Periods are difficult enough when they’re predictable and behave themselves. But as we enter perimenopause, they can get even more challenging. Nutrition Coach and awesome guest blogger Michelle Cartmel gives us tips to get through peri-PMS – sanity and relationships intact.
“Apologies in advance”
… that’s the line I’ve adopted over the past year or two that I deliver to my husband right around the 23rd of each month. This is equal parts communication strategy and in-home damage control because PMS in my 40s has gotten bad, real bad, and my loved ones are often the victims of the worst of these symptoms, moodiness and rage.
I say, “honey, apologies in advance, but I’m going to need some space and forgiveness, and oh yes, a large ribeye, medium rare.” Can you feel me?
You’re having a great day, everything is going swimmingly, but you suddenly run smack into a wall of suffering. Where the heck did that come from? I did not see that coming at all!
Things quickly go sideways, and simple things like not being able to open the packaging on a new bag of coffee turns into a massive crisis. And pity the fool who accidentally nudges your cart at the grocery store … somehow you just barely contain your wrath and maintain your reputation.
Sound familiar? Feel like you might even be a tiny bit crazy? If so, I am sorry you are suffering. While “sorry” doesn’t make the pain go away, it might be validating to hear that you are normal, and there are ways to mitigate the suffering that don’t involve a prescription drug.
One of my favorite books, and what I deem required reading for women and their male counterparts is Moody Bitches, by Dr. Julie Holland, a psychiatrist, author and expert on drugs and the brain. This brilliant book takes a common sense look at female hormones and the effect that they have on us at different life stages.
What I love most is that Dr. Holland humanizes our so-called mood swings and provides the scientific explanation for why they occur. She actually encourages readers to look at this roller coaster ride of hormones we experience as a “natural source of power.”
That really resonated with me, because in the past I have felt powerless to these emotions. It motivated me to change my thinking, and, instead of wallowing in self pity, to actively manage through the feelings.
Cravings are often an inherent part of a woman’s cycle, but they aren’t typically healthy ones. As a nutrition coach, my job is to help my clients steer clear of the cravings, but as a normal human being who cannot live without a steak or a burger during her period, I’m also a realist.
However, I’d like to remind you that healthy, whole foods are powerful medicine. By consistently eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and lean proteins, you can actually enhance your mood. Moreover, knowing which healthy foods to eat more of during your time of the month can make you feel that much stronger in the battle against PMS.
For example, foods with omega-3 fatty acids can boost your mood, and according to research from Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital, omega-3s are so powerful, they may even function like an antidepressant. Some great examples of foods high in omega-3s are salmon, albacore tuna, walnuts, eggs, chia seeds and flax seeds.
So, if you’re going to succumb to your cravings, do it sparingly. A diet high in processed, sugary foods can actually make a bad mood feel even worse, as the crash you experience after the initial high can really burn.
Supplement your healthy diet with herbal support and vitamins that can help regulate your mood. In addition to your multi-vitamin, consider adding magnesium, calcium citrate or Vitamin B6 to your repertoire. According to Dr. Mark Hyman, these are supplement superstars and can help ease PMS symptoms by improving metabolic function and hormone metabolism.
Adaptogenic herbs like black cohosh, St. John’s Wort and chasteberry are also known to be effective at treating PMS symptoms. Consult your doctor or naturopath for dosage recommendations.
Add acupuncture into the mix. According to Seattle-based acupuncturist Annie Robbins, the primary reason for PMS is an imbalance or fluctuation in hormone levels, and acupuncture treatments work to restore that balance. According to Chinese medicine, PMS symptoms prior to the period are caused by imbalances with the spleen, and symptoms during your period indicate imbalance with the liver.
An acupuncturist works with each patient to create an individualized treatment plan to address their unique symptoms, both physical and emotional. The results can actually alter brain chemistry levels and produce endorphins and serotonin.
Hormonal health is just as important as any other aspect of our health, and we need to nurture it in order to maintain our overall well-being. While there are not any known cures for PMS, there are simple, effective ways to tackle it.
In addition to the above-mentioned suggestions, be kind to yourself when PMS brings you down. Rest, drink lots of water, and make sure you’ve got a solid PMS communication strategy in place. Your family will thank you for it.
Cheers to your health,
If PMS, peri or otherwise, impacts your life, we’d love to hear how you handle it. Leave a comment below, or on Facebook, or join our closed Facebook group! To read more great information from Michelle, check out her other blogs on Saying goodbye to sugar, Combating cancer with the clean-plate club, and Making friends with healthy fats.