Give Aunt Flo the heave ho with these healthy hacks
“PMS is caused by lowering progesterone levels which impacts blood sugar levels and can lead to sugar cravings and irritability,” says Dr Marion Gluck (mariongluckclinic.com), a GP specialising in women’s health. “Avoid stimulants like coffee, complex carbohydrates, sugar and foods with a high glycemic index as these can also impact your blood sugar levels. Try to opt for organic meat as it won’t have been treated with antibiotics which can act as a hormone disrupter,” Marion tells us.
We have the delightful fluctuation of hormones oestrogen and progesterone to thank for this uncomfortable swollen midsection as they increase fluid retention. Integrated health and fertility specialist Emma Cannon (emmacannon.co.uk) suggests being a little smarter about your snacks. “Avoid any fermentation in the gut, which means no raw food after 4pm and fruit only at the start of the day,” she says. “Try to schedule a light, early dinner and be sure to include good fats and cold pressed oils – hemp, pumpkin or olive are great lightly drizzled on vegetables or soups. My favourite tip is to have a small glass of red wine with food as the antioxidative polyphenols can curb the growth of destructive bacteria making it ideal for digestive support.” You don’t have to tell us twice!
Afraid not. Although sweating it out is the last thing you feel like doing when you’re tired, achey and bloated, studies have shown that an increase in serotonin leaves (bought on by exercise) helps symptoms such as a low mood and painful cramps. But, instead of forcing yourself to carry out your usual HIIT session, Marion suggests listening to your body and what it needs. “Pilates, yoga and tai chi are helpful during PMS as they focus on pulling your energy inward and the stretching element can ease tired muscles and alleviate cramps.”
There aren’t many ailments that popping a pill can’t aid but sadly, we’re stuck with this one. However, just like the Tampax advert, mother nature crops up everywhere and can be the cure as well as the cause of our pain. “Evening primrose is ideal to help stabilise your hormones while magnesium and multivitamin B complex are great for calming any PMS-induced anxiety,” Marion advises. “We’ve all succumbed to the dreaded mood lows at some time or another but taking valerian passiflora and St John’s wort can balance out moments of irritability.” As if that wasn’t enough to deal with, we also have the external dilemmas of dry skin, greasy hair and skin breakouts to contend with. Emma recommends including omega 3 to combat such beauty dilemmas.
If there’s one positive to take from that time of month, it’s an ideal time to indulge and not feel the least bit guilty. “Taking a warm bath can be a wonderful way to de-stress and take some me-time. Consider adding magnesium salts and essential oils such as lavender, epsom salts, rose and clary sage essential oils to rid your muscles of any aches and calm your mind,” Emma says.
There’s no convenient time to have your period but when a packed work diary is thrown in the mix, it can make things a little, well, tricky. “Stress releases and increases our adrenalin and cortisol hormone levels signalling to our body that we’re in danger which has a major impact on our cycle,” Marion explains.
In Chinese medicine, stress causes the Qi (our life force that flows within us) to become stagnant, causing pain, frustration, bloating and mood changes. “Acupuncture is the best treatment I know for treating this. It is extremely effective in improving all symptoms,” Emma tells us.
Despite convincing ourselves that we’ve ballooned in size in the days leading up to our period, that chocolate muffin binge last night is unlikely to be the cause. Although weight gain around five days before our period is real, it is usually temporary. Preperiod water weight can range from half a pound to 10 pounds but tends to go back to normal when menstruation starts. It sounds counterproductive but drinking lots of water at this time will trick your body into not holding on to it thus relieving water retention.
It may not seem like an obvious link, but yes, it can. Gluten can place a great deal of stress on your adrenals (the little glands that sit above your kidneys and help the body deal with daily stress). When our adrenals become exhausted, they will produce stress hormones at the expense of our sex hormones. This can lead to oestrogen dominance with symptoms such as heavy bleeding, irregular menses, fibroids, endometriosis, breast tenderness, depression and infertility. “If you struggle to go without gluten completely, try to cut it out for the duration of your period at least,” Emma advises. “Serotonin (the mood stabiliser chemical) is manufactured in the gut, therefore if the gut function is improved then often the hormones come into balance too.”
Loaded with essential fatty acids, evening primrose helps to reduce pain associated with PMS including breast pain, mood imbalances and water retention.
Good Evening Primrose, £21 thegoodguru.com
Research shows that taking a whiff of lavender for 10 minutes can help alleviate the feelings of depression and emotion that are often associated with that time of the month.
Amber and Lavender Bath Oil, £40 jomalone.co.uk
Yoga and Pilates are great for stretching aching muscles. Try child’s pose, one-armed camel pose and arching pigeon pose to feel a little more human again.
La Vie Boheme Yoga Mandala Mat, £53.40 sweatybetty.com