Lifestyle and Diet Strategies for PMS and Menstrual Irregularities (Part Three)

Estimated read time... 7 minutes

Lifestyle and Diet Strategies for PMS are a vital part of resolving PMS.

If you aren’t moving enough, from being sedentary or from fatigue and lethargy, this can contribute to PMS symptoms.  Moving is key to keeping the blood flowing in the body. If we don’t move, our blood and energy gets stuck and stagnated.  Remember the river analogy from before?  Think of your body’s blood and energy as being a river, if the river doesn’t move (whether it be blocked by a dam or rocks, or not enough water to keep it flowing) – the water stagnates and turns slimy and gross.  This is especially true with your Liver and moving, the Liver loves it when you walk because it helps the Liver do its job of keeping everything moving and flowing smoothly that much easier.  Help and love your Liver by moving, whether it is walking or some other kind of movement.

Movement is not “exercise” (I don’t really like “exercise”.) Movement can be walking, hiking, bicycling, swimming, dancing, gardening, household cleaning, playing with the kids or dog, anything that gets your heart-rate up and your blood pumping!   I particularly like movement outside in the sunshine, the sun is like a light shining through to the innermost part of you. Couple movement and sunshine together and you have a fantastically simple way to benefit your self and body at the same time.

Whittaker Falls Park, Lowville, NY

Lack of creative expression and lack of emotional expression and release is a surefire way to guarantee PMS every month – find a way to release your emotions and express yourself creatively.  As the Liver is the seat of creativity, when you express yourself Liver loves you for it! Suppressing emotions stifles the Liver’s ability to ensure the smooth flow of Qi and Blood. Remember that Qi is energy? Positive and negative thoughts and emotions are also energy, and thus affect the body.

Some examples of expressing yourself: journal, draw, paint, garden, sculpt, knit, stitch, cook, clean, move, talk, sing, scream, make music, dance. Sometimes I’ll color in a coloring book, draw mandalas with crayons, or doodle circles and squares if I’m not feeling particularly creative; other times, I’ll rearrange my closet or create a playlist to listen to during the day. Rearranging furniture, decorating the house, and cooking a new dish all help to express your creativity. The advantage to creative expression is that it allows the mind to take a backseat, while letting your self, your soul, come to the forefront. The mind gets quiet, and you are connected to your true self.

Emotional expression is vital to the healthy body and soul.  When you do not release the emotions that are within you, and instead keep them under a lid, your body is forced to shuttle those bits to different parts of the body.  How this manifests is different person-to-person the consistent factor with everyone is that the Liver is affected, and with women often the lidded emotions “erupt” as PMS.  If you are unable to express how you feel with your loved ones in a supportive and non-judgmental environment, find someone who you can work with (be it a therapist, spiritual advisor, doctor, mentor, teacher, herbalist, etc.)  Helpers, as I like to call those who help us on our paths, often appear just as we realize we need help.  Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone who you think may understand what you are going through.

We are what we eat.  If you are not eating a nourishing diet that is rich in whole foods, foods high in omega-3 rich foods (such as wild salmon, grass-fed organic humanely raised meats, evening primrose or borage oil), and fresh vegetables, you can become sluggish and your body is unable to support the demands that is placed upon it.  A good metaphor is to think about what happens to a car when you put the wrong gas in the tank – the car can’t perform the way it is supposed to, and develops lots of problems!

 

Here’s a simple healthy-PMS shopping list for you:

Foods to avoid:

  • Dairy
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine (coffee, black tea, colas, chocolate, mate)
  • Nuts and nut butters – small amounts are okay
  • Avocados
  • Chips
  • Flour products
  • Fried, fatty, greasy foods
  • Sugar
  • Refined and processed foods
  • Turkey and red meat that is not grass-fed organic

Foods to enjoy:

  • Dark leafy greens
  • Cooked vegetables
  • Whole grains and seeds (quinoa, rice, barley, amaranth, millet, wild rice, etc.)
  • Legumes, beans, lentils
  • Meat, eggs, omega-3 rich fish – as appropriate for your needs
  • Small amounts of fresh fruit

In other words, cook your own food, purchase your food in as close to its original form as possible. This ensures that the food you ingest is easier to assimilate and nourishing to your body. Eating this way does not have to be boring, monotonous, or distasteful (nor does it have to be a lot of work.) Look at eating this way as the ultimate gift to your body and self.

From the women that I’ve spoken with regarding PMS, removing dairy was one of the number one helpers for relieving their PMS symptoms.  It took less than two weeks for one woman to notice the positive effect on her menses at the end of the two weeks.  Are you the part of the population that gets phlegm or mucus after eating dairy?  If so, I suggest removing it for at least two cycles, preferably three, and reassess how you are feeling at the end of that period of time.

 

The key with cravings is to figure out what it is that your body is asking for, in many cases your body is asking for nutrient dense foods, vitamins, and minerals. Cravings can also indicate a “lack of” emotional support or expression.

Be aware of and learn when  your craving is from an emotional lack, boredom, or need to express (or stuff) versus a physiological need.  It may take time for you to figure out which is which, when you do, you will feel more empowered when it comes to your food and nourishment needs at that time of the month and always.

