Aching, cramping, bloating, cravings — a seemingly unending cycle of angst that rides right alongside menstrual cycles, especially in young girls. It should come as no surprise that premenstrual symptoms (PMS) are heavily impacted by the food we eat. PMS comes in many forms: physical issues (headaches, cramps, bloating) and psychological issues (depression and irritability). A study done by the Georgetown University School of Medicine exhibited that women who ate mainly vegetable- and fruit-based diets instead of the traditional meat, dairy and sugar based diets saw a decrease in "the duration and intensity of the pain and discomfort associated with PMS and the menstrual cycle."
Based on these studies that correlate processed foods, salt intake and sedentary lifestyles with a more difficult period cycle, scientists recommend that women of child-bearing years adopt healthy lifestyles and eating habits. Even if you're already leading an active and fresh-food lifestyle, it is still important to make sure that those trends continue up to, and through, the visit from Aunt Flo. The cravings are real, but so is the pain! Thus, we present you with five foods you should avoid during your monthly cycle.
1. Coffee: Researchers at El Minia in Egypt surveyed 253 female students about their dietary habits, and found that 92.3 percent of women who drank coffee daily had regular or increased PMS. Women who consume caffeine more often will likely have worsened PMS because of hormonal imbalances in the body. While coffee is great for small bursts of energy, the crash afterward is oftentimes so debilitating; combine that with the sluggish feelings you already get from your period (and feelings of indigestion), and you have an unhappy combination!
2. Fatty meats: Saturated fats can worsen your feelings of pain and inflammation during your period. PMS Comfort writes that too much saturated animal fats creates a "pro-inflammatory environment" in your body, meaning increased bloating, cramping and bad moods. Instead of hamburgers and fried chicken, eat lean red meats that contain lots of iron and fresh fish that contain tons of omega-3 fatty acids. Try this honey mustard glazed salmon for some healthy protein!
3. Processed, packaged, and bagged foods: The potato chips, beef jerky and even just a tablespoon of ketchup are overloaded with sodium. Because sodium makes your body retain water, decreasing your intake of sodium may help decrease the bloat! Here are some easy ways to cut sodium.
4. Refined sugars: No, we're not talking about dark chocolate here! Dark chocolate has mood-boosting omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, and contains much less sugar than milk chocolate. Dark chocolate is essential for... well, life. What needs to be avoided here are the ice creams, baked goods, milk chocolates and candies. Combining a lot of refined sugars can aid in the production of acne, and also increases water retention. Not to mention that refined sugars give very short bursts of energy that can lead to awful mood swings later.
5. Alcohol: A PMS health guide released by The New York Times states that prolonged cramping can be expected when a woman drinks more alcohol in the days leading up to her period. Alcohol also lowers your blood sugar, meaning more fatigue, and makes your breasts more tender. Even though all the aches and pains may seem like the perfect excuse to kick back with a glass of bubbly, try to resist the temptation!
>> Read more: How to Solve Your Period Problems