The 5 Most Popular PMS Warrior Tweets on Twitter

PMS Warrior twitter feed for women

I know not everyone has the time or the inclination to get involved with Twitter.  Like TV and magazines, there’s no shortage of useless guff obscuring the useful information.  And yet if you know how where to look, Twitter can be a fast moving and up-to-date resource on whatever your area of interest happens to be.  It’s a great place to connect, share, comment, get involved in debates and both give and receive support.  And it’s easy to use – especially if you have a smartphone.  (Never be bored in a waiting room or queue ever again!)  

I find Twitter particularly useful for posting links to relevant information about PMS, hormone balance and women’s health as I come across them – which means these nuggets of information don’t always appear on the PMS Warrior site itself. 

Tweets are the 140-character messages that get posted on Twitter.  The tweets which I see are most popular (measured by how often the links are read or shared) tell me what topics strike a chord with my followers.   So I thought, why not share a selection with my non-Twitter readers too, so that they don’t miss out!

Why Are Women More Prone To Bloating?

Bloating is one of the common premenstrual symptoms experienced by women with PMS and here’s my rundown on how to prevent it.  I went on to post this short but pithy interview with a gastro-intestinal medical specialist on Twitter because it addressed two very good questions related to bloating:

  • Why do women suffer from bloating more often than men in the first place?
  • Why does bloating seems to get worse as we get older?

It also gives the gastroenterologist’s top 3 foods to avoid to reduce bloating.  An illuminating and straightforward read.

Are 50% of Women With PMDD Actually Clinically Depressed?

The Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology interviewed in this article claims that a significant number of women with PMDD are in fact suffering major depression. (She doesn’t say that cyclical PMDD doesn’t exist, only that symptoms have to be recorded very thoroughly to support a correct diagnosis of PMDD).

An interesting view, and the line between PMDD being a depressive illness versus a hormonal condition is hotly debated.  As I mentioned in my recent post about PMDD, many activists with PMDD would positively welcome PMDD being recognised as a psychiatric diagnosis. 

Interestingly, the Professor points out that properly diagnosed PMDD is more likely to respond treatment than clinical depression. 

The rest of the article also covers the role that the neurotransmitters (or brain chemicals) serotonin and GABA seem to play in PMDD / extreme PMS cases.

And while we’re still on the theme of PMDD, another very popular tweet featured this PMDD Quiz.  It covered questions including whether PMDD can be prevented, and if it gets worse with age.  Test your own knowledge!

Thinking of Getting A Mirena Coil for PMS?

The Mirena coil is used for a range of hormone-related conditions, including perimenopause, PMS and PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). 

My own post on the Mirena generated some interesting reader comments, and I thought PMS Warrior followers would be interested in these personal accounts of women’s experiences with the Mirena.  They are very honest and varied.

The Daily Ups and Downs of Your Hormones

You already know that the hormones sending signals around your body and brain change during different times of the month – of course you do! – but did you know that they go up and down and interact differently at different times of the day too?

This article suggests how you can match your activites during the day to the natural changes in your hormonal rhythms. 

It’s from a blog I really like called Happy Healthy Long Life, written by a very energetic and upbeat librarian in the States who follows a plant-based wholefoods diet – a woman after my own heart, you could say!  She’s very inspiring and her blog is regularly updated and features lots of tasty recipes (often with a Jewish home cooking twist) together with observations on keeping fit and healthy whilst getting older and having a busy work and family life.  Recommended.

The Mooncup Gets Another Fan!

The final item that’s been popular with many women I suspect – not just those with PMS – is an article from Cat Stone (who has PMDD and blogs about it) about alternatives to tampons and pads during periods

If you read my earlier post, you’ll know I already love the Mooncup.  It’s freed me up to be so much more active during periods, and is altogether cleaner, easier and more environmentally sound than anything else I’ve used in the last twenty-plus years. 

I won’t deny it takes a little patience and a little practice to get the hang of inserting a Mooncup, but it’s always nice to hear another blogger and encouraging her readers to give it a go!

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget, if you’re on Twitter you can follow as @PMS_Warrior

Is it Worth Taking Vitamin B6 for PMS?

Vitamin B6 supplement is often suggested for PMS treatmentFor many years, the standard advice to women with PMS was to take evening primrose oil to combat breast tenderness and to take vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) to deal with PMS mood problems. 

