How Does Sugar Affect Women with PMS?
by Joan Kent, PhD
I've actually read one or two recommendations to eat chocolate to help with PMS. Let's take a look at that.
If you suffer with PMS symptoms, a number of things could be causing them. Diet is a big one.
Premenstrual syndrome includes a long list of symptoms and signs: anxiety, depression, irritability, mood swings, nervousness, angry outbursts, fatigue, fluid retention, bloating, weight gain, backache, cramps, headaches, joint pain, breast pain, insomnia, acne, and cravings.
Factors that contribute to PMS include shifts in hormones or neurochemicals, diet deficiencies, stress, or lack of exercise.
Two important brain chemicals associated with PMS are serotonin and endorphins (beta-endorphin). Both chemicals drop premenstrually – and both are strongly influenced by diet and exercise.
Serotonin promotes relaxation, calm and satiety, the feeling that we've had enough food. It can reduce depression, stress, anxiety, and pain. During PMS, the lower levels of serotonin can reverse all of those – and cause cravings, especially for carbs.
Beta-endorphin reduces pain and emotional distress. It promotes wellbeing, euphoria, and brain reward. When endorphins drop premenstrually, we may feel more pain, have "low" moods, and get cravings, especially for fats and sugars, including chocolate.
Sugar Is Why Some Women Have PMS
Sugar may increase the intensity of PMS symptoms. It also increases magnesium excretion. That in turn leads to irritability, anxiety, depression, and/or insomnia.
The high insulin secretion that sugar triggers can and does affect hormones called prostaglandins – and increases the ones that cause pain and inflammation.
Sugar increases appetite, preferences for junk food, cravings, and hypoglycemia in susceptible people.
Alcohol does all of these things, too, and can decrease serotonin besides.
So instead of eating chocolate when you have PMS, a better plan is to get off sugar (and alcohol).
If you crave carbs, eat complex carbs: sweet potato, quinoa, turnips, lentils, pumpkin and other winter squash, and vegetables.
If you crave fats, eat healthful fats: avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, unprocessed nut butters (without sugar), seeds, or walnut oil. They will also help control cravings for sugar and other carbs.
Don't miss tips on sugar and menopause, food bars and more – right here this week!
If you'd like help with sugar, I invite you to visit www.LastResortNutrition.com and grab your free copy of "3 Biggest Mistakes People Make When Trying to Quit Sugar."
Brought to you by Dr. Joan Kent, best-selling author of Stronger Than Sugar: 7 Simple Steps to Defeat Sugar Addiction, Lift Your Mood, and Transform Your Health.