Today we’re talking hormones, specifically PMS and perimenopause. We cover why you experience certain symptoms, the best foods to eat, the best supplements to take and other self-care tips.
There’s actually a lot of overlap between PMS and perimenopause. In many ways, perimenopause is really just like an extended stay of PMS.
In the week leading up to their period, 85% of women experience at least one PMS symptom. These can be physical and/or emotional. And while it is really common for women, you actually don’t have to suffer with severe PMS symptoms. There’s a lot that we can do to help it without taking birth control pills. It really is about what you do all month round, not just for a few days a month or a couple of days right before your period,
There are five types of PMS. These are:
- PMS-A: anxiety
- PMS-C: carb cravings
- PMS-D: depression
- PMS-H: hyper hydration (in other words, bloating and water retention)
- PMS-P: pain
There are a bunch of theories about why we experience PMS. It can be due to neurotransmitter changes, like fluctuating serotonin levels. This then affects some of our hormone levels, like our progesterone. It can also be due to inflammation, which of course hinges on diet.
Women with severe PMS typically have diets that are higher in things like:
- Refined carbohydrates
- Refined sugar
You can protect against PMS by ensuring you have enough:
- B vitamins (B6, riboflavin and thiamin)
- Omega 3s
Good foods to include in your diet are:
- Leafy greens
- Nuts and seeds
- Legumes like beans and lentils
- Fatty fish like wild salmon
- Vegetables for most meals and fruit once a day
- Nutrient-rich carbs like sweet potatoes, black beans, chickpeas, lentils, brown rice and quinoa
Women with PMS who exercise regularly and frequently are going to have fewer symptoms than women who do not exercise. Cardio seems to help the physical symptoms of PMS more than weight training. And it’s the frequency of exercise rather than the intensity that seems to prevent and alleviate PMS symptoms.
Rest and meditation are also important, and acupuncture is useful for PMS.
Supplements we recommend for preventing PMS are:
- A Vitamin B complex – we love this one from Pure Encapsulations
- Magnesium – our magnesium citrate is great for regularity, otherwise magnesium glycinate is a good option
- Curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) – avoid this for seven days before menstruation and three days following because it is a mild blood thinner
If you take those supplements for a few months and don’t notice a difference, try these ones:
- Vitex (also known as chasteberry)
- St John’s wort
Menopause is when you haven’t had a menstrual cycle for a 12 month period or it can also happen if women have their ovaries removed so a lot of what people refer to as menopausal symptoms are really perimenopause symptoms. Perimenopause starts when your hormones are beginning to change, usually from 35 to 45. From 45 to 55 on average is when the symptoms really start to take effect. Your body’s producing less estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, and it can really feel like perpetual PMS.
In fact, a lot of the PMS symptoms that you’ve had once a month leading into perimenopause are a good indicator of the severity of your symptoms in perimenopause. Perimenopause can include sleep changes, hot flushes, weight changes and headaches, mood tornadoes, hair changes, hair loss and changes to your libido. These changes can go on and on and on for almost a decade but if you prepare, you can definitely breeze through this.
One of the first things we do for all females from 15 to 55 is have them track their cycles. We use these apps:
Another way to track your hormones and check if you’re in perimenopause is through bloodwork, especially if you feel like you’re doing everything right but you’re gaining weight around the middle.
Before we get into the food and supplements we recommend, one thing that can really, really help is focusing on food timing. Our general rule of thumb is fasting for at least 12 hours overnight. So that could be 8am to 8pm. For a couple days, you might want to squish this a little and have it be 8-10 hours. And then keeping it to max one snack max per day. Give your body a little bit of a digestive rest during the day by keeping 3-4 hours between mealtimes.
Pay attention to portions, especially at night, and have your biggest amount of protein at lunch.
Include protein from animal foods such as eggs, meat and fish. Collagen is a great type of protein with skin and hair benefits. There was a study that found that eating salmon and legumes (beans, lentils and chickpeas) twice a week for each of them delayed menopause by a couple of years.
Other foods that can really help with perimenopause symptoms are:
- At least one serving of cabbage, broccoli cauliflower or asparagus per day
- At least one leafy green per day
- A Brazil nut per day
- Foods rich in Vitamin C like papaya
- Green tea
Limit coffee to a maximum of one cup per day and alcohol to four drinks or less per week.
Exercise is a definite yes for perimenopause. But exercise that’s too intense is going to be at the expense of your hormones.
Make time for regular relaxing activities such as:
- Epsom salt baths (not if you suffer from hot flushes)
- Walks outside
- Breathing techniques
Hugging and masturbation also help with hormone levels.
Supplements we suggest are:
- Our Foodtrainers’ Favorite Foursome
- Adaptogens like ashwagandha, rhodiola and maca (some of these can be phytoestrogens and change your testosterone a little bit so just pay attention to how it’s impacting you)
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
- A probiotic or digestive enzymes for gut health
- Dandelion tincture or milk thistle for liver support
- Sage (in supplement or tea form) for hot flushes
- Omega 3s
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