I often hear from women with PMS that this advice still persists – for example, among counter staff in pharmacies – and as I’ve already considered the effectiveness evening primrose oil, I thought it was time to tackle vitamin B6.

First of all, it’s worth remembering how the link between vitamin B6 and PMS first came about. Back in the 1970s, vitamin B6 started being used to treat depression in women taking oral contraceptives (which had significantly different formulations then, compared to the second and third generation Pill that followed). 

This led to interest in the possibility of vitamin B6 also treating PMS symptoms.  This seemed logical given that vitamin B6 is needed for the production of serotonin and dopamine, the brain chemicals which lift mood and prevent anxiety.  Women who are prone to PMS do seem to have lower levels of serotonin leading to the classic PMS symptoms of irritability, anxiety and depression.

However, scientific trials looking at whether vitamin B6 really reduced PMS symptoms have been anything but conclusive.

Very Little Evidence For The Effectiveness of Vitamin B6 in PMS

The British Medical Journal undertook a review of several research trials looking at the effectiveness of vitamin B6 in PMS treatment.  The review noted the small numbers of subjects involved and problems with the study design in most cases, and concluded that:

[The studies were of] insufficient quality to draw definitive conclusions.

The Journal of the American College of Nutrition also reviewed twelve trials and found a mixed picture:

  • Three gave positive results for vitamin B6 in PMS treatment
  • Five gave ambiguous results for vitamin B6 in PMS treatment
  • Four with negative results for vitamin B6 in PMS treatment

Once again, the reviewers concluded that the studies were small and had design shortcomings.  Several subsequent research trials, both published and unpublished, also found no significant benefit of vitamin B6 supplementation for women with PMS.

Consquently, the clinical guidelines issued to UK doctors by the National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome (NAPS) state that:

[There is] insufficient evidence of efficacy is available to give a recommendation for using Vitamin B6 in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome.

So the science does not back up vitamin B6 – used on its own – as an effective supplement for PMS. 

This doesn’t surprise me, as my experience and studies tell me that vitamins seldom work best in isolation.  And in any event, vitamins are generally best obtained from food, rather than pills, (unless there is a proven deficiency) because that is how your body best digests and absorbs the nutrients. 

However, the whole family of B vitamins – obtained through good nutrition, naturally – are hugely important to reducing PMS symptoms.  They have been shown to reduce stress and irritability, reduce bloating and help with food cravings.

Why ALL the B Vitamins are Important for PMS Management

I’ve written previously about the research showing that vitamins B1 and B2 are really helpful for PMS management.  In fact, the whole group of B vitamins (including vitamin B6)  actually work best when taken together. 

Vitamin B6 is contained in some amounts in all foods.  And food really is the best medicine for balancing hormones.  So to boost your B vitamins, make sure you eat plenty of

  • Beans like chickpeas and kidney beans
  • Bananas
  • Leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale
  • Avocado
  • Wholegrains, like brown rice and wholemeal bread
  • Sweetcorn and peas
  • Berries
  • Hemp protein

Magnesium – which I’ve also written about before – can help the body absorb and use vitamin B6.  Magnesium is also found in nuts and green leafy vegetables and wholegrains.

A Note About Correct Dosage of Vitamin B6

If you DO decide to take Vitamin B6 as a supplement, it’s important not to take too much. Actual deficiency of Vitamin B6 is rare and the recommended dietary allowance for Vitamin B6 is around 2 mg per day (although some multivitamins include vitamin B6 at much higher levels). 

Concerns have emerged that high doses of vitamin B6 as a supplement can lead to sensory neuropathy – tingling and numbness (pins and needles) in the hands and feet – which may cause nerve damage.  Although to be fair, that seems to have only been reported in VERY high dosages (500mg taken for two years or more) and the effect is reversible. 

Nonetheless, if vitamin B6 is used, doses should be limited to no more than 100 mg/day to avoid any risk of neuropathy, and the more usual dose is 10mg per day.

Thanks for reading! And let me know your experiences with vitamin B6 in the comments below, or on the PMS Warrior Facebook page.

Antidepressants for PMS – Yes or No?

Featured

antidepressants for PMS Women who suffer severe emotional and psychological PMS symptoms, such as mood swings and depression, are often offered antidepressants by their GPs. Indeed, the clinical guidelines for GPs produced by The National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome (NAPS) recommend antidepressants as one of the medical treatment option for moderate to severe PMS (the other main medical option being the combined oral contraceptive Pill).

