All you need to know about nutrition and your period

91% of you guys agreed that having a period sucks! So let’s talk about it!

When a women hears PMS, they typically think it’s the inevitable cramping, emotions, exhaustion and all the other horrible symptoms that come along with their period. PMS is premenstrual syndrome and comes about 1-2 weeks before your period. Symptoms that I’ve personally experienced include the whole array – from cramping and bloating to irritability and mood swings. *cue my family’s remarks. And actually about 85% of women have reported having at least one symptom. But did you know that what you eat may actually worsen or decrease the intensity of some of these symptoms?

So let’s talk about THAT!

What should you restrict during your period? Alcohol, caffeine, salt and sugar can actually make symptoms worse. And I know what you’re thinking – these are all things that we CRAVE when experiencing PMS. I swear I go from sweet to salty and back a hundred times during my period. And caffeine and alcohol are suppose to boost your energy and mood. But, all of these have been shown to increase cortisol (the stress hormone) and decrease serotonin (a chemical our body makes to regulate mood, social behavior, food cravings, sleep and memory). So restricting these during your period may actually decrease symptoms like fluid retention, cramping, bloating, anxiety and irritability.

What foods can you eat to reduce PMS? Eating a balanced, healthful diet is a start. But, there are also specific vitamins and minerals that studies have linked to PMS symptoms.

Calcium and Vitamin D: Studies have shown a relation between increased intakes of foods containing calcium and vitamin D and a decrease in PMS risk. Symptoms like fatigue, mood swings, headaches, irritability, anxiety and depression that you experience during your period are similar to symptoms you would experience during hypocalcemia (low calcium levels in the blood). Vitamin D is important in the absorption of calcium – so increasing your intake of foods like yogurt, milk, cheese and leafy greens before or during your period may give you the energy and mental boost you need.

B vitamins – like Vitamin B6: Foods such as pork, whole grains, fatty fish and eggs contain vitamin B6, which is a factor in the synthesis of tryptophan (the precursor to serotonin) which affects your mood in a positive way. Studies have shown a decrease in PMS symptoms such as moodiness, irritability, forgetfulness and bloating in women taking B6 supplementation daily.

Omega 3 fatty acids: Fatty fish and fish oil supplements have been studied for their effect on PMS symptoms. These contain dietary fats (DHA and EPA) which have a ton of health benefits including their role in anti inflammatory processes and the nervous system. Studies show that proper intakes of omega 3’s with DHA and EPA have shown to decrease symptoms like depression, anxiety, nervousness and lack of concentration during PMS. Other symptoms studies have found improvement in include bloating, headache and breast tenderness.

Iron: Not only are you losing iron during menstruation every month, but studies have actually shown that women with intakes of non-heme iron (found in plants) had a lower risk of PMS. Non-heme iron is found in leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale and broccoli. Heme-iron, which is found in animal sources (meat and eggs) helps replenish the iron lost through menstruation. And yes, earlier I said that sugar can cause increased symptoms, but dark chocolate is actually fairly low in sugar and packing in iron! So let yourself have the chocolate!

Other tips:

1. Eat small, frequent meals throughout the day.

2. Allow yourself to eat a little more these days! Your body is burning 100-300 extra calories a day.

3. Continue to exercise. Whether it be a walk or HIIT – exercise increases your endorphins, which boosts your mood and decreases lethargy.

Next time Mother Nature decides to bless you with its presence, remember these tips and show it who’s boss!