Any gal who’s suffers from severe PMS symptoms or painful periods knows how truly AWFUL that time of the month can be. Sleepless nights, migraines, chocolate cake cravings, backaches and full body fatigue are ultra-common. Then there are the absolutely terrible cramps that can make it painful to even stand up (never mind to even attempt PMS yoga) before Aunt Flo finally arrives. All of this makes me *seriously* dread the last two weeks of the month.
Despite the fact that the pills and natural remedies I’ve tried have pretty much failed to make my symptoms go away, I still experiment with possible solutions when I hear about them. I recently got hold of a super straightforward PMS eating plan made up of eight different dos and dont’s from Manhattan-based Dr. Christopher Calapai, and with nothing to lose, I decided to try it out. Here’s how it went.
I actually start experiencing PMS symptoms about two full weeks before I get my period (ugh) but started this diet a week before, for the sake of the experiment. Today, I’m already feeling super tired, having trouble sleeping and feel sore enough all over that taking a walk can be miserable. As much as I LOVE salad (it’s my favorite food!) I can’t stand looking at one — all I want to do is make my fave pasta with sea salt and olive oil and park it on the couch to eat and sleep.
Work is tricky too. I find that I’m so tired and distracted that writing just doesn’t come to me like it normally does and that my usually quick creative brain is much slower to find functional and cool-looking solutions that delight my web production clients. For this reason, I usually end up drinking way more coffee than usual and working from a cafe simply so I don’t fall asleep. The struggle is real.
Not only am I feeling tired and irritable, but I have a killer headache that’s probably part hormonal and part need for my usual extra large dose of caffeine. Reading through the PMS dos and don’ts, I learn that caffeine is a major don’t, as it actually *causes* worse cramps because “your blood vessels contract when caffeine is present in your body.” Dr. Calapai also says that adding caffeine will make it more difficult for your body to retain water, which can cause stomach issues. Eek! Though I feel like I need my coffee more than ever during this tough week, I vow to cut it out so I can see if it truly makes a difference for me.
Not a coffee drinker? Wine lovers take note too! Drinking alcohol (even lightly) during PMS week is another don’t as it can actually worsen feelings of depression and moodiness. And if that’s not enough of a reason to put down the glass, a study published by the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology also found that regular drinking can increase the length and severity of cramps during PMS. This is totally new news to me and definitely noted.
Now that I’ve cut coffee, I feel ready to continue through Dr. Calapai’s suggestions by cutting out excessive salt and upping my water intake. Sea salt is a go-to for my fave pasta (and now I want it more than ever) but I stop adding it to the dish. I also add 1-2 bananas into my daily diet, one of which I eat in the morning mixed with eggs for a protein pancake and the other with almond butter for a snack or after dinner dessert. According to Dr. Calapai, who speaks about natural sleep disturbances that occur just before your period starts, bananas have heaps of melatonin — a sleep-aid hormone that’s secreted at night and helps your bod regulate its natural rhythms.
The other addition I make to my regular meals is incorporating more calcium. I don’t like to drink milk so I add more Greek yogurt to the mix, mixing it with berries and nuts to starve off hunger and hopefully reap the benefits. Dr. Calapai explains why more calcium during PMS week is a do, writing, “Some studies have shown that calcium levels are lower in women with PMS, and that those with the highest intake of calcium reported the mildest PMS symptoms.” Pretty remarkable!
Though I still feel tired and like I want to eat every cookie and chocolate cake under the sun, I’m definitely sleeping better than I usually do. It’s typical for me to wake up like clockwork around 3am every night the week before my period and it hasn’t happened once this week. I’m also taking Bar Method class on the days that I teach and though it’s ultra-painful, it doesn’t seem as unbearable as it usually does. My back definitely feels better than normal given the time of the month too.
Though Dr. Calapai says it’s totes okay to eat dark chocolate when experiencing PMS, I know myself well enough to know that if I touch it during this time, I’ll definitely have a hard time hitting the brakes. For a sweet treat that I can enjoy in moderation while avoiding spiked sugar levels by ODing on dark chocolate, I snack on a few different low-sugar/high protein snack bars throughout the week. It’s not the same thing, but it helps take the edge off.
I’m also forcing myself to consume lots of darker greens this week, like kale salad, broccoli and green smoothies — even though I *really* don’t want them. A do on the PMS eating plan, the greens also have calcium and are said to help with iron deficiency, one of the main culprits behind lightheadedness and nausea. I can’t argue with the fact that I’m thankfully not experiencing any of those day-altering symptoms.
My period comes right when I expect it to and though I definitely don’t feel great, the pain is nowhere near as bad as it always is. To be perfectly honest, my period is usually so bad that I completely schedule social plans and client project work around it, full-well knowing how sick I’ll feel.
The next few days follow, and I even feel well and energetic enough to exercise — something I’ve *never* been able to muster up the strength for before. I must admit, my mind’s blown that, though my period wasn’t painless, the week didn’t suck the life out of me as it usually does or leave me curled up in bed for a couple of days straight. I’ll definitely give it a go again next month, probably starting even earlier to see if that helps more.
If you weren’t keeping track, here’s the breakdown:
Do: Drink more water, eat bananas, get more calcium, eat dark chocolate, eat darker greens
Don’t: Drink coffee, drink alcohol, consume excessive salt
Have you found a remedy that helps banish bad PMS symptoms? Share it with us on Twitter @BritandCo!
(Photos via Getty)