However, many women feel uncomfortable about taking antidepressants for their PMS:

  • They don’t want to use pharmaceutical drugs which alter their brain chemistry
  • They don’t want to become dependent on antidepressants, either physically or psychologically
  • They’re worried about the side-effects of antidepressants
  • They’re worried about the long-term effects of taking prescribed pharmaceuticals
  • They wouldn’t describe themselves as depressed – at least not for three quarters of the month! 

Many describe feeling fobbed off when they go to the GP for help with PMS and come away with a packet of pills.

The How and Why of Antidepressants for PMS

There are two categories of antidepressants:

  • First generation antidepressants like tricyclics (e.g. amitriptyline) and benzodiazepines tranquilisers (like Valium, Mogadon and Xanax)
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like fluoxetine (sold as Prozac or Sarafem), citalopram (Cipramil), paroxetine (Paxil) and sertraline (Zoloft).

These days, benzodiazepines are used much less often because of their potentially addictive nature and problems with withdrawal. However, use of the ‘next generation’ SSRIs is widespread and continues to grow: around a third of women in the UK have taken an antidepressant at some point.

SSRIs work on the serotonin levels in the brain.  It’s pretty well established that women with PMS have low levels of serotonin, particularly in the second half of their cycle, and that this is a factor in PMS. Serotonin is a vital neurotransmitter for regulating mood, and the need for serotonin is demonstrated in:

  • The food cravings you typically get during PMS (certain foods stimulate serotonin production)
  • The fact that PMS usually gets worse in the winter (sunshine stimulates serotonin production). 

SSRIs work by preventing the brain from absorbing serotonin, thereby keeping levels high enough to keep you on an even keel throughout the month.

SSRIs prescribed for PMS can be taken for 10 to 14 days before each period rather than throughout the month, as would be the case when treating clinical depression, although some GPs still prescribe them for continuous use (i.e. taken every day of the month). If you are taking antidepressants continuously for PMS, you may want to talk to your GP about reducing the dose to the luteal phase only (between ovulation and your period), which research suggests is just as effective for PMS.

Things To Think About If You’re Prescribed Antidepressants for PMS

Some women report that antidepressants really help their PMS, others find that they make them feel worse.   And it’s becoming increasingly clear from research that antidepressants aren’t effective in combating the physical symptoms associated with PMS, so the most effective treatment is to supplement antidepressant use with diet and exercise.

The side-effects of antidepressant use can include fatigue, incomnia, nausea and diarrhoea or constipation.  There can also be withdrawal problems when you stop taking antidepressants.

Aside from the potential risks of using antidepressants for PMS, you should remember that Prozac and the rest only treat the symptoms – not the cause of the imbalance that causes your PMS.  And they only work while you are taking them, which hooks you into using strong pharmaceuticals that affect your body in a number of ways.

My take on antidepressants for PMS? I think there is an argument for using antidepressants for the small number of women whose PMS is so severe and debilitating that they are at risk of complete breakdown or suicide, especially if all other options have failed to bring relief.  However, for the vast majority of woemn who suffer from PMS, I believe that it’s healthier and more effective to look at more diet and lifestyle-based ways of boosting serotonin and balancing hormones naturally, including:

Thanks for reading!  I always love to read your comments below, or on my Facebook page.

PMS Featured on Channel 4’s The Food Hospital

PMS Julie on The Food Hospital

I was very pleased to see that The Food Hospital series has been promoting the idea of food as medicine.  And even better, it featured PMS in the episode screened just before Xmas (alongside case studies in IBS, high cholesterol and raw foodism).  Watch it here

I was already aware that they were looking for PMS sufferers, as the call for volunteers came out via The National Association for Premenstrual Syndrome earlier in the year.  So I was curious and excited to see how they would tackle PMS using food.

In my experience – not to mention, the growing weight of research evidence – a diet based on good fats, complex carbs and junk-free whole foods (together with regular exercise and stress reduction) can deliver dramatic improvements in PMS for the vast majority of women. And it looked like the The Food Hospital would be singing from the same songsheet.

