Warning: Gentlemen, you are probably not going to be that engaged by this particular Vegimental. You could just forward it to the women in your life who might be interested.
Ladies, how much of your life do you write off because you know you’re going to be in the throes of PMS, lying on the couch, curled up in to a ball, eating chocolate and clutching your swollen abdomen? I was right there with you. I used to have the worst PMS. Painful, swollen breasts. Cramps. Cravings. Energy levels in the toilet. But I have made some dietary and lifestyle changes lately that have completely transformed my experience. Now, I have no premenstrual symptoms. None. If I didn’t keep track of when it was due, my period would be a complete surprise every month. (I also had a baby, which changes pretty much everything about your body, so that is likely a factor too, but the transformation is so complete that I know that no one thing can be wholly responsible.) If you’re losing days every month, I hope some of these tactics will help you find a kind of period peace.
I had a real love affair going on with soy milk for a while. Had it in my cereal, my tea, for an afternoon snack. My husband and I went through about a gallon a week. Then I read Nina Plank’s Real Food, where I learned that soy is estrogenic, and it can disrupt the delicate hormonal balance in the body. All my PMS symptoms are generally associated with excess estrogen, so even a mild estrogenic effect from soy could have been tipping my balance toward too much.
So long, sugar
This was harder to do, I will admit. I have always loved my chocolate – a couple squares of dark chocolate after dinner made the meal complete. When I was pregnant, it was more like half a bar of chocolate. But then two things happened. 1) My daughter started eating solids, and I didn’t want to automatically get her accustomed to the taste of sugar so I only served her plain yogurt, and I didn’t sweeten her oatmeal or her applesauce. And because it seemed unfair for me to eat the sugared-up versions, I also started cutting out added sugar wherever I could. I still loved and craved my chocolate, however. Until I made myself sick – twice – by eating too many Trader Joe’s dark chocolate covered almonds. Now I only have dessert once a week. I had always read that indulging in your craving for sweet and/or salty foods during PMS only made it worse, but I refused to believe the connection. Now I do.
Hello Omega 3s
I’ve gotten very diligent about taking 1000 mg of Omega 3s (from fish oil, from the company Nordic Naturals, and no, they’re not paying me anything although I did interview the founder, Lisa Petty, for an article once and she is charming and knowledgeable and passionate). Omega 3s help regulate your hormonal balance, which in turn can ease PMS symptoms such as breast tenderness.
Welcome to the red tent
Finally, I have been making it a point to do as little as possible on the first day of my period. In their fabulous book, Yoga for Healthy Menstrual Cycle, Linda Sparrowe and Patricia Walden suggest that the more rest you get during your period, the better you’ll feel all month long. In ancient times, women used to menstruate at the new moon, and they’d gather inside a red tent and take a break from their daily chores to relax in each other’s company. I know we’ve come a long way, baby, and our tampon commercials show women riding bikes, flying kites, and climbing mountains, but perhaps there’s some wisdom we’ve lost over the millennia about how to care for ourselves during our periods. I’m not suggesting you stay home from work, necessarily (although if you want to and can, why not?). But perhaps you can find ways to accommodate your monthly cycle by forgoing anything that’s not absolutely mandatory and/or nurturing for the first day or two of your period. Just try it, and see how if you notice any differences in your subsequent cycles.
Share your tips
How do you handle the ups and downs of your monthly cycle? Have you made a change—dietary or otherwise—that has had a big impact on your PMS–or any aspect of your health, for that matter? Leave a comment and if I publish yours in the next Vegimental, I’ll send you your very own copy of the excellent Yoga for a Healthy Menstrual Cycle.
Congrats to Gloria Flora!
She wrote in with a great story about how she popped her own stress bubble, and won a copy of The Kindness Handbook, the most recent book by Sharon Salzberg, one of my most favorite meditation teachers and writers:
“These past two weeks I was completing a major project-from-hell, while trying to plan a complex two-week business/pleasure trip right on its heels: multiple towns thousands of miles apart, multiple visits with friends and relatives in each location, 3 presentations, a training session and more! For the first time in years I found myself waking up in the middle of the night, stressing over how to get the tightly scheduled logistics to come together with absolutely no time to devote to working it all out because of the project deadlines. Finally, I gave up trying to meet everyone else’s schedules and dithering over all the cost-cutting measures and other stressors and constraints I was piling on. I took three deep breaths and said ‘Universe, we’re going to work this out NOW and it’s going to be perfect. Here’s what I really want.’ And in 36 hours, everything fell exactly into place!”
Take care and keep breathing,