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Menstrual cycle and diet

Headache, bloated tummy, water retention, lower back pain or sore muscles/joints, poor concentration, trouble sleeping, low mood, sadness, irritability, a sharp increase in hunger and cravings for sweet things.
These are just some of the symptoms experienced by women in childbearing age, caused by Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).

Symptoms are numerous, manifold and vary in intensity from person to person and from month to month, or over the years, making everyday life tough for many women.

What causes it?

The cause of premenstrual syndrome remains unclear. Possible causes or contributing factors include:

  • A genetic predisposition to PMS;
  • Possible Magnesium and Calcium deficiencies;
  • Reduced Serotonin levels. It is a neurotransmitter, a substance that facilitates communication between nerve cells and contributes towards mood regulation;
  • Multiple elements of endocrinal origin, like fluctuations in the levels of circulating oestrogen and progesterone levels and increased aldosterone levels, which contributes towards the regulation of salts and liquids and can therefore cause transitory water retention and bloating.

It is a topic worth focusing on, also in nutritional terms.
Let's clarify the role of nutrition in PMS and the symptom of hunger.

Why is it believed that women experiencing premenstrual syndrome eat anything they can get their hands on? Is this actually true?

Scientific studies have not found any difference in the calorie intake of women with or without PMS evaluated during the same step of the cycle.

So it is important not to feel guilty if we experience hunger and perhaps we are following a low calorie diet: we should simply discuss it with a nutritional specialist so that they can help us tackle our increased appetite.

Appeasing this hunger and eating more during PSM will not make you put on weight.
Often heightened appetite means you are burning more energy, which requires more calories.

Factors that contribute towards increased basal metabolism and total energy consumption during the luteal phase are well known. These include individual and environmental factors like stress, your individual state of nutrition, weight, physical activity and seasonal changes.
This means that during the luteal phase we consume more calories, probably because our body is preparing itself for the menstrual cycle or conception.

What is the best way to tackle it? How to reduce the symptoms?

Food plays an important role in the fight against disturbances during this phase of the menstrual cycle.



Studies have shown that a greater consumption of added sugars and alcohol increases the severity of PMS symptoms and it appears that alcohol is a possible risk factor in the actual onset of PMS.
However, a quantity at which harmful effects are nullified is yet to be established, which is why caution is recommended with alcohol.

In the past it was always believed that there was a link between PMS and caffeine. A study has since dispelled this myth.
So you can continue drinking coffee, as long as you do not exceed general recommended amounts, so 3 espresso cups and 4-6 cups of tea (for adult women who are not pregnant or breast-feeding).

Many women are encouraged to reduce sugar consumption and increase their fibre intake.
One study showed how an increased intake of fruits and vegetables did not alleviate symptoms and therefore there are no influences and correlations with PMS.

There are many kinds of sugar and it appears that maltose sembra sia l’unico correlato alla SPM (solo per intake pari o superiori a 3 grammi al giorno).
is the only one correlated with PMS (only with an intake equal to or greater than 3 grams per day).
What kind of sugar is it and where can it be found? It is present in processed foods or meal replacement high-energy gym snacks/ bars, in the form of maltodextrines.

Another study has shown that the “Western diet”, a diet characterised by a high content of proteins, salts and added sugars, is associated with PMS.
So it is not about an excessive quantity of protein, but rather an overall imbalanced lifestyle.

Together, let's take a look at what you can do about your diet:


Vitamin B6
Eat more foods containing vitamin B6, like whole grains, meat, white in particular, fish, crustaceans, spinach, potatoes, pulses, nuts and some exotic fruits, like bananas.
Vitamin B6 stimulates serotonin synthesis, an important neurotransmitter for regulating mood, sleep, appetite, memory and concentration.

Magnesium has been proven to be highly useful in treating premenstrual syndrome.
This mineral effectively soothes uterus muscles, alleviating cramps, while also having mood boosting properties.
A magnesium deficit can also lead to an increase in aldosterone, which can further exacerbate the mineral deficit and increase water retention.
Eat more foods containing magnesium: green leaved vegetables (like spinach, chard and catalogna radicchio), pulses, aromatic herbs, pumpkin seeds, cocoa and chocolate, sesame, sunflower seeds, cashew nuts, almonds, walnuts, amaranth and buckwheat.

Limit salt
Limit salt intake to reduce water retention
typical in this phase of the cycle.
It is best to avoid all kinds of cold cuts and preserved meats, olives in brine, smoked salmon, tinned tuna and any snacks.

Calcium and Vitamin D

yogurt e frutta secca

It has been discovered that low levels of calcium and vitamin D in the blood during the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle cause or exacerbate premenstrual syndrome symptoms.
Therefore, a diet rich in these elements (like yoghurt, aromatic herbs, eggs, molluscs, soya, nuts, turnip greens, cabbages and oranges) can replenish blood levels and eliminate or reduce premenstrual syndrome symptoms.

As we have seen, mood swings are one of the most frequent symptoms and emotional eating is renowned as a famous consequence.
You are not to blame, nor are you lacking in willpower, as this can actually be physiological. So if you suffer from PMS, my advice is that you start a diet path based on your needs, with the aim of alleviating your symptoms, and above all, without underestimating them.


• To fight water retention you can opt for garments that help drain excess liquids by day (see functional slimming leggings or activewear) and during the night (see draining pyjama).

Posted in: Newposts, Dieta Sana

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