But I have to say, I was rather disappointed.  Here’s why…

The PMS Case Study – Julie

Julie is only 26, but has been suffering from PMS for five years already – poor woman! – and reported that her symptoms had got worse around a year ago.  She eloquently described ‘losing’ a week a month to PMS, and talked about how it made her feel “very angry, very down, with lots of mood swings and very anxious” and how it meant that she “couldn’t concentrate on anything, apart from being upset”.

Also around a year ago, she had given up dairy for the very good reason that it made her feel sick.  (Surely your body’s way of telling you it can’t process dairy!).  During this time she had lost weight, which had made her feel better in herself.

She had taken the contraceptive pill in the past, but commented that she continued to suffer from PMS symptoms during that time – which is not uncommon.  She was clear that she didn’t want to take anti-depressants because she didn’t like the idea of not being in control of the chemicals going into her body.  And she was already on the right track with thinking that what she ate had an impact on how she felt.

The programme’s nutritionist concluded that the reason for Julie’s worsening PMS was her reducing her dairy intake.  There was no discussion shown about the other factors which would form part of a fuller assessment, such as other changes in her life during the period her PMS had got worse, such as her stress and activity levels, and any other diet changes.  I would also have been interested to hear whether PMS ran in her family.

The Programme’s Recommendations for PMS

In my view, there was a mixture of good and bad advice.

The good was the (very brief!) discussion of the role of serotonin and the importance of complex carbohydrates – both of which I’ve written about previously. Also, the importance of Vitamin D to ensure that you can absorb calcium properly.  (Half the population in the UK are deficient in Vitamin D, so Julie was not unusual in this respect).  Without question though, Vitamin D is best absorbed through the action of sunshine on the skin.

But what I didn’t agree with was the fact that the PMS management plan hinged on increasing dairy intake – despite this being poorly tolerated by Julie. There was no mention of the importance of omega-3 fats, B vitamins, exercise, or stress management (to reduce cortisol levels) and stimulant reduction.

Dairy for PMS? Not Such A Great Idea

While dairy intake is often discussed in relation to PMS because of the link between calcium intake and PMS, this is something of a fallacy.  I wrote about the downsides of milk in a previous post.  (And while we’re on the subject, here’s an interesting piece on why cheese is so addictive).  

Although milk does contain calcium, it’s true, it also has an acid-forming effect in the body (which means it actually leaches calcium from our bones, making them weaker – a real issue for women who are at risk of osteoporosis).  It is also high in saturated fat and protein, and contains no antioxidants or fibre. Remember that while milk may be the perfect rich food for babies while they’re growing, most babies – except human ones, that is – are weaned and stop drinking milk.

Even if you do want to include some dairy in your diet, the 4-5 daily servings a day recommended by the programme is way too much for good health.  The China Study provides comprehensive and compelling evidence from a large-scale long-term study about the benefits of low (or no) dairy diets on all chronic diseases.

There are plenty of healthier plant-based non-dairy sources of calcium which are alkaline-forming (that is, they maintain the best pH levels for your health).  The programme itself even mentioned calcium-enriched soya milk, almond milk or rice milk as alternatives for Julie, given that she struggled to eat dairy products.  (I am a big fan of nutrient-packed smoothies, and there’s a good suggestion for a PMS smoothie on The Food Hospital website – which you could make with soya milk, rice milk, hemp milk, or almond milk)

Interestingly, in the update on The Food Hospital’s website about Julie, she had trouble increasing her calcium intake due to her dislike of milk so chose to eat more calcium rich vegetables, such as broccoli and asparagus, instead.  So it seems it wasn’t really more dairy that improved her PMS anyway, but more calcium-rich whole foods. 

(Oh, and one other thing. Presumably because of the demands of television, Julie was reassessed by the Food Hospital Team just six weeks later. That would only have been one menstrual cycle later, and in practice, the impact of any diet and lifestyle changes should be implemented over at least three cycles).

Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year.  And thanks for reading!

5HTP Regulates Mood, Sleep and Appetite

5HTP can be useful to improve mood and sleep

5HTP can make your world that bit sunnier

5HTP is useful if you need a little help boosting your serotonin levels.  You’ve heard me talk before about serotonin, ‘the happy hormone’ which you normally synthesise from the amino acid tryptophan in food via a complex chain of chemical reactions.  Serotonin has a role in how you feel in yourself, what you want to eat (and how often), and how much you sleep – all of the things which go awry when you have PMS. 

