Oh yes! That tub of ice cream looks delectable! It would be so easy to just reach out and grab it – that delicious, ice cold, chocolatey, gooey pint of ice cream! It might even seem like the answer to all your issues - irritability, craving and hunger all in one. Well, while that might be how you feel – it might be a good idea to pause and review your craving to ensure you don’t suffer from unnecessary stress later during your menstrual cycle.
Periods – something all women go through as their bodies prepare to bear a life and support it. A beautiful and magnificent phenomenon which is unfortunately very underappreciated on account of the discomfort and pain it is usually associated with.
The menstrual cycle is known to cause pain to women at some point in their lives… almost 80% of them. Let us understand a little more about this phenomenon.
- Menses are on many occasions and for many women preceded by conditions known as premenstrual syndrome or dysmenorrhea.
- These are usually on account of the extreme changes in the hormonal levels that a woman’s body goes through just before and during their menses.
- The list of potential symptoms of these conditions includes emotional or behavioral signs like tension, anxiety, irritability, stress and change in libido to physical signs like backaches, headaches, acne flare ups, breast tenderness and abdominal bloating.
- The causes include three fold: cyclical changes in hormones, chemical changes in the brain and depression. All 3 or a combination of them are known to aggravate the symptoms.
- The severity of PMS varies from woman to woman. Some suffer immeasurably while some go through only a mild version of this.
- The reason for this variation in the symptoms is a combination of factors like heredity, lifestyle, food intake and level of fitness.
- Those with severe conditions are known to suffer from premenstrual dysphoric disorder i.e. PMDD.
- PMDD is accompanied by symptoms such as depression, mood swings, anger, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, difficulty concentrating, irritability and tension.
- Symptoms usually start a week before the menses and go away in the first four days of menses.
While it may seem overwhelming to suffer through every month, certain changes in one’s lifestyle and diet can help relieve the fallouts of the symptoms.
First, let us understand the changes in our lifestyle that would bring about symptomatic relief and then majorly focus on the foods that will make your periods easier.
- Incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Even if you have a very hectic life, ensure that you include at least 30 minutes of a workout into your day. It could be yoga, cycling, swimming or even a brisk walk.
- Get plenty of sleep and if possible on a regular basis. Keep your sleep timings as structured as possible.
- Deep breathing exercises and meditation are known to alleviate the pain associated with PMS or periods.
- Reduce the levels of stress to a minimum in your daily life.
- Indulge in a massage to relax your muscles to help them deal with the pain and become stronger.
- Treatments and alternative therapies like vitamin supplements, herbal remedies and acupuncture may help too.
Getting to the crux of the problem – the craving and the food and intake of it during PMS. Here are some basic rules to help make the periods easier:
- Cravings are a part of the symptoms. However, giving into them causes more harm than good. Not only is it unhealthy to consume all that you crave, especially the quantities that will satiate you, but it also aggravates most of the symptoms.
- It is important to modify your diet to deal with PMS and PMDD. Eat smaller, more frequent meals. This helps with reducing bloating in the abdomen.
- Limit salt and sugar in your diet. They act like direct poison for the system and lead to bloating and water retention.
- Fruits and vegetables which are rich in complex carbohydrates relieve multiple symptoms. Eating sticks of carrots, papaya slices or even green vegetables help with the periods.
- Consume calcium in some form – dairy or a supplement whichever suits you better.
- It would help immensely if one could avoid caffeine and alcohol especially in excessive quantities.
- Dark chocolate is good to indulge in when craving something sweet or chocolatey.
- Foods rich in omega 3 fat such as nuts, fish, seeds, eggs and the green vegetables help immensely.
- Cruciferous foods like cauliflowers, broccoli and cabbage are rich in Sulphur which help with the estrogen levels.
- Horse gram is the wonder bean for easing period related symptoms. It is a good astringent and regulates the digestive system. A fully functional digestive system is ideal while experiencing periods.
- It is best to avoid food which is difficult to digest a week before your periods are due – so no sprouts, fibrous items or dairy if possible. Instead eat food items like bananas, mushrooms and liquids.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may have to take pain killers as per your doctor’s advice to alleviate the pain despite changes in lifestyle and diet. If you do not experience symptomatic relief from lifestyle changes or changes in your diet, it may be advisable to visit a doctor, especially if the condition is affecting your health and daily life.