Pre-menstrual syndrome, better known as the week before your period that makes healthy eating and exercise even harder. It may come every month, and hit you some months worse than others. PMS can include mood swings, anxiety, bloating, sugar cravings and plummeting motivation that makes daily life just a little bit harder.
These symptoms that vaguely resemble early pregnancy are due to hormonal changes during the second phase of your menstrual cycle. After ovulation progesterone levels rise and estrogen levels drop which can affect serotonin levels, the stuff that makes you feel happy.
Some women crave sugar, carbs or fatty foods during this time, which can lead to multiple ‘cheat days’ in a row, or a complete abandonment of healthy eating altogether. Bloating is also common, and consumption of salt can contribute to increased water retention. The drop in serotonin and increase in cortisol, the stress hormone, can also cause food cravings as many of these foods boost those feel-good endorphins temporarily until the next crash.
How to Combat This
According to a 2002 article in Canadian Family Physician, there is reasonable scientific research to show that calcium carbonate (1200 mg/d) can be an effective treatment for PMS. Other commonly used treatments include vitamin B6, evening primrose oil and birth control pills. Although these other therapies have some research behind them the evidence is inconclusive. Other conservative treatments include exercise, stress reduction and cognitive therapy.
Eating a diet of complex carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes and oats, and limiting processed foods, caffeine, and refined carbs in the week or two leading up to your period can also help stabilize hormone and blood sugar levels.
Some women experience an overall drop in energy level and motivation, and may have difficulty making decisions and concentrating. This coupled with lethargy, fatigue, and body aches or joint pain sounds like numerous excuses to skip the gym.
How to Combat This
There are a few things you can do to help get out of the slump and feel better in the week leading up to your period. This includes aerobic exercise, drinking lots of water, limiting salt intake, and reducing stress. Although it may be hard to get motivated exercise has a positive effect on hormones and can decrease stress, which increases PMS symptoms.
Some practical strategies include scheduling exercise into your day. Give yourself no excuses to skip the gym by having your gym bag ready in your car and going straight to the gym after work. If you workout at home lay your clothing out ahead of time and have all your equipment readily available. Even 30 minutes a day, three days a week will have a drastic influence on your mood and energy levels.
You Don’t Always Have to Be a Ray of Sunshine
Society often dictates that we must be a ball of positive energy at all times, and if you aren’t there must be something wrong with you! It is okay to have ‘down times’, you know, the days you stay in your pyjamas, watch trashy talk shows, cry during commercials, and feel a little sorry for yourself. This is normal and entirely acceptable! If you find these days are becoming more frequent, it’s important to seek help to determine if there is something more going on.
Keep your head up! Without PMS we wouldn’t have the beautiful children we have today or plan to have in the future. Next time you are expecting Aunt Flo don’t forget to eat your complex carbs, stay away from caffeine, take some calcium, make time for exercise and focus on the things that matter.
In fitness and good health,