Everyone has their favourite comfort foods. When we asked around the Yoppie team some of their most prized pre-period munchies, they gave us answers ranging from the classics (like chocolate or creamy carbs) to the more specific (garlicky mashed potatoes) to the truly memorable (“a big fat dirty burger”). Comfort food really does come in all shapes and sizes! Of course everyone can benefit from their pet faves, even just to improve low mood in the short term, but if your period brings some hefty, life-affecting PMS symptoms, a few minor dietary tweaks can make all the difference.
“Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine shall be thy food.” – Hippocrates
We’ve chosen 5 of the best diet tweaks you can make to positively impact your cycle in a BIG way. Here we go…
Maybe not such a minor change depending on the kind of cravings you get, but this tip can give you pretty quick results. By cutting down on your salt intake, you could ease salt-induced bloating which tends to add to the discomfort of PMS bloating.
Start by limiting your salty snacks the week before your period (you know the ones; crisps, salted nuts, popcorn, etc.), or if your pre-menstrual tummy bloat is particularly bad, you may want to check how much salt is in the food you eat, and avoid processed foods by cooking your own. Sticking to homemade, healthy meals will mean less fast food and processed food which tends to contain a lot of sneaky salt. You’ll be surprised how quickly that bloated belly deflates when you make this change.
Not a big drinker? This one may not apply to you. But for those who enjoy some drinks at the weekend, or even a glass of wine or two in the evenings after work, you may find your cycle benefits from cutting down on alcohol, or if possible, cutting it out altogether.
Alcohol can be relaxing and fun in moderation, but its negative effects include hangover headaches, diarrhea, an upset stomach, and more. All of these can exacerbate PMS symptoms, and according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, regular heavy booze sessions could even cause irregular or skipped periods, because alcohol can temporarily increase levels of estrogen and testosterone, disrupting the typical hormonal fluctuations that come during ovulation.
And of course, alcohol can often be a depressant, so if you experience low mood at certain times during your cycle, one way to improve this could be to say goodbye to the booze. It’s often best to gradually reduce your alcohol consumption rather than go cold turkey, so you don’t experience more negative symptoms.
We know, we know... this list is more about what you should cut out of your diet than what you should add in (if you want to know which foods to add in, this is the blog post for you!) but unfortunately these are the things that tend to have the biggest impact on your cycle. Which brings us to… caffeine! *gulp*
We love a coffee or a green tea, don’t get us wrong, but it’s worth considering how much caffeine you consume each day and how this could be affecting your cycle. Not only can caffeine cause dizziness, diarrhoea, headaches, fever and irritability, it’s also a notorious sleep disrupter if you’re having it too close to bedtime, and a lack of sleep is bad for… well, everything! Work on cutting back your daily caffeine intake (or experiment with none at all) to see how this could have a positive effect on your period.
Sugar… the great inflamer! Sugar is fine in moderation, but eating too much of it can spike our energy levels, which then inevitably dip and threaten to worsen your mood. If you tend to get moody, depressed or anxious around your period, your sugar intake could have a lot more to do with regulating this than you think.
Whether it’s comfort chocolate, your morning sugary cereal, or the processed foods that typically contain a lot of hidden sugars for added taste (and to get us hooked!), it all adds up throughout the month and could lead to one pretty problematic period.
If you can cut out sugar altogether, we applaud you! It’s a tough thing to do when so many of us have been conditioned to crave sugar our whole lives. If, instead, you’d simply like to make some less inflammatory choices, you can switch to less sugary options or even prep your own low-sugar, natural snacks (like these) for any after-dinner cravings.
So you’ve cut out salt, sugar, alcohol and caffeine… what’s left? Lots more than most people think, and if you fill up on healthy foods, the rest will fall into place. Stick to whole foods as much as possible, which means making dinner using fresh vegetables, things that grow in the ground, and using herbs and spices to season rather than adding flavourings. This quote is a great rule of thumb:
“Came from a plant, eat it; was made in a plant, don’t.” – Michael Pollan, Journalist and Author of Food Rules
Focus on eating whole foods throughout your cycle to help balance your hormones, manage blood sugar levels, and avoid cortisol spikes or mood swings. A few ways to add whole foods to your diet include choosing products with 100% whole grains when possible, eating a lot of vegetables and fruits, adding beans in your meals and snacks more often for protein, fibre, and other nutrients, eating fewer processed foods, and opting for healthier drinks like water, tea, or fresh fruit juice. Whole foods for the win!
Have you made any dietary tweaks with your period in mind? We’d love to know! Shout out in our private Facebook group or drop us a note on Insta @itsyoppie. Don't forget that our personalised period box can get organic tampons, PMS supplements and more delivered easily and regularly through your letterbox, which leaves more time every month to take a closer look at your eating habits.
This article was fact-checked by Yoppie’s nutritionist Shona Wilkinson.
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