Boosting serotonin using 5HTP tablets (sometimes also sold as Serotone) is also useful to even out the ups and downs of perimenopause – because when oestrogen levels drop, so too, I’m afraid, does serotonin.

What is 5HTP and how does it work?

5HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is an extract of the seeds of an African shrub called griffonia.  It’s what’s termed a precursor to the neurotransmitter made in your brain called serotonin. Low levels of serotonin have been linked with depression, fibromyalgia, insomnia, headaches and PMS. 

As luck would have it, we women generally have lower levels of serotonin than men – which may go part of the way to explaining why we tend to suffer more from conditions like depression.

5HTP for Mood

A number of properly designed (i.e. double-blind placebo-controlled) clinical trials have proven the effectiveness of 5-HTP in the treatment of depression, making it an effective natural alternative to antidepressant drugs.  After all, antidepressants such as Prozac are selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), meaning that they too work by increasing the amount of serotonin available to the brain.  5HTP can also help if you suffer from panic attacks.

5HTP for Appetite Control

Low serotonin (or poor metabolism of serotonin) leads to increased sugar cravings – which I’m sure you’re familiar with during PMS.  Eating simple carbs like white bread or chocolate actually does boost your brain’s serotonin levels (that’s why it feels so good) and food cravings are often your body’s way of telling you need a serotonin ‘hit’. 

But getting relief in this way is only temporary and leads to the vicious cycle of blood sugar levels going up and down – leaving you feeling worse than before.  So by balancing serotonin using 5HTP – together with all my other PMS tips, of course (at the bottom of this post and throughout PMS Warrior) – you can control appetite and beat food cravings.

5HTP for Sleep

5-HTP helps with relaxation, and is also converted into melatonin.  Melatonin is the hormone which regulates your sleep cycle.

How to use 5HTP

It's a good idea to take 5HTP with a small carbohydrate snack for absorption

5-HTP can make you feel a bit drowsy or ‘floaty’, so it’s best taken at night, with a small carbohydrate snack. 

Start with 50mg a day, and see what how you feel.  That dose may be enough.  However, a dose of 100mg a day – if you need it – is also safe.  But whichever dose you take, be sure to take a break from taking 5HTP from time to time to prevent the build-up of tolerance, which will make it much less effective.

Do NOT take 5HTP if pregnant or taking antidepressants or tranquilisers, and take medical advice if you are considering taking 5HTP with any other prescribed drugs.

Remember that 5HTP is just one tool in an holistic programme to synthesise serotonin and beat PMS by naturally balancing hormones.  So for a knock-out anti-PMS plan, add 5HTP into a programme which includes as many of the follow recommendations as you can manage:

Have you tried 5HTP? How did it work for you?

Thanks for reading!

Light Therapy - a Drug Free Way to Tackle PMS?

UPDATE: The supply of lightmasks available to buy on the internet seems to have vanished. This is a shame, as the reviews were all good. Maybe the marketing wasn’t very effective, or maybe they didn’t prove popular enough or easy enough to use. Lightboxes are still available to buy and may improve mood during the winter months.

PMS lightmask new styleLast time, I wrote about lightboxes which can help PMS, particularly if your PMS gets worse in the winter.  They are also useful for combating the winter blues and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – which women with PMS are more susceptible to.

As promised, this time I’m looking at lightmasks, which come with specific claims from the manufacturers that they are effective in the treatment of PMS.  They’ve been around for over ten years and have an impressive research evidence base supporting their effectiveness.  Yet very few women with PMS have heard of them.

Lightmasks are different from lightboxes in that:

  • They target the photic stimulation (photic just means relating to light) at the area very close to your eyes via a sealed unit
  • They emit a flickering light. 

This compares to a lightbox which is a static light which you don’t even have to look directly into to get the benefits from it.  

The discovery that flickering light is effective for PMS was actually accidental and the byproduct of other research.  Researchers at the Hammersmith Hospital in London were researching treatments for migraines and found that light therapy was not only effective for that condition, but that many of the women involved also reported improvements in their PMS at the same time. 

As migraines are often hormone-related, this is perhaps not surprising!

