Most women who experience PMS & PMDD symptoms are familiar with PMS food cravings—the kind that ruin many a well-intentioned diet and exercise plan. There is another type of PMS weight gain that results from PMS bloating, but since that is water weight it generally comes off soon after the cycle completes. That’s a very small consolation, though, if you need to fit into a certain outfit on a certain day on which you happen to feel swollen and bloated, not to mention if you are simply tired of getting a bloated, blah feeling for days or weeks every month.
The real culprit in PMS weight gain is those uncontrollable food cravings. PMS cravings can feel downright overwhelming and impossible to control. Never mind that nearly every woman intuitively realizes that the foods she craves before her period: salt, sweet, fat, and starch, usually, are the very foods that can make premenstrual mood, cramps, and bloating worse, while they’re also packing on the inches and the pounds.
We have a couple of suggestions for this PMS weight gain problem. First, focus on what you eat the rest of the month, when you don’t have to battle cravings. By the time the chips are calling to you from the grocery aisle, it may be too hard to resist. If you start eating right from day one, it will actually help reduce premenstrual cravings and overeating. Second, take a good multivitamin with adequate calcium and magnesium (meaning, not a one a day vitamin—those never have enough calcium and magnesium.) You’d be surprised how boosting your nutrition level over the course of a few months can help control cravings: it could be that the vitamins and minerals are what your body and your brain is actually hungering for. Third, drink plenty of water and steer clear of addictive sweet and salty foods. This will help control bloating, and help prevent the cycle of food craving. Finally, try not to beat yourself up about food and weight.
Having PMS or PMDD is bad enough without berating yourself for cravings that are beyond your control. We’re not suggesting you plow through a pint of premium ice cream every day for a week before your period, but you can try to take it easy on yourself; remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can; and remember that you didn’t choose for your hormones to be topsy-turvy. Then, the next chance you get, start over, and get back on your plan. This is the best way to succeed at weight loss and beating those PMS food cravings.
We’re in the home stretch of our review of the Yahoo article “Natural Remedies for Hormonal Health Problems.” The first section included a discussion of whether banana bread is really a hormonal health remedy, while the second focused on flaxseed as a source of fiber and phytoestrogens.
We begin the final installment with “Banish Menstrual Bloating With Nuts.” You won’t find a bigger fan of nuts than us: we like them as a source of protein, healthy fats, and heart-healthy plant sterols. But PMS bloating is something in which we are experts, so we suggest you read what we have to say about it. The Yahoo story says all nuts are a source of the anti-inflammatory fat ALA, alpha-linolenic acid. If you want to supplement your diet with vegetarian Omega 3 fats like ALA, your best bet is flax seeds, which we discussed in our last post. Walnuts are the best source of ALA in the nut family. The single best source for all the benefits of Omega 3 fats is cold-water, wild caught fish, or our enteric coated Omega 3 Fish Oil.
Next we come to “Avoid Acne Flare Ups With Fortified Cereal.” We’re happy to learn that some cereals contain as much as 15 milligrams of zinc, an essential skin and immune system nutrient, though that amount is unlikely to have too much effect on acne. And we’d be wary of trying to treat acne with two of the most common food allergens, wheat and dairy. Plus, the worst acne food is sugar, which makes it’s way into many cereals. In fact, a good first nutrition step to fight acne is to cut out all sweets. A dietary supplement with more than 15 milligrams of zinc might help as well. But the best plan is a holistic program designed for overall optimal hormone balance.
Another tip from this article was to “Cure Cramps With Yogurt.” This is a very unlikely remedies: by itself, yogurt is probably won’t “cure” menstrual cramps (though, again, we like the alliteration!) We think we have much better advice for women with PMS cramps, and menstrual cramps. More people are deficient in magnesium than calcium, because magnesium is harder to get from our diet, and people tend to take calcium supplements without any magnesium in them, so we don’t think using calcium by itself, for cramps or anything else, is such a good idea.
On the other hand, yogurt is a good food source of calcium. I recommend plain non-fat yogurt, not the sugary flavored variety that are more popular. No one needs more refined sugar than they already get. Since cramps are an inflammatory condition, the authors should have known better than to chance the misunderstanding that people would end up eating more sugar.
