Ladies, we’re all familiar with the dread that looms as that time of the month approaches: the horrible mood swings, the painful cramps and the hormone-fuelled emotional rollercoaster.
Unfortunately, some of us experience these symptoms so severely that they can have a significant impact our daily lives.
But, what if I told you that simple lifestyle tweaks might actually help to ease the pain?
Here’s what you need to know.
How can lifestyle help?
Exercising regularly is atop the list of lifestyle changes to make – and while it’s often the last thing you feel like doing, the feel-good hormones that exercise produces can make it all worthwhile.
An added benefit is that exercise won’t just help with managing your period gripes. Exercising regularly is associated with a range of health benefits, like improving your heart health, reducing your risk of a range of diseases and supporting bone health, too.
Something else to note is that the symptoms of PMS can be worsened by smoking – so if you are a smoker, quitting may help (and your overall health will thank you, too).
Changes to make to your diet
The changes in your hormones before your period arrives can leave you feeling down and stressed, so you might be craving fatty, sugary foods (hello, chocolate and ice cream). But, these foods can cause you to feel sluggish and bloated.
Instead, plan your day of healthy eating to include three smaller main meals plus nourishing snacks.
This is key, as eating regularly can help to avoid excessive hunger, which could otherwise lead to overeating and bloating.
Be sure to include quality, slow-burning carbs, too. Think rolled oats for breakfast, a couple slices of wholegrain bread at lunchtime and legumes with dinner. This will help to manage blood sugars and keep you feeling satisfied (rather than tired and reaching for a sugar hit).
Having enough protein and fibre can also help to stave off cravings as they both work to keep you feeling full. So, aim for a source of protein in each main meal (eggs at breakfast, chickpeas with lunch and fish for dinner are some good examples), and be sure to include plenty of wholegrains, fruit and veg for that all-important gut-loving fibre.
A particular nutrient of interest is omega 3 fats, which may help to reduce symptoms such as depression, anxiety and sensitive breasts, possibly due to their anti-inflammatory effect. So, including oily fish like salmon or mackerel, walnuts and linseeds regularly in your diet could be beneficial, too.
On the list of things to limit is salty foods (like chips, packaged snacks and takeaway meals), as these can also lead to fluid retention and bloating. It’s also wise to minimise caffeine and alcohol in the two weeks leading up to your period, as these can lead to tiredness and bloating, too.
And there you have it! Simple diet and lifestyle tweaks that might help your period suck a little bit less.
Read more stories like this: Period tracking is the key to your fitness goals and How hormones affect your health.
Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au, or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.