Beat PMS Symptoms Naturally

I’ve received several requests now for a post on PMS and how to naturally deal with unwelcomed period bullshit.  You know, the bloating, the unhealthy cravings, the cramps, the mood swings… It can be a total downer, although I’ve learned to view my period as a cleansing process for the body to make the whole situation a more pleasant experience.  A positive attitude is everything in life, but sometimes you also need a little help to minimize symptoms.  Here are some of my top recommendations for reducing PMS discomfort:

Diet

When I was younger, a friend and I used to have a “fuck you, period!” ritual every month where we’d pig out on burgers, chili cheese fries and milkshakes at a local diner.  Why is it that when we get our periods we often crave the foods that feel good in the moment, but actually make our symptoms worse?

It wasn’t until I replaced the crap for nutritious, wholesome, REAL food that I really noticed a big reduction in my PMS symptoms.  Eating nutritious foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants is what the body thrives on, especially during that time of the month.  Fill up on alkalizing foods like leafy green vegetables and fruit, healthy fats high in omega-3s like salmon, nuts or chia seeds, and unprocessed whole grains, like quinoa or rice.  Eating foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium will help reduce cramps, so eat bananas, dark chocolate (the darker the better), and spinach.  If you’re craving meat, eat some red meat (preferably grass-fed organic).  It’ll help restore depleted iron levels. Feeling bloated?  Drink plenty of water, but also eat foods that are natural diuretics (aka, foods that make you pee more).   Parsley, pineapple, lemon, celery, ginger, cabbage, and apple cider vinegar are all examples. I like to start the morning off with my Daily Green Smoothie which is packed full of nutrients and will typically drink warm lemon water with ginger throughout the day.

Light Exercise

While some people feel like being sedentary during their periods, I’ve found that light exercise can be quite beneficial.  Exercise helps reduce stress and when I’m feeling depressed and irritable, exercise makes me feel relaxed.  Try exercises like walking, running, swimming, biking, or some gentle yoga poses like these ones here:

Essential Oils

Aromatherapy  has been used for many thousands of years as a way to lower stress levels, relieve pain, improve mood, and suppress cravings and nausea. Essential oils have even been demonstrated in lab studies to kill flu, E. coli, and cancer cells (source: Women’s Health Magazine, Cancer Tutor).  Different oils initiate different responses in the brain, which in turn, directs your nervous system to say, “relax” or “spring into action.” During or before menstruation, I recommend clary sage, lavender, chamomile, ylang-ylang, grapefruit, jasmine, or cedarwood to ease symptoms and lift your mood.  I personally like to mix a couple drops of oil with some coconut oil and rub it on my stomach if I’m experiencing discomfort.

Cannabis

Finally, more people are publicly acknowledging the wide-ranging medicinal benefits of the cannabis plant.  For period-related struggles, cannabis can be amazing, and a great alternative to pharmaceutical pain medications that may be harsher on the body. Cannabis rich in the compound CBD is gaining popularity due to its ability to greatly (and in most cases relatively instantly) reduce pain and inflammation while lifting your mood.   In fact, Queen Victoria, as well as many other recognizable, historical women, used CBD-rich cannabis in the 19th century to reduce her menstrual cramps (source: Project CBD).  CBD differs from THC-rich cannabis in that CBD-rich cannabis has little to no psychoactive effects or the “high” most people associate with cannabis.  It’s for this reason that strains high in CBD make it a premier choice for many users.

Remember to Breathe

This tip is for everyone, but especially for those women who get anxious, crampy, depressed, or tired during their periods.  So much can be controlled not only by the brain but by the breath.  Start by taking deep, even breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth.  If you can, incorporate some of the yoga poses from above.  Focus on your breath and remind yourself that everything will be ok!

 

Have comments, questions or suggestions?  Have additional methods for relieving cramps or PMS symptoms? Leave a message below, or reach me through my website.

Thanks for reading!

Whole Grain Living

Americans have seemingly been conditioned to classify all carbohydrates as bad.  Certain diets, like the Atkins diet, have created a bad rep for carbs, but there needs to be some distinction.

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Whole grains, a type of carbohydrate, are actually essential to our diet and have been central to the diets of several cultures around the world since ancient times.  It’s typical in Japanese culture, for example, to eat a carb-heavy diet consisting of lots of rice. Yet, most Japanese people are very thin, so explain that Atkins!

Everyone’s body is different, however, so a high-carb diet may not work for everyone.  There are pros and cons to every diet, so here is what to expect from a high-carb diet:

Pros:

  • Fiber
  • Nutrients
  • Constant energy drip
  • Protein in grains
  • Whole foods
  • Lowers cholesterol

Cons:

  • Diet doesn’t work for everyone
  • Some people gain weight
  • Some people lose weight
  • Affects blood sugar levels
  • Indigestion
  • Gluten
  • Phytic Acid

There are so many whole grains to choose from, some which may sound unfamiliar.  I recommend experimenting with different whole grains to see what you like.  Make whole grains a part of your daily diet and aim for at least three servings a day.  Whole grains have many health benefits, but are linked to reducing the risk of heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes.

