Ladies, let's talk about PMS for a minute...
Most of us deal with it, but here's the thing: a lot of PMS symptoms are considered "normal" when what they really are is "common."
Normal: Having an increased appetite the week before your period, when your metabolism revs up and starts burning more calories at rest.
Common: Cravings so intense you end up eating an entire pint of ice cream and a bag of chips.
Normal: Feeling less energetic and charismatic than usual as you approach your period.
Common: Unstable moods that take you from frustrated rage to a tearful breakdown in seconds.
Can you see where I'm going with this? A lot of what is written off as "normal" during PMS is really avoidable. In fact, it can be a sign of underlying imbalances!
So, is chocolate the answer? Or are there foods we can eat to help prevent these symptoms from putting a dark cloud over us seven days of the month?
To find out, I asked four women's health experts to share the nutrition advice they give their clients to fight PMS and here's what they said:
1. Eat More Avocado
According to "The Hormone Diva” herself, a girl should never feel guilty for spending that extra $2 for guac.
Robyn Srigley is a Holistic Nutritionist and Women's Health and Nutrition Coach and she swears by avocados for hormonal health. In fact, she encourages her clients to eat 1/2 to a full avocado every single day!
"Doing this daily for at least one whole cycle (from bleed to next bleed) will do wonders."
Avocado isn't just an Instagram-worthy toast topper. It's also high in fiber, monounsaturated fats, magnesium, and B6. According to Robyn, these are all key nutrients for skipping PMS drama.
"Fiber detoxes excess estrogen and keeps us full. Healthy monounsaturated fats can help lower insulin, reduce cravings and prevent overeating. Magnesium helps with sleep, mood and pain, and vitamin B6 boosts progesterone, energy and reduces bloat."
That Clean Life members can add these avocado-dense meals to their client’s meal plans:
2. Sprinkle Flax & Pumpkin Seeds on Everything
Avoid seedy dudes, reach for seedy foods!
Dr. Ashley Margeson is known as the "Hormone Whisperer" for her ability to take average ladies to Superwoman status through lifestyle changes, and she swears by seeds.
"I spend most of my days helping my patients understand why they’re experiencing PMS, how their anxiety and sleepless nights before their cycle are impacted by their hormones, and how to balance those hot flashes as menopause approaches. In order to do this, I focus on balancing the levels of estrogen and progesterone in the body."
This hormone doc believes food comes before supplements in getting results for her patients. Healthy fats and fiber are not only effective, but they're readily accessible and inexpensive. In her arsenal of foods for women’s health, flax and pumpkin seeds are at the top of the list.
"Flax seeds contain lignans which will block excess estrogen in the first phase of your cycle, and increase estrogen breakdown in a positive direction by generating a higher ratio of the “clean” metabolite 2-hydroxy-estrone versus the more harmful 16-hydroxy-estrone. Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc which supports progesterone production and release for the second phase of your cycle."
Complicated detoxification science aside, Dr. Margeson also emphasizes the importance of a solid poop for preventing PMS.
"The fiber found in these seeds ensure you have a bowel movement on a daily basis, which ensures excess hormones are safely removed from your body."
You can't argue with that.
Here are some awesome recipes featuring both flax and pumpkin seeds to add to your client’s meal plan:
3. Kick Your Sugar Habit
Amanda Laird is a nutritionist, menstruation advocate, podcaster and author dedicated to helping women have healthier periods and she believes blood sugar imbalances play a huge role in why so many women struggle with PMS.
"Avoiding blood sugar spikes - and the inevitable crashes - can help rebalance your hormones and alleviate PMS symptoms before they start, particularly if your energy tanks or you experience depression or anxiety during this time."
So how much sugar is okay for us to eat?
The World Health Organization Sugars Intake Guideline suggests less than 5% of calories come from added sugars. That means no more than about 25 grams per day for most people.
What counts as an 'added sugar'? It's not just white sugar! Any food that has been processed down to contain only sugar counts as an added sugar, including:
- Maple syrup
- Cane sugar (white, brown, or raw)
- Coconut sugar
- Coconut nectar
- Agave nectar
Even these 'healthier' sweeteners contribute added sugars to the diet at about 16 grams per tablespoon, so you should be keeping your intake to about 1.5 tablespoons per day.
Amanda also recommends balancing your meals and snacks to optimize the way your body processes sugars:
"Make sure to include protein and fat with each meal or snack to keep your blood sugar stable no matter where you are in your menstrual cycle."
If you're looking for recipes with no added sugars, you can apply the 'sugarfree' tag in That Clean Life. Here are a few of our favorite balanced, sugar-free snacks to add to your client’s meal plan:
4. Get a Daily Dose of Chia Seeds
Remember when the only chia seeds in your kitchen were in the chia pet sprouting on your counter? Oh, how times have changed!
Dr. Laura von Hagen has a reputation as the "Period Whisperer" in her practice, and she is a big believer in the power of chia seeds for better periods.
Not only are chia seeds a great source of fiber (remember, healthy poops = healthy hormones) but they are packed with PMS-fighting nutrients.
"Hands down, my top PMS-Fighting food is chia seeds. Chia seeds are an excellent source of anti-inflammatory omega-3s, but more importantly, they are packed with calcium."
Turns out, calcium isn't just for keeping our bones and teeth strong - according to Dr. von Hagen, calcium has shown to be one of the most effective supplements for treating PMS in women.
"A typical serving of chia seeds, two tablespoons, has 178mg of calcium. This is more calcium than a ½ cup of milk! My favorite way to consume chia seeds is in chia pudding, especially chocolate chia pudding. It is a delicious, nutrient-packed treat when those cravings start to hit."
We couldn't agree more, which is why we have tons of chia seed recipes on That Clean Life. Here are just a few of our favorites:
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