Ladies, we all know that dreaded time of the month. The week leading up to your period, when PMS (Premenstrual syndrome) hits followed by the week when ‘Aunt Flow’ comes and visits. If you’re anything like me, during PMS, I go through a whirlwind of emotions and suddenly question everything from my sense of style to my career choices, then, it’s followed by the ravenous cravings for crap like chocolate, sweet desserts or cake.
In the spirit of trying to help you and me – this is how you curb the cravings and exorcise the PMS demons. What you should know is that those weird cravings for chocolate, carbohydrates or salty food is all linked to real deficiencies that the body needs during this time.
1. Death by chocolate!
I am ashamed to say, that I have devoured an entire slab of chocolate in one sitting during my period and then still craved me. According to experts this is really the body crying out for magnesium.
A woman’s need for magnesium increases dramatically between ovulation and menstruation. You’ll be surprised to hear that cocoa beans contain high amounts of magnesium (can you see where I am going with this?). However, if you’re like me, you end up eating those low quality milk chocolate bars which are so processed (hence still craving more), they do not contain high amounts of magnesium anymore.
Try eating good quality dark chocolate containing at least 70% or more of good quality cacao. You could also try organic unsweetened cocoa. Other foods that are high in magnesium are green vegetables and oats. Magnesium can decrease common menstrual symptoms like cramping, constipation, insomnia, headaches, water retention, anxiety and sore swollen breasts. If you experience those symptoms you may find benefit from taking a magnesium supplement.
2. Feeling a bit salty?
The Adrenal glands govern many hormonal reactions in the body. As our hormone levels change, the adrenal glands are working. Minerals are incredibly important to the function of our adrenals glands. When we have a mineral deficiency we crave salty foods. It is important to listen to this craving since it is indicating a deficiency. The type of salt you choose is crucial. Sea salt, sea vegetables (eg. Like Nori that you find in sushi) and water rich vegetables (eg. Watermelon, strawberries, oranges, raspberries or grapefruit) are high in the full spectrum of minerals our body needs. Avoid refined salt, canned foods and packaged goods as these are high in refined salt and do not provide the minerals our body needs during our period.
We also need lots of water for those minerals to move through the body and effectively be used in hormonal reactions. When we are dehydrated we often crave salt since extra salt will trigger the kidneys to keep more water in our body. But, excessive refined salt intake can lead to water retention and a feeling of being bloated and swollen all over your body (you know those “fat days”?). Drink 6-10 glasses of water daily and choose the healthy salty foods when craving salt.
3. WTF – Where’s The Food?!
You literally have what looks like a crime scene in your pants and all you want to do is stuff food in your face. There is a reason for this too – menstruation is a time when women not only shedding a lining of the uterus, but also cleansing toxins and processing emotions that you may have been pushing aside during the weeks prior to your ‘menzies’. This requires a lot of energy, so we may find our hunger is increased premenstrually. It is important to listen to your hunger signals and give your body the nourishment it needs. If you ignore those hunger pangs they can turn into ravenous sugar cravings!
Always eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full and make sure to consume enough protein and healthy fats during the week before your period to reduce sugar and carb cravings.
5 changes that’ll reduce PMS symptoms
1. Changing your diet to a healthier one can make a difference in your PMS symptoms. Up your intake of fruits, veggies and whole grains and cut back on sugar, artificial sweeteners, fat (the bad kind) and salt.
2. Many women find that aerobic exercise helps ease sadness and anxiety, which are both common symptoms of PMS. Get moving for at least 30 minutes at least 3-4 times a week. You can try dancing, jogging, swimming or brisk walking.
3. Alcohol and caffeine can both contribute to those PMS mood swings. Consider limiting alcoholic drinks, as well as food and beverages containing caffeine — coffee, tea, cocoa, and even chocolate — throughout your cycle (I know the last one is hard, but try!)
4. It is important that you get adequate rest and plenty of sleep. Try to get as much sleep as you think you need so that sleep deprivation doesn’t bring on the symptoms. Then make a conscious effort to reduce your stress level. You can try deep breathing, massage, meditation or yoga, which can soothe the mind and body.
5. Speak to your doctor or medical professional about taking a supplement or two to reduce the symptoms of PMS. Eg. Magnesium, evening primrose oil or a good daily vitamin.