By Alisa Vitti / Reprinted with permission from Well + Good
You’ve seen it a million times: That crazy, cranky, above-all-else hungry female character depicted in movies and TV shows for decades on end. She’s a played-out stereotype that unfortunately continues to represent how much of society perceives women during that time of the month, which is apparently so alienating and disturbing to viewers’ delicate sensibilities that it can’t even be named. That’s right, she’s about to get her — gasp! — period, and she’s got a raging case of PMS.
PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) has essentially become one big societal joke. Isn’t it hilarious that ladies can’t seem to control their cravings for chocolate? Isn’t it scary how moody and downright depressed they can seem for several days of the month?
Aside from these tired assumptions being flippant and dismissive, they’re problematic because they reinforce the notion that all of this is normal. The images we see in the media and the statements we hear all around us would have us believe that cravings, cramps, and out-of-control emotions are inherent, inevitable parts of womanhood.
I’m here to tell you: It’s just not true.
What the Heck Is PMS Anyway?
Even though it stands for pre-menstrual syndrome, PMS doesn’t necessarily occur right before your period. The symptoms can hit anytime between ovulation and menstruation, during the second part of your monthly cycle, also known as your luteal phase. During this time, many women — you included — may experience everything from bloating and ravenous hunger to acne and anxiety.
But, believe me when I say, PMS is not normal. That in no way means you’re abnormal for having it. It means you’re experiencing a hormonal imbalance that’s triggering this monthly avalanche of symptoms, just like many other women around you. Usually this imbalance is caused by too much estrogen, coupled with low progesterone and key micronutrient deficiencies, and it causes your body and brain to go on a completely un-fun rollercoaster ride every month.
What Do I Do About It?
Forget the pills and potions. They are not effective enough to combat what is going on in your system when your diet has left your hormones off-balance. Further proof that there is no magic bullet: Many women who take birth control pills still struggle with PMS, even though they are on the supposed cure-all of synthetic hormones.
You can only truly take control of your PMS symptoms by adjusting your diet. Changing up some of what you eat and drink during this time will help rebalance your hormones and make the monthly transition smooth, easy, and maybe even symptomless. Most importantly, eating these things not only helps alleviate symptoms in the short term, but over time, these foods can put an end to your PMS permanently.
I repeat: You do not ever have to have PMS — if you eat to balance your hormones.
If PMS is making you miserable, try adding these five hormone-healthy foods for the next three months and see how much better you feel:
Kale and all of its brassica family cousins contain indole-3 carbinol, a powerful hormone balancer. This compound promotes estrogen metabolism, which will help eliminate excess estrogen and prevent estrogen dominance.
Say goodbye to sugar cravings and get a healthy dose of vitamin A, an important nutrient that helps your liver break down excess estrogen, balances your mood, and keeps blood sugar stable.
Skip the ice cream aisle and try a probiotic-rich coconut alternative that’s full of live cultures and healthy fats — it will help stabilize your mood and combat cravings.
These delicious, versatile little beans are high in vitamin B6, which is an important player in progesterone production. Not only will low progesterone induce stress and period problems, but low B6 can exacerbate estrogen dominance. Regularly eating chickpeas can remedy those problems.
Not only is it the hottest food trend since cold-pressed juice, but bone broth is chock-full of magnesium and calcium, two electrolytes that help prevent the headaches and migraines that often accompany PMS.
For acute cases, I have women in my practice do a four-day estrogen detox — which you can download here for free and try the next time you start ovulating, to head off PMS at the pass.
Remember: Once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you. You can do this — the science of your body is on your side!
Alisa Vitti, HHC, is an integrative nutritionist, best-selling author of WomanCode, and the founder of FLOLiving.com, a virtual health center that supports women’s hormonal and reproductive health. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Alisa has been featured on The Dr. Oz Show, has a web series on Lifetime, and has been a regular contributor for CBS, Fox, Shape, Women’s Health, MindBodyGreen, and the Huffington Post. She serves on the Yahoo Health advisory board and is an advisor to several health and health tech startups. She has presented at TEDx, [email protected], Summit Series Outside, Hay House, WIE Symposium, and SHE Summit. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.