Continue reading

Does Your PMS Get Worse in the Winter?

using a lightbox in the winter can help beat PMS and Seasonal Affective Disorder

Using a lightbox in the winter can help beat the winter blues - and PMS

Low levels of the brain chemical, serotonin – critical for good mood, optimism and motivation – are thought to be a factor in PMS.     And guess what.  Serotonin levels get especially low during the winter, particularly if you live in a northern latitude and spend a lot of time indoors.   Our levels of the hormone melatonin also go down in the winter (which makes us feel sleepy when it gets dark).  Together, these changes can make us feel fed up and depressed and are liable to make PMS even worse than at other times of the year.

It’s common for animals to slow down or even hibernate during winter to conserve resources and perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that somewhere in our basic makeup there’s a yearning to retreat.   However, there’s very little chance of that in the modern world, and the stress of keeping up as normal when our systems are sluggish and blue can lead to worse PMS.

Many people experience a dip to some degree as the days get shorter and darker, but women with PMS often find this time of the year particularly difficult – especially with all the rushing around, spending, organising and jollity expected in the run up to Christmas.

Typical symptoms of seasonal depression include feeling lethargic and unmotivated, sleeping a lot and having food cravings, particularly for starchy, carbohydrate-rich foods which raise serotonin levels.  (It’s no coincidence that rich and stodgy foods are traditional at this time of year). 

Some people get so depressed during the winter that they are diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (appropriately abbreviated to SAD).  Unfortunately, if you are susceptible to PMS, you are also more likely to suffer from SAD, and vice versa.

Continue reading

Magnesium and why it's essential in the fight against PMS

The magnesium in avocados is good for PMS

Foods that fight PMS:  avocados (on the left) are one source of magnesium.  And if you can find artichokes as big and beautiful as the ones on the right anywhere in the UK, I recommend you snap them up! Photo via Wikimedia Commons

I believe that the best diet for beating PMS is one which provides all the vitamins and minerals you need for health via whole foods, rather than vitamin supplements.  Magnesium is one of the essential minerals and is involved in most of the key processes going on in your body for you to function properly and is needed by every organ.  It therefore has an impact on a range of common conditions, ranging from PMS to depression and osteoporosis.

Luckily, there are plenty of sources of magnesium in many everyday foods – for example, green leafy vegetables are particularly good sources of magnesium. Yet magnesium deficiency is not unusual. 

Could this be because it’s quite common for people to see greens, beans, and grains as more of an optional side dish than the main event?  I think so.  I’ve also noticed that while people these days are more aware of getting their ‘Five a Day’ portions of fruits and vegetables, they tend to gravitate towards fruit rather than vegetables – especially rufty tufty vegetables like kale and beetroot tops, which are so good for you.  And for many people nuts and seeds just don’t appear on their radar.

Well, if this is you, I hope to convince of the benefits of changing your ways!

Why Does It Matter Whether I Get Enough Magnesium?

Magnesium is important for your nerves, your muscles (including your heart) and your  immune system.  It helps your metabolism to function and is as important as calcium in forming strong bones. 

If you don’t get enough magnesium, you could suffer from any of the following symptoms: 

  • Irritability, agitation and anxiety
  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS)
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Hyperventilation
  • Muscle spasm or twitching
  • Slow nail growth
  • Headaches

Scientific studies suggest that magnesium supplements (which are easier to study in isolation than whole foods) help to relieve many of the physical symptoms that women with PMS experience, including bloating and fluid retention, weight gain, breast tenderness and insomnia.

And in terms of the psychological symptoms of PMS, inadequate magnesium appears to reduce serotonin levels – and we know how important serotonin is to keeping you on an even keel if you suffer from PMS or PMDD.

How To Get Enough Magnesium From Food

Beans are a great source of magnesium as part of PMS busting diet

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

Although magnesium supplements exist in a variety of forms (and with varying levels of absorption and effectiveness), Nature provides plenty of dietary sources of easily absorbed magnesium.  A whole-foods plant-based diet will definately ensure that you get plenty of magnesium. 

Leafy greens are particularly great – full of the minerals potassium, magnesium and calcium – but if you’re not keen, there are other options too.  Here are some magnesium-rich foods to include in your meals.  They not only help beat PMS, they’re great for lowering cholesterol and keeping your heart healthy too: 

  • Leafy green vegetables (like kale, cabbage, beetroot tops, chard and spinach)
  • Seaweed
  • Avocados
  • Nuts (like Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, pine nuts, pistachios)
  • Blackstrap molasses (also a good source of iron, calcium, potassium and B6)
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • All types of beans and tofu (which is made from soya beans)
  • Oatmeal
  • Dark chocolate and cocoa powder (see, I told you the list wasn’t all green veg!)
  • Bananas
  • Whole grains (like brown rice and millet)
  • Many herbs and spices (like coriander, dill  sage, fennel and cumin)

Factors affecting absorption of Magnesium

Certain lifestyle factors may have the effect of lowering your magnesium levels. For example:  

The amount of magnesium that your cells can absorb also partly depends of the level of vitamin B6 in your body.  Vitamin B6 supplements are traditionally recommended for PMS  management and I examine the evidence for how effective this actually is in a separate post.  But what initial studies do seem to show is that vitamin B6 combined with magnesium seems to work better than B6 alone (or indeed, a magnesium supplement on it’s own). 

Magnesium supplementation is also often recommended in combination with calcium tablets for PMS.  This is also something I will also write about in a later post.

Thanks for reading!

Top ten tips for a PMS-friendly detox

PMS detox smoothie

Detox with a PMS-busting wholefood fruit and veg smoothie

Last time, I wrote about how I learnt through personal experience about the connection between juice fasting / detoxing and off-the-scale PMS.

But that’s not to say I’m totally against detoxing – so long as it’s done the right way. Eating well is the foundation of any natural approach to beating PMS and if detoxing helps you change your food habits and gives your digestion a rest, I’m all for it.

But if you are susceptible to PMS (and why else would you be reading PMS Warrior?) you do need to be careful.  Follow these top ten tips for a safe detox that WON’T send you hurtling towards bad PMS: 

  1. A golden rule of PMS management is to eat little and often – every three hours at least.  This keeps your blood sugar levels stable and prevents the rollercoaster that causes your energy levels to plummet and food cravings to take hold.  It also helps to keep  serotonin levels stable, which is great for fighting anxiety and depression.  So whatever the detox books say, don’t starve yourself.  Small but nutrient-dense meals, combined with grazing on PMS-healthy snacks in between, is the PMS-friendly way to go.  And ironically, eating more – but better – can also help you lose weight, since drastic dieting or fasting can send your body into crisis mode, which is when it holds on to fat more.
  2. Cut out sugar, alcohol, stimulants like caffeine, and processed foods, all of the time – not just when you’re detoxing.   It’ll help your PMS, and you’ll have less to detox from.  If you only go ‘cold turkey’ when you’re detoxing, you’ll be more likely to suffer withdrawal symptoms like headaches.  And as one of my readers commented under the previous post, fruit juice (often relied on in detoxing to keep vitamin levels up) is full of sugar.  So if you really want to go down the juice fasting road, mix your juice half and half with water to slow down the digestion process and prevent blood sugars spiking.
  3. Breakfast provides important fuel for your body and helps to balance your blood sugar levels.  So don’t go completely hungry at the beginning of they day.  It’s better to eat less later in the day once you’ve expended most of the energy you needed to that day to get you through it.
  4. Don’t completely cut out complex carbohydrates. I don’t mean filling up on bread and pasta.  Fruits, vegetables, salads, grains and beans all contain carbohydrates, and in moderation, they can help you eat more simply during your detox.  But remember that juicing removes all the fibre and carbohydrates from fruit and vegetables.  Stick to whole foods.
  5. Avoid detoxing in the second half of your period, and particularly in the week before your period.  This is when food cravings are likely to be highest and your need for a diet full of energy-giving and mood-boosting healthy carbs is likely to be greatest.  If you eat badly during this period, you’ll know about it.
  6. Don’t do an extended detox.  A weekend of eating really pure foods, or less food than normal, won’t destabilise you.  But four days or more of detoxing – unless you’re under expert supervision – can play havoc with your PMS and leave you feeling worse.
  7. Don’t do a detox and then overindulge immediately afterwards.  Psychologists call this the licensing effect.  Like the woman I heard about recently who detoxed for a week in the run up to her holiday – then went overboard on all the rich food and alcohol on offer on the day (and felt very ill as a result).
  8. The best way to capture ALL the goodness of fruit and vegetables is to make smoothies and soups.  They’re nutritious, delicious, and easy to digest – but with no loss of fibre or nutrients.  But don’t just gulp down your liquid meals. ‘Chew’ your smoothies and soups to allow the saliva in your mouth to break down the nutrients (and to really savour the taste too, of course).
  9. The best way to give your digestion a rest is to concentrate on simplifying your meals for a day or two.  Try eating just one or two foods at a sitting; for example, just quinoa and vegetables, or whole grain rice and vegetables.  This is also a great time to eat big and varied salads.
  10. Whatever you’ve heard about drinking gallons of water for your skin and for clearing out your system, evidence is now emerging that drinking too much water is actually unnecessary, and probably even harmful.  For example, too much water flushes minerals known as electrolytes from your body.  Listen to your thirst instinct and stay hydrated the natural way by eating water-filled fruits and vegetables, smoothies and soups.  (This will also help you get rid of the environmentally toxic plastic water bottle habit).  And don’t gulp down herbal teas, water and juices – sip them to allow your body to allow the liquid to do its work.