Carbohydrate cravings also can take over at this time. Carbohydrate cravings can indicate a need for more protein in the diet, if you add more protein to each meal, in the form of lentils, beans, eggs, fish, meat, seeds, etc., you will notice a significant improvement in your carbohydrate cravings.  If plain-old sweets are what you crave, take or eat something bitter, have a glass of water, then wait 10 minutes to see if the craving is still there.  After that, well, the rest is up to you…

For years we’ve been told that chocolate cravings indicate a magnesium deficiency. Why is this?  Raw cocoa powder (a 2.5TB serving) contains 92mg of magnesium (according to the FDA, that is 23% of the RDA.)  That pretty much means that if you eat that whole bar of dark (80%+) chocolate, you are getting a whole lot of magnesium that you are mostly likely not otherwise getting daily.  But, I am not telling you to eat the whole bar of chocolate!  I’m explaining why eating all of that chocolate tastes and feels so good to your body.

Magnesium’s role in the body is to relax the muscles, and it is crucial for enzyme creation and responses, to name but two of magnesium’s many functions in the body.  Do your muscles twitch, are you irritable, suffer from muscle spasms, have tender breasts, or have painful menstrual or muscle cramps?  If so, your body is screaming that you need magnesium!

To address, take strong Epsom salt baths, a magnesium supplement (citrate, glycinate taurate, aspartate, chelated magnesium, malate, succinate, fumarate are the best forms), and eat foods rich in magnesium.

About magnesium supplementation: You can take from 400mg to 1,000mg of magnesium per day, the RDA for magnesium is 300mg/day – the RDA amount is not enough to maintain a healthy balance of magnesium in our stressful day-to-day lives. The more stressed out you are, the more magnesium you lose because the stressed body creates a vitamin B deficiency which then leads to magnesium deficiency because the body needs B-vitamins to absorb magnesium.  Note: ensure you are taking a B-vitamin with B2, B5 and B6, since B-vitamins help the body absorb magnesium. Bonus tip: this information also applies to migraine sufferers!

A possible side effect from taking too much magnesium is diarrhea/very loose stools. According to several sources, magnesium glycinate prevents this from happening. If you do not have magnesium glycinate, but magnesium citrate (for example) start off with a minimal dose (ie 125mg if you are not taking any at the moment) and work your way up over the course of several days and weeks until you reach what is called “bowel tolerance.” Bowel tolerance is a nice way of saying that you experience loose stools/diarrhea. When you do reach bowel tolerance, back off the dosage of Magnesium slightly, and monitor how you feel. I prefer a combination of topical magnesium (Epsom salts, “oil” – which is a super saturated solution of magnesium chloride and water) and internal magnesium.  This two-pronged approach allows for the muscles and parts of the body that need the magnesium the most (i.e. – tight calves) to get the topical treatment -skin is the body’s largest organ- while the rest of the body gains benefits from the internal treatment.

While you are working on your magnesium supplementation, eat Magnesium-rich foods: Figs, dates, spinach, swiss chard, beet greens, pumpkin seeds, collard greens, avocado, parsley, beans, barley, dandelion greens, almonds, brazil nuts, filberts/hazelnuts, wheat germ, kelp, dulse, pecans, walnuts, sesame seeds are some foods that are high in magnesium.  (Limit your nut intake, as nuts can clog up your Liver’s works!)  Remember, so much of our soil has been depleted from over-farming, and poor farming practices, that even if you ate a magnesium-rich diet you’ll most likely still need to supplement magnesium.  As with everything, monitor how you feel and react, check in with your healthcare practitioner, and have your blood levels checked by your doctor.

Here’s a magnesium-rich recipe, just for you!

  • Boil one bunch of: organic spinach, swiss chard or beet greens in salted water until tender – drain, squeeze out excess water when cool enough to handle.
  • Grind 2TB pumpkin seeds to a fine powder, set aside
  • In a separate bowl, combine sesame tahini (2TB), rice vinegar (1TB), soy or tamari sauce (1/2TB), and water (1/2TB) – stir to combine
  • Once the liquids are combined, stir in the pumpkin seeds.
  • Season to taste with additional vinegar, salt and pepper
  • Dress your greens with the dressing – enjoy!
  • This is even better if you have it with a piece of wild salmon!

 

When making any changes such as these, give yourself at least 2-3 cycles to adjust and see if changes are happening.  Write down how you feel month-to-month, note any changes you’ve made, have felt, and anything else you think is worth mentioning (out of the ordinary or not.)  When you do this, you’ll see if the changes you’ve made are helping in the long-term or not.  So often we think what we are doing is not working, when we often have made great strides and don’t see it because we are in it.  Having it written down shows us the progress we’ve made.

In Part Four, we will explore herbs and techniques that are commonly used to promote a healthy menstrual cycle.

 

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  1. […] with your corresponding pattern and herbal suggestions, as outlined in the PMS posts: Two, Three, and […]

  2. […] type cramps, what you eat is a major impact in how you feel from month to month. Refer back to the PMS post on diet for the foods to eat and foods to avoid for optimal Qi and Blood flow. In short: eat whole foods, […]

  3. […] type cramps, what you eat is a major impact in how you feel from month to month. Refer back to the PMS post on diet for the foods to eat and foods to avoid for optimal Qi and Blood flow. In short: eat whole foods, […]

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