Next up, “Fighting Severe PMS with Fish Oil.” Ah, now we are in complete agreement! Fish oil and its omega-3 fats are anti-inflammatory and help fight depression, plus they prevent heart disease. You can’t go wrong. Which is why we’ve included fish oil in our program for severe PMS. You know, I wonder if they got this idea from us…
The article concludes with “Preventing Spotting With Soy.” Well, I’m glad they finally got around to soy. This is actually a variation on the hot flashes idea I mentioned in the second post in this series, since soy is a source of phytoestrogens. If this advice was intended for perimenopausal and menopausal women, who can certainly be susceptible to spotting, I’m all for it. But spotting in women in their premenopausal years can be the result of a wide range of conditions. Finally, but perhaps most important of all: spotting can be a symptom of a serious condition. No matter your age, if spotting continues, you should consult with your gynecological health professional.
I’ve had fun with this Yahoo article, but I do find it lacking in substance. Banana bread, fine as an occasional treat, shouldn’t be thought of as a remedy for anything. And the average American should be eating less beef, not more. A lot of this article was pure conjecture, and has never been put to any kind of clinical test. Fortunately, you’re a click away from excellent information on hormonal health remedies and natural relief for PMS and PMDD, so we hope you’ll find our site educational and informative.
What symptoms really mean you have PMS? Many reliable sources suggest there are over 150 PMS symptoms. Academic studies typically rely on a mere 17 symptoms that are often considered to be the true PMS symptoms. Most women have some idea of what most of those 17 are, including cramping, bloating, irritability, anger, headaches, crying easily, and the like.
A 2011 paper published in the Journal of Women's Health followed 1,081 women who were seeking conventional medical treatment for PMS and attempted to determine which of their symptoms were the most accurate predictors of PMS. That is, which symptoms really distinguished PMS from "not-PMS"? Keep reading and you'll find out what they discovered!
This might seem like a waste of time. After all, if you get crabby and crampy every month a week before your period, you have PMS, right? The problem is two-fold: it turns out that when people have to remember and record symptoms, their memory and accuracy are less than perfect. Apparently, we all have trouble comparing how we feel now to how we felt before; and our criteria for what a symptom is, or what its severity is or was, shifts continuously. So, it's important for researchers to be able to distinguish true PMS from "not-PMS."
An illustration might be in order: let's say our patient "Chantal" has actual clinical depression. It makes her lose interest in her usual activities and she has a tendency to withdraw from others when she's feeling down. And, like almost everyone with some depression, some days are better than others. Let's also say that, for cultural reasons, it's difficult for Chantal to admit depression (many cultures have a social taboo against psychological illness) but easier to admit to a condition that tends to be considered physical, like PMS. Since Chantal's symptoms are worse on some days than others, it's fairly easy to pay closer attention before the period and conclude that that is when the symptoms are occurring the most. Chantal probably isn't aware of her own cultural bias either, so she does not have an objective view of her own symptoms.
A doctor or researcher, who wants to help other doctors and researchers treat and investigate PMS, needs to have a way to distinguish PMS from clinical depression that could be mistaken for PMS. In conventional medicine, most treatments are drugs that have side effects and have the potential to cause bigger problems than they solve, so it's important to get the right fit between the diagnosis and the treatment. And, suggesting therapy or counseling to someone who has PMS—a biochemical disorder—rather than depression might end up being pretty frustrating for everyone!
So, back to the study. These researchers found that just six symptoms worked as well as the full 17 symptoms to distinguish PMS from "not PMS."
Those six symptoms: food cravings; cramps; anxiety/tension; mood swings; decreased interest in usual activities; and aches. These symptoms probably sound very familiar to anyone who has, or has had, PMS. Interestingly, this study found that food cravings were the most reliable indicator of PMS.
Does this mean that if your symptoms aren't on this list, you don't have PMS? Not at all. If you have (to pick a few symptoms that were not part of the six) premenstrual headaches, fatigue, irritability, and sadness most months, and these symptoms interfere with your life, you almost certainly do have PMS. What this research tells us is that those six symptoms, when they occur before the period, are very accurate predictors of PMS.
You might have read all this, and still think: "This is silly. What does it matter which six or nine or 18 symptoms I have? They happen every month before my period, so it must be PMS. Duh!" To that, we can only say, this is how medical research works. It's not perfect. It never correctly predicts anything with 100% accuracy. Over time, though, if enough studies can look at a similar set of circumstances from several different angles, we end up with a very accurate sense of what is going on.