, and canola oils. Caffeine and bad fat can make you twitchy and touchy.

A final tip on vitamins – I'd skip those "women's multivitamins" which contain a bunch of herbs; it's a marketing gimmick and the herb doses are too low anyway. (Your high-quality calcium-magnesium supplement will need to be in a separate pill, most likely.)

If you work on eating well (and exercising) and still have trouble with PMS, check in with a practitioner who knows about these things. Other interventions can help but probably need expert guidance. The more you eat for hormone balance, the less PMS will be bothering you – SOON!




Article © Copyright 2007 by Susan Fekety. All rights reserved worldwide. Duplication or reprints only with express permission of the author or, for a nonprofit purpose, without consent so long as the author's name and contact information are included as follows: "Reproduced with permission from Susan Fekety," These articles are provided for informational purposes only. Their content is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own health care professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem promptly contact your health care provider.




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