I can honestly say I've never seen a waiter move so fast. Laura sat across the table from me crying. No. Sobbing. It was only moments earlier that this same waiter had leisurely placed a stack of pancakes on the table in front of each of us. Laura stared at her plate, her eyes welling with tears, as he sat the syrup between us. Within seconds, she was quietly sobbing. I opened my mouth to speak, but the poor, unsuspecting waiter beat me to the punch, asking if something was wrong with her order. I’m not sure how, but she managed to sputter out that he had forgotten the blueberries that should have accompanied her blueberry pancakes. By this time, the sobs weren't so quiet. Suddenly, we were being served by Flash Gordon himself. And you should have seen the mountain of blueberries that showed up moments later.
Now, I myself have never burst into tears over a missing item from my breakfast order, but I've also never ordered a side of Reese’s Cups and had the server not bring them either. I can see how that could send me into a sob spiral during a specific few days each month.
Every woman reacts differently to PMS. A lucky few don’t really react at all. But research tells us that approximately 70-80% of women suffer from PMS-related food cravings, bloating, fatigue, sleep disturbances, mood swings, and irritability – all of which have the potential to sabotage any attempt at a healthy eating routine.
PMS is actually kind of a double whammy. First, you get the cravings. If you're like me, it’s typically for sweet, starchy foods with a back up punch of fat, like, say, chocolate fudge ice cream with brownie pieces (admit it, you’re wondering if there’s any in your freezer right now). Then, your mind says “you don’t need that” but your mood says “the hell I don’t!” And you dig in. A half a carton of ice cream later, you’re standing on the scale freaking out when, really, that three extra pounds you’re seeing isn’t the ice cream and will just as mysteriously disappear from the scale in a few days.
Ultimately, it’s probably a safe bet that if you’re craving something that’s a healthy eating no-no, then your PMS mentality is saying “yes-yes.” Here are a few foods that your healthy diet and your PMS can agree on.
Chocolate – That’s right ladies...I said chocolate. You can run to the store right after you finish reading this. Our bodies crave certain foods for a reason – whether its PMS related or not. Chocolate happens to release calming endorphins that reduce anxiety. Not to mention, it’s high in magnesium which lifts moods and reduces water retention. Now, don’t go out and clear the shelves at the Godiva store. Overindulging in sugar, salt, and caffeine can backfire and cause bloating and fluid retention (not to mention weight gain). So, the word to remember here is moderation.
Carbs – The healthy ones, that is. Not simple carbs (sweets, breads, sugars) that offer a brief feel-good high, followed by a wicked mood change and energy crash. You want the ones like us...the complex ones (whole grains, beans, nuts, etc.). Complex carbs decrease premenstrual depression, moodiness, irritability, and those cravings for their counterparts – simple carbs. Complex carb-rich foods help the mood-enhancing amino acid tryptophan to make serotonin. Low serotonin levels can lead to PMS-related depression, fatigue, and sleep problems. So, you don’t want to have that gauge sitting on the E like my gas tank often is.
Fat – Yes. Fat is your friend. I know, you’re loving me more and more right now. A study in the Journal of Reproductive Health found that women who were given a pill containing a mix of essential fatty acids significantly reduced their symptoms of PMS. Another study published in Nutrition Research, found that women who supplemented their diet with omega-3 also found relief. Bottom line? Don't be shy of healthy fats (avocados, salmon, nuts, olive oil) or you can always consider a high quality supplement too.
Obviously, food isn’t the only way to help ease the symptoms of PMS. You can always participate in mind-body activities such as yoga or tai chi to help calm yourself and increase serotonin levels. Or, my personal favorite, get a massage by an experienced therapist. It offers the same benefits, which is why you’re so sleepy when it’s over and won't leave you crying over blueberries.
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