Mood swings, cramps, and bloating — oh my, indeed. Sure, these might not seem like the most sinister of threats, but any woman who’s experienced the monthly agony of premenstrual syndrome (a.k.a. PMS) knows the havoc these symptoms can wreak on everyday life.
In my role as a functional nutritionist and hormone expert, I help women prevent and beat these nasty issues once and for all. And when I say that to new clients or casual acquaintances, I’m often met with skepticism: “Prevent?” they ask incredulously. “There’s no way to do that!” I totally get the disbelief. After all, we’ve been trained and socialized to believe that PMS and all the suffering that goes with it are totally normal — just unpleasant consequences of femaleness. Plus, so many of us actually experience the issues mentioned above, which only solidifies our belief that PMS is our inevitable monthly fate. We just accept that for a few days each month, we have no choice but to irritated, low, anxious, lacking in confidence, and frustrated. Plus of course, bloated, ravenous, sugar-crazed, and covered in acne.
Hey, I was there — I lived through my own major hormonal nightmare. In my 20s, I weighed over 200 pounds and battled chronic cystic acne. My period was beyond irregular and I was exhausted, unfocused, and just a hot mess. When I found out the cause of this chaos was an endocrine disorder known as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), I freaked out. My doctors said there was absolutely nothing I could to cure the condition; the best “treatment” they could offer was a lifetime sentence of medications and scary health outcomes like diabetes and infertility.
Upon getting this prognosis, my gut said “no way!” and led me on a long journey of research, self-discovery, and eventual healing. I developed a food and lifestyle protocol that not only completely reversed my PCOS, but restored my hormonal health and made it possible to give birth to a gorgeous baby girl at the “advanced” maternal age of 37. Since healing myself so successfully, I’ve established the first online hormonal health center for women called FLO Living, and I’ve adapted my protocol to help countless others all over the world battle their own hormonal issues with the most powerful tool out there: food.
So how does all this relate back to PMS? Well whether you know it or not (and most women don’t), PMS is not a normal side effect of having a uterus. It’s not normal, and it’s not your destiny. It’s a serious sign that something is off with your endocrine system and your body is screaming for help. My body was in the same place. And guess what? Since getting my hormones on track, not only am I symptom free, but I’m able to leverage each phase of my cycle for maximum productivity and creative flow.
The bottom line is this: PMS is a symptom of a hormonal imbalance that can be fixed naturally. Usually this imbalance is a case of too much estrogen, or estrogen dominance, coupled with low progesterone levels. By changing your diet, you can support your hormonal shifts and help your body to create, process, and eliminate hormones in the way that’s best and most healthy for you.
There’s a lot more to hormonal healing than just adding in a few key foods, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret: peppering your diet with just a couple of powerful ingredients can actually lead to some significant improvements. Curious to try them out? Here are my top 5 foods to prevent PMS:
1. Kale and leafy greens: There are a lot of reasons the nutritional powerhouse known as kale is having a major moment right now. One of its positive traits is its inclusion of a powerful hormone balancing compound known as indole-3 carbinol. This little guy promotes estrogen metabolism, which allows us to eliminate excess estrogen and prevent estrogen dominance (which, as you now know is a major cause of hormonal chaos). Don’t love kale? While they don’t contain quite as much, kale’s leafy cousins (all part of the brassica family) contain some amount of indole-3 carbinol.
2. Chickpeas: Adding these to your diet can really boost your intake of B6, an important vitamin for progesterone production. If your progesterone levels are low during the second half of your cycle, you’re more likely to feel stressed and experience all the unpleasant symptoms of PMS. Plus, low levels of B6 can make estrogen dominance more pronounced, and you definitely don’t want that.
3. Sweet potatoes: If you’re like lots of women struggling with PMS, then you’re a sweets-craving maniac around that time of the month. Instead of eating your weight in chocolate, try adding sweet potatoes to your dinner plate. They’ll totally satisfy your need for sugar, but since they’re nutritious and filled with vitamin A, they’ll also help your liver break down excess estrogen, balance out your blood sugar levels, and balance your mood. I love drizzling roasted sweet potatoes with some honey and topping with pecans!
4. Bone broth: Another on-trend food that’s worth adding to your regular menu is bone broth. It’s a fantastic source of magnesium and calcium, two electrolytes that will help prevent the headaches, migraines and fogginess that can come with PMS. Have a cup before bed, and you’ll also have a much easier time drifting off to sleep.
5. Coconut yogurt: I’ve been dairy-free for over twenty years (FLO Living followers will know all the reasons why), but that doesn’t mean I miss out on yogurt. But instead of dairy yogurt, I opt for the coconut kind which contains probiotics in the form of live cultures and lots of good fats, both of which help stabilize mood and prevent food cravings.
If you integrate these ingredients into your diet and start to see some major improvements in your symptoms, you’ll know you’re on the right track. And when you’re ready to take those minor improvements and turn them into permanent, lasting success, find me over at FLO Living. Take my free Period Type Quiz and figure out what your period is trying to tell you, and then download my new MyFLO app to start tracking your symptoms and learning the right actions to take at each phase of your cycle. And when you’re ready to combat your symptoms once and for all, it’s time to check out MonthlyFLO. Here’s to a PMS-free future!
Alisa Vitti is the founder of FLO Living. For more information about her and her app check out her website!