Enjoy eating healthily and sensibly to feel good the whole month through.  Make detoxing an event and a special time and use it as a chance to slow down and simplify, and to transition to better habits. But don’t sacrifice all the things you need to obliterate your PMS.

I’m always interested in hearing your detox and PMS stories.

Thanks for reading!

PMS Escape and the serotonin connection

PMS Escape – Clinically Proven to work in a PMS crisis

I’m not keen on the remedies and supplements which are targeted at women with PMS but which are not backed up by science.  But when I find a product I like, I stick with it and spread the love.

Ready-made anti-PMS cocktail. Now all SOLD OUT

Several years ago, I discovered a powdered drink from America specifically designed for women with PMS called PMS Escape.   It had been developed by Dr Judith Wurtman while she was Director of the Program in Women’s Health at the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Clinical Research Center and was a clinically tested and patented blend of carbohydrates and vitamins. 

Having come out of an academic institution, it’s not surprising that PMS Escape was supported by research papers which provided evidence of its effectiveness in double blind trials.  These showed that it successfully boosted serotonin levels and thereby reduced the PMS symptoms of sadness, tension and anger (as well as cravings for sugar and carbohydrates) compared with a placebo. 

I’ve already written about how carbohydrates are essential to managing PMS symptoms, but the great advantage of PMS Escape was that it served up a balanced mix of carbs in a quickly digested convenient form, giving almost instant relief.  Taken on an empty stomach, PMS Escape would have a calming, soothing effect within 20 minutes or so.  The effect was rapid and astonishing, and a lifesaver in a crisis – for example, when you had to get it together to face a challenging day at work despite your PMS.

I’ve kept a little stockpile of PMS Escape in my cupboard and it has bailed me out on several occasions.  Just yesterday I had an unexpectedly ratty day after I let my blood sugar levels plummet by forgetting to eat from breakfast till 3pm.  Fatal.  I got shaky and irritable, impatient and muddle-headed, but nonetheless I needed to get myself together to meet someone.  Due to very poor planning, I didn’t have the time or the ingredients to prepare and eat a sensible carbohydrate-rich plant-based meal which would have got me back onto an even keel.  So I reached for the PMS Escape – the sticking plaster solution.  And it worked a treat.  I was able to face the world and get on with my day.  It also saved me from the potato crisps and chocolate fingers – which would have given me a short-lived energy and mood boost but would have left me feeling worse in the long run. 

I’ve only used PMS Escape occasionally but when I have, it’s been very effective.  So as far as I could see, the only downside was the cost – about £12 for enough for 3 days’ usage (a month’s supply) – and the fact you could only order it online.

Well, I don’t need to worry about either of these any more, as it’s now been discontinued.

I’m sorry to drop that bombshell – especially if you’ve got excited because I’ve just waxed lyrical about it – but you have to understand … I’m grieving too!  PMS Escape is now showing ‘out of stock’ or ‘sold out’ pretty much everywhere.  What a shame that the one thing that has been proven to be fast-acting, safe and effective, has been withdrawn. 

PMS Escape Withdrawn – So Now What Do We Do?

At first I suspected that PMS Escape had stopped being imported into the UK because of new health food regulations, but I see that it’s the American side of the operation that has withdrawn it.   So that seems pretty final.  (If anyone knows exactly why it’s been discontinued, I’d be interested to know.  I’ve tried emailing the manufacturer / distributor, Enzymatic Therapy, and got no response). 

But as the saying goes, perhaps it’s better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all.  It’s time to move on and find an alternative PMS emergency fix.  But first a little about how and why PMS Escape worked so well. Continue reading

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