There are those who have the period punctual like a Swiss watch: 28 days split. And who, on the other hand, is at the mercy of hormonal fluctuations and complains of a “dancer” menstrual rhythm, which does what he wants. Sometimes he anticipates, others delays or as a lump sum, skipping the monthly appointment altogether. Problems which, according to recent SIGO data (Italian Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology), affect 55% of Italian women, struggling with menstrual irregularities of all kinds.
A question therefore arises spontaneously: can our daily diet help the cycle get back on track, since good hormonal balance also depends on what we eat? Of course it can. The new book proves it Female nutritionwritten by the nutritionist biologist Laura Coluccio, which reveals the subtle threads that link table and cycle, diet and cyclicity of the flow. And since among the most frequent disorders there is the premenstrual syndrome (SPM), which affects younger women, and the cycle without regular intervals which instead concerns the climacteric (that long period that heralds menopause) we asked Dr. Coluccio a few questions to find out what the “yes” and “no” foods are ” in these two delicate phases of life.
Premenstrual syndrome: the most common ailments
PMS is due to an imbalance in the ratio of estrogen to progesterone that occurs in the week before your period arrives. This imbalance is paraphysiological, in the sense that within certain limits it occurs in order to allow the endometrium (the lining of the uterus) to flake off and thus initiate menstrual bleeding. However, in many women, hormonal changes, in particular the collapse of estrogen and the relative increase in progesterone, create many disturbances: irritabilitywhich slips into the trend to depression, water retention and breast tendernesswhich can also increase by one size, abdominal swelling sometimes accompanied by cramps, migraine and alterations of the bowel habit.
«Generally, I invite women to include the symptoms encountered in a checklist, marking those that occur every month with a dot and those that occur occasionally with an asterisk, in order to have a complete picture of the situation and to address each individual problem, avoiding easy summaries of the type “I feel unwell”. Because a prudent diet can contribute in a concrete way to solving or reducing certain ailments. Let’s not forget that food is our first medicine», clarifies Dr. Coluccio.
Premenstrual syndrome: how to counteract irritability
It is the symptom most reported by women suffering from PMS, a malaise that is both physical and psychological. Nervousness, unexplained tiredness, difficulty concentrating, daytime sleepiness and sleep disturbances, which is not perceived as really restorative, and even the pounding migraine can last up to seven to eight days. All disorders due to the drop in serotonin, the neurotransmitter of well-being (or, as some say, the “molecule of happiness”) which goes down in the week before the cycle.
For the law of compensation, the woman unconsciously seeks foods rich in tryptophan, the chemical precursor of serotonin, passing from focaccia to bread, from biscuits to Nutella and chocolates of all kinds. It is the so-called carb craving, the irresistible desire for carbohydrates that assaults women, in an attempt to rebalance serotonin levels.
“But this craving for sweets comes at a steep price. At the moment tryptophan helps, but the glycemic peaks are followed by an inevitable down, in which nervous hunger is felt more than before. As soon as the blood sugar drops, in fact, the unsatisfied desire for sweets starts again. To keep the mood up, my advice is to focus on foods rich in magnesium and B vitamins (especially B6 and B12) which play an important role in regulating states of anxiety, sadness and agitation. Magnesium abounds in whole grains, green leafy vegetables, walnuts, almonds and extra dark chocolate, while vitamins B6 and B12 are found in protein foods such as legumes, meat, fish and eggs», explains the expert.
The right foods for bowel disorders
High concentrations of progesterone are generally related to an increase in constipation in the so-called luteal phase, i.e. the period from ovulation (which occurs around the 14th day, for those with a regular cycle) to the start of the menstrual flow. Normally, you have moderate constipation which then turns into episodes of diarrhea in the first few days of your period. Sometimes there are also abdominal cramps, due both to the spasms of the uterus which contracts to expel the blood and to the altered intestinal motility, influenced by hormonal changes.
What to eat and not eat in these cases? «In the phase dominated by constipation it is necessary to introduce more fiberswater from at least eight glasses of water lalder from meals: whole grains (such as oat bran flakes or sticks, to be eaten for breakfast), seasonal vegetables and legumes. In the presence of dysentery, which often initiates the cycle, it is instead necessary to brake on the fibers, eliminating the foods listed above until the intestine re-stabilises », advises the nutritionist.
Premenopause: what to do if your period gets shorter
Already after the age of 40 many women enter the climacteric, the long interlude between childbearing age and full-blown menopause. It is a completely physiological stage, which should not be seen as a disease to be treated but which requires even more a healthy lifestyle and a controlled diet, giving up smoking, alcohol and to all that comfort food (candies, sweet and savory “machine” snacks) which promotes peripheral resistance to insulin, the antechamber of diabetes.
During the climacteric about 50% of women complain close cycles (every 20-22 days), often accompanied by heavy flow. They signal an insufficiency of the luteal phase, the one dominated by progesterone which characterizes the second part of the cycle.
«In these cases, from ovulation onwards it is good reduce the consumption of red meat and sausages, which increase estrogen levels, and bring fresh wild fish to the table at least three times a week, rich in Omega 3 which perform an important anti-inflammatory action. Allies of the “over 45s” are also the Whole grains, whose fibers act as blood sugar modulators and govern a good hormonal balance. The ideal is to alternate wheat, buckwheat, oats, spelt, millet, quinoa, amaranth and rice. And naturally lots of vegetables, raw and cooked, with which to start meals to promote satiety and avoid overeating. Finally, it should be emphasized that having close cycles means menstruating much more in the space of a year, even 18 times. There is therefore the risk of iron deficiency anemia, revealed by blood hemoglobin, with consequent asthenia, headache, insomnia, irritability and shortness of breath. To avoid this problem, it is good to consume red and white meat, oily fish (especially sardines), eggs, legumes and nuts (walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts and pistachios),” explains the doctor.
Who is vegetarian and has a ban on foods of animal origin, to raise hemoglobin must take a supplement of iron, folic acid and vitamin B12.
Oligomenorrhea, if instead the interval lengthens
50% of premenopausal women suffer from oligomenorrhea. It means that the interval between one menstrual cycle and the next becomes longer, and the flow occurs every 32, 35 or even 40 days. Sometimes, the cycle skips completely throwing the woman into alarm, for fear of having already entered menopause. In fact, the hormone relay is altered to such an extent that it no longer registers a regular sequence of estrogen and progesterone.
Very thin women, who have little fat deposits (adipose tissue is an endocrine organ), can run into an estrogen deficiency already after the first buoyancy mark, with the consequent menstrual skips. How can diet help? «By increasing the income of legumesrich in phytoestrogens: beans, broad beans, chickpeas and peas they supply cumestans and lignans, while soy, consumed both in the form of sprouts and as tofu, crackers, milk, yoghurt or vegetable steak, provides precious isoflavones, whose undisputed queen is called genistein. Other sprouts, fresh and tasty in salads, such as those of watercress and red clover, also perform the task of supplying phytohormones. Finally, I recommend dusting off the herