Updated: Mar 2, 2020
We all know how the story goes: it might take you to get irritated with your colleagues, shout at your poor dog for making a mess in the hallway and keep dropping office stationery all day long until it finally clicks that your period is on it’s way. You instantly call your husband to bring home some chocolate buttons and Maltesers.
As much as women detest period-related stereotypes and the ‘time of the month’ jokes, we probably know some of it is not far from the truth at all. As much as we don’t want to admit, majority of women surf the waves of cravings, blood sugar imbalances and harsh symptoms that prevent them from having good life quality during PMS and their period.
Is it normal to experience symptoms and what might they mean?
The theory is that 50-100 years ago women didn't experience such harsh symptoms, if any at all. It's likely that strong PMS and period symptoms are linked to increased stress levels, pollution and chemicals, changes in the diet and availability of processed foods that we have plentiful of in our modern lives. But while scientist are working to prove this in quantifiable data, for now it is all guesswork.
Looking at how busy, stressful and complex our lives are, it seems to make complete sense. And although its accepted to take symptoms as ‘something that just happens’, there absolutely is a way to reduce and eliminate majority of these unwanted ‘annoying’ symptoms. And the answer is: hormone balancing.
All hormones in the body are related. If you experience imbalance in one area of your health, it may well affect your whole wellbeing. For example, if your stress hormones are elevated, they will alter the function of melatonin (your sleep hormone) preventing you from getting a good night's sleep. Or if your insulin levels experience a spike, it may also affect your oestrogen levels, which often are responsible for unpleasant PMS and period symptoms that we’re so familiar with.
Too much oestrogen, cortisol and progesterone imbalances, together with a dip in serotonin are often responsible for creating some of these ‘lovely’ symptoms, that people around us can pick up in an instant:
Cramping, bloating and digestive discomfort
Cravings (for sweets, for savoury foods and just lots and lots of FOOD)
Need to control
Poor focus and memory
Poor body image
Loud inner critic
Sounds familiar? Here’s what to do to change your monthly body story.
What to do in the month leading up to your period
Your body likes balance, not extremes. During the whole month in the lead up to your period, you want to focus on doing all you can to keep your hormones in good balance. Especially important in the lead up week as that’s when PMS normally hits.
Here are few tips and tricks how to keep your hormone levels in check.
Since all hormones are related, it is extremely important to make sure that your blood sugar levels are balanced. Make sure you don't skip meals (especially breakfast), don't overdo it with sugar, caffeine and alcohol and keep a good dietary balance. You can find more info on how to get your blood sugar and good balance in my FREE cheat sheet 'Beat the 4 p.m. slump'.
Did you know that eating particular types of seeds at particular times of the month, can regulate your hormone balance and improve PMS and period symptoms? Even if you're a little bit sceptic of what a couple of innocent seeds can do (like I was when I found out about it), give it to go for at least a couple of months until you dismiss it.
If you haven’t heard about seed cycling before, here's what you need to do:
1-14 days of your period have one tablespoon of ground pumpkin seeds and one tablespoon of ground flax seeds
15-28 days of your period have one tablespoon of ground sesame seeds and one tablespoon of ground pumpkin seeds.
Add it to your morning porridge, smoothie, yoghurt or sprinkle over your salads for extra flavour and extra hormonal harmony.
There is no doubt that exercise will boost endorphin levels and create a more positive outlook, help manage water retention in the body and relieve cramps.
However, be aware that excess exercise will increase your ‘king hormone’ cortisol levels and may contribute towards hormone imbalance and make the period symptoms harsher and less manageable.
If you have already started your period, listen to what your body is asking you (psst, it’s probably rest and relaxation). This time of the month switch your spinning class to a relaxing walk in nature and embody the principle ‘nourish, not punish’, especially when it comes to exercise.
Keep a close eye on your levels of cortisol, which is also called your ‘king hormone’ for a reason.
Whenever cortisol is an action, it can alter functions of other hormones, which is why some women
skip or lose their periods when they are stressed.
During a stress response (or ‘fight or flight’ mode) your body pumps out cortisol and adrenaline, which interact with oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone, which are already fluctuating in your system during PMS and periods, causing hormonal havoc.
Make sure you've got a bullet-proof stress relief strategy in place, especially when stress and anxiety get high to bring you into a harmony, body and mind.
There are few go-to supplements that can help manage your nutrient levels through the month.
If you are a stress-head, make sure you always have available magnesium in your cupboard. If around your period you generally experience a lot of bloating and digestive discomfort, take omega-3 fish oil supplement consistently through the month. And if those period pains are getting difficult to manage, get yourself a quality turmeric supplement to manage inflammation and bring you peace of mind.
HELP! Period cravings are kicking in!
What do you do when sweet or savoury cravings get the better of you during your period?
Firstly, you need to understand what cravings are. Cravings are your body's way of telling you that it's missing something and is instead asking for quick energy (yes- sugar, caffeine and simple carbs).
During your period you probably are experiencing one of two types of cravings: emotional or physical, which can be extremely interlinked. Often the main reason that the body is sending you cravings, is purely because it is not getting the time to STOP, REST and UNWIND.
Check out some of my go-to tools to reduce PMS and period cravings within days:
Cancel your evening plans, prep a hot water bottle and have a nap instead (with your cat)
Choose warm, nourishing meals- less salads and raw foods as it will make the digestion process more difficult and might cause more bloating
Drastically reduce stress and retreat to your Zen Den
Drink herbal teas, such as peppermint, fennel and ginger to soothe bloating and digestion and avoid caffeine
Do something nourishing for the body- get a period massage (yes, they do exist!), run a hot bath with
essential oils or do some restorative yoga (crystals optional).
Whatever it is you choose to do, make sure that you don't overthink, worry or go down the negative mindset rabbit hole, as women experience increase negative body image and ‘the inner critic’ is much louder this time of the month. It’s the time to recharge and rest and do physically and mentally as little as you possibly can.