FYI- sugary cereals like Lucky Charms, although advertised as “magically delicious” and made with whole grains, does not count!  Those cereals, and similar products, are processed and full corn syrup, corn starch and sugar (bad carbs!) and don’t have the same healthful effects as unrefined grains.  The same goes with oatmeal.  Oatmeal is one of my favorite breakfast dishes and can be very healthy, unless you’re eating the packaged instant oatmeal that’s filled with sugar.  Try steel-cut oats instead and top with fresh fruit.  Just remember,  the more processed something is, the less healthy it is.

*Note- When choosing whole grain foods, be weary of false advertising words like multigrain, 12-grain, stoneground, high fiber, enriched, wheat flour, whole wheat and whole grain (surprise!).  Look for 100% whole wheat instead.  “Bad” carbs generally consist of processed foods, like breakfast cereals, crackers, cookies, fried foods, white bread (vs. 100% whole grain bread), etc.  “Good” carbs are those which are full of fiber, like vegetables, beans, fruits, and whole grains.

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Whole grains should be consumed daily.  Some unrefined grains you may not have heard of, but are now becoming more common in regular supermarkets.  Although some of the names of the following grains may sound unfamiliar, give them a shot and possibly try out some of the recipes I’ve provided.

  • Quinoa– mild, nutty, slightly bitter.  A gluten-free option that’s extremely versatile and can be used in salads, pilafs, stuffings for meat or vegetables, soups, stews, porridge and desserts. An ancient grain of South America full of protein and dietary fiber, quinoa has been linked to reductions in the risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and type 2 diabetes.  Rinse before cooking to remove the bitter coating around the grain.

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Quinoa Stuffed Squash

Cinnamon-Scented Breakfast Quinoa

  • Amaranth– herbaceous, grassy, sticky.  Gluten-free and is used in porridge, salads, soups and stews.  Originally grown by the ancient Aztecs, Incas and Mayans, and still cultivated in Mexico.

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Banana-Pecan Amaranth Porridge 

 Amaranth Fish Sticks

  • Buckwheat– Earthy, dark, slightly meaty.  Gluten-free and is used in risotto, salads, pilafs, soups and granola.  Use buckwheat flour for pancakes or other baked goods.  Found mainly in Russia and China.

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Porcini Mushroom and Kale Buckwheat Risotto 

Buckwheat Pancakes

  • Brown Rice– nutty, slightly sweet, chewy.  Gluten-free and used in salads, risottos, pilafs, stuffings, stir-fries and rice desserts.  There are now brown rice pastas being sold and I really like them.  A main dish in Asian culture.

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Brown Fried Rice

Stracciatella With Brown Rice

Chicken and Brown Rice

  • Millet– Buttery, corn-like.  Gluten-free and used in pilafs, salads, stuffings, porridge, soups, stews, desserts and to make polenta-like dishes.  A typical grain eaten in Africa and Europe.

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Millet Muffins

Roasted Chicken with Millet Stuffing

  • Oats– creamy, slightly sweets, toasty.  Made in granola, porridge, baked goods, and coatings (instead of bread crumbs).  A typical grain of Scotland.

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Homemade Granola

Maple Oatmeal Bread

  • Kamut– buttery, nutty.  Used in salads, pilafs and stuffings.  Flour is used for baked goods like bread and pasta.  This grain originated around Egypt and has more protein than common wheat.

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Kamut, Lentil, and Chickpea Soup

Falafel Burgers (with kamut flour)

  • Spelt– Nutty, slightly earthy, chewy.  Good with Mediterranean flavors like basil, olives, tomato, cheese and eggplant. Used in salads, pilafs, and stuffings for meat or vegetables.  Spelt flour is used in bread, pasta, baked goods, and desserts.

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Toasted Spelt Soup with Escarole and White Beans  

Whole Spelt Pumpkin Muffins

  • Farro (cracked)– nutty, mild, slightly chewy. Ideal with Italian flavors and used in salads, pilafs, risotto, stuffings, stews, soups and pasta.  This grain is believed to predate all other grains and originates with the people of the near East and Mediterranean.  It’s currently grown mainly in Italy. Farro is often soaked overnight to soften the grain and to reduce cook time.

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Farro Salad with Asparagus, Peas and Feta

Mustard Crusted Pork with Farro and Carrot Salad

Greens and Grains Scramble

  • Pearl Barley– nutty, slightly chewy.  Used in salads, pilafs, risotto, stuffings, soups, stews, and sweet desserts.

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Pearl Barley Casserole 

Beef and Barley Soup

Sources: LiveScience, ABCNews