Your monthly cycle is entirely down to hormonal fluctuations and, as you experience month after month, the peaks and troughs of these reproductive hormones can have unwanted consequences. Yup, we’re talking cramps, cravings, breakouts, fatigue and irritability.
And while there’s no way to completely fight these symptoms, you may be able to cheat the system and sidestep these unwanted side effects by pre-empting and working with them so that they’re not so harsh on your body.
When it comes to dealing with endocrine ups and downs, it pays to chop and change what you’re eating.
‘Do you body a favour during week one and four and try to cut out caffeine and alcohol – they’re both diuretics, escorting valuable nutrients out of the body, and encourage inflammation and stress throughout your internal systems, which can make cramping, bloating, breast tenderness and irritability worse.’ reveals nutritionist Akcelina Cvijetic.
‘Stock up on avocados, and oily fish as these are rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids and can help reduce inflammation, pain and breast tenderness. Leafy greens like kale, spinach, and rocket contain magnesium, which, when combined with calcium rich foods like tahini and yoghurt, can have a calming effect on your nervous system, helping to ease cramping. Introduce cucumber, fennel and celery into your diet as these are excellent for alleviating water retention, and if constipation is an issue sprinkle ground flaxseeds on meals for extra fibre.’
Hunger strikes during the lead-up to your cycle when you’re more likely to experience an increased appetite and cravings.
This is due to the decline in both oestrogen and progesterone, which can cause major bouts of fatigue.
The body naturally craves energy-boosting foods, and there’s nothing like carbs and sugar for an instant energy hit – which is why you’re drawn to them despite the comedown you know is coming.
Try to avoid sugary foods as they will play havoc with your blood sugar and heighten the cravings and swap for energising foods like nuts, eggs and oranges instead.
The oestrogen and progesterone imbalance also creates a dip in the happy hormone, serotonin.
‘Low levels of serotonin have been associated with increased cravings for sweet foods and carbohydrates too, hence why chocolate becomes a PMS staple. It’s worth trying foods rich in tryptophan like turkey, hummus and bananas as this is a precursor of serotonin and thus can help heighten your mood and reduce your sugar cravings,’ explains Cvijetic.
HORMONE REGULATING FOODS: WHAT TO EAT WHEN
Week one: Chamomile tea, wild salmon and pumpkin seeds
Chamomile tea has sedative qualities and helps relax smooth muscle, like the muscle that lines the wall of the uterus. While protein rich wild salmon and manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, protein and zinc packed pumpkin seeds help maintain energy levels.
Week two: Salmon, asparagus and oranges
Omega-3 rich salmon and vitamin-C packed oranges help to keep cortisol and adrenaline at bay, while asparagus is bursting with mood-enhancing folic acid.
Week three: Spinach and apples
The iron in spinach is a key component of energy production in the body. Apples contain natural sugars, which will spike energy, but thanks to its high fiber content it takes a while to digest, so you’ll experienced the ‘high’ for longer than other fruit options.
Week four: Cucumber, fennel and celery
Sounds weird but hydrating with water-packed foods helps prevent your body holding onto excess and the diuretic effect of celery will help you pee out any excess.
Still feeling tired and cranky? Try this healthy coffee or these vegetarian iron rich foods.