The above-mentioned quote can be applied on various topics and issues portraying the food disease correlation but one of the most important examples is the effect of diet on premenstrual syndrome better known by the abbreviation PMS.
PMS encompasses a collection of both mood changes and physical symptoms that may start up to 14 days before menstruation. To list all these symptoms would fill several pages. Consequently, I will select some very obvious symptoms to clarify the food PMS correlation.
On one hand, there are the psychological/behavioral symptoms associated with PMS like depression, fatigue, tension, irritability, sleep disorders, aggression and last but not least food cravings. On the other hand, physical symptoms associated with PMS include among others breast tenderness, bloated feeling, weight gain, appetite changes, acne, back ache and abdominal pain/cramps.
Several studies which observed the diet of women with PMS and compared them to the diet of women without PMS show that women who have PMS eat 63% more carbohydrates , 275% more refined sugar , and 79% more dairy products than women who do not suffer from PMS symptoms to satisfy their cravings. They may also eat more animal fats especially red meat. Unfortunately, all above mentioned eating patterns aggravate the symptoms caused by PMS instead of alleviating them.
In part one of this article, we discussed the various PMS symptoms caused by an imbalance in several hormones during the second half of the menstrual cycle. In addition to this, we mentioned some of the wrong and PMS aggravating eating habits implemented by a lot of females seeking to alleviate the painful PMS symptoms.
However there are dietary recommendations a lot of scientists regard as safe and crucial guidelines in controlling and minimizing PMS blues.
To begin with, a lot of females suffer from bloating and swelling which is caused by premenstrual fluid retention. High salt (sodium) intake either through processed or refined foods (e.g. sweets, cakes. and biscuits) or pickles, increases bloating and water retention. Consequently, if fluid retention is a troublesome symptom, then restricting salt intake is advisable. Furthermore intake of natural ‘diuretics’ e.g. prunes, figs, celery in addition to high potassium foods such as bananas, oranges and dried fruits may all be of value to maintain the electrolyte balance of the human organism whilst minimizing water retention.
Consuming sugar and refined carbohydrates also cause blood glucose levels to increase in a very steep and quick manner. Automatically, adequate large quantities of insulin are released to cope with the glucose insurgents. The resulting hypoglycemia is mainly responsible for tiredness, fatigue or lethargy experienced by a lot of women. On the other hand saturated fats found in red meat and dairy products for example can cause estrogen levels to increase in the blood thus accentuating the imbalance in hormone levels leading to mood changes including irritability and depression.
Last but not least, caffeine included in coffee, tea (black and green) and chocolate belongs to a class of chemicals called metlyxanthines which have a stimulant effect on the body. But too much of it leads easily to nervousness, irritability, mood swings and in rare cases even to panic attacks. It is also said that caffeine has an effect on breast tenderness and fibrocystic breast disease.
The PMS Diet
The following points will give you an understanding of the fundamental principles of a diet constructed to reduce symptoms of PMS.
- In order to prevent fluctuating blood glucose levels, it is better to eat small amounts at regular time intervals. Meals should never be skipped. Large amounts of refined sugar (sweets, cakes and biscuits) should be avoided.
- Salt consumption should be kept to a minimum as salt converts the human body into a salt retentive organism
- Caffeine found in coffee, tea, cola drinks and chocolate should be avoided or substituted by decaffeinated alternatives.
- Dried or fresh fruits in addition to green leafy vegetables should be part of your daily nutrition plan. These fibrous vegetables and fruits will enhance estrogen excretion thus improving PMS symptoms.
- Complex carbohydrates like pasta and brown rice should replace simple carbohydrates as they provide a steady flow of glucose throughout the day.
- The choice of the protein source should be based on lean meat and omega-3- rich fish. Fish should be ingested at least twice during this time.
- The diet should be rich in magnesium, zinc, iron, essential fatty acids, folic acid calcium and vitamins B, C and E.
Fine-tuning their intake will almost eliminate many of the PMS symptoms, associated with highly processed food which is usually vitamin- and mineral poor when compared to the nutrient-packed alternatives. Combine these nutrition tips with a personalized and tailored training program and your PMS symptoms will be past tense.
Dr. Alhussein El-Shennawy
Certified Nutrition Consultant
197,26th of July St, Agouza