Eating to Ease PMS and Cramps: Adventures with Periods, Pt. 1
*DISCLAIMER* I am not a doctor of any sort. These acts of self-care should be safe for most people, but of course please use your own good judgement and seek out help from medical professionals as needed. As always, listen to your body!
One of my greatest accomplishments is something I can't put on my resume, or bring up at a nice dinner, or talk about with most people. But I am going to tell you, because holy cow. I am so proud of this.
I fixed my period.
If you don't get why this is a big deal or are uncomfortable thinking about periods, this post is not for you. That's okay. Really. Just move along. However, if you struggle with your period, I am about to HOOK YOU UP.
There are concrete actions you can take to lighten PMS, ease cramps, and make your period more regular, shorter, and all around less awful. For real. (Why does no one ever tell us this??) I am going to share every period trick I have found with you. Let's start with...
Change diet to boost mood and ease cramps
What was your hypothesis?
I was motivated to change my diet by chronic low energy and crabbiness that became a horrendous mood during PMS. I also struggled with insane, debilitating cramps.
What did your experiment entail?
My acupuncturist recommended less sugar and more protein and fat to help stabilize my blood sugar. She also thought that eliminating gluten would help with my adrenal fatigue/lagging thyroid.
Secondly, I was Googling for natural solutions to PMS and PMDD, and I saw an article recommending spinach, yogurt, oranges...I first thought, "Ugh, how am I going to make myself eat all that healthy stuff when all I want is pizza?" And then I thought, "Oh, that sounds like the ingredients of a smoothie!"
So, to sum up a couple years worth of experimenting, I basically moved from a carb-heavy diet to a gluten-free diet with a LOT of smoothies and more protein and veggies on a daily basis.
What was it like?
It was actually somewhat easy to give up gluten. The less gluten I ate, the better I felt. I was confused because I felt sleeker, yet I didn't weigh any less when I checked. I finally figured out that I had always been bloated! Soon, eating gluten felt more like a punishment than a treat, and it was easy to say no.
Increasing protein and vegetables was more challenging. Sometimes I felt like I was force-feeding myself. Eventually, all the green smoothies I had changed my palate, and I started liking veggies more!
What were your results?
The biggest things I have learned are:
1) Food makes an immediate difference in how I feel. Eating healthy is not just to prevent a heart attack in my 50's, but to keep my system functioning right now. PMS and periods are both more mellow when my body has what it needs.
2) Sugar crashes are REAL. Fiber, protein and fat are super important for me to have sustained energy and positive attitude, especially when facing PMS. Also, eating breakfast and eating regularly is key!
3) Prioritize good pooping. (Aka: Eat fiber.) The combo of constipation and cramps is pure torture. If I have been eating my veggies and pooping well, my belly has room for all the period processing that needs to happen instead of getting into a death lock. Also, gluten totally messes with my digestion, so that is OUT.
Give your body a fighting chance!
Of course, my diet might not work for your body. The message here is not to go gluten-free or eat just like me, but to experiment with your diet and notice how your body responds. I was stuck because my eating habits were based on happenstance, not on my actual physical needs. I had to learn how the food I chose directly impacted my body and how much agency I really do have in my own health and how I feel each day.
Listen to your body, get help from a good dietician/doctor/accupuncturist, and keep experimenting until you find what works for you. We'd love to hear how it goes!
That's all for now, folks! Stay tuned for Adventures in Periods pt. 2. I'll share experiments with movement, chi, yin and yang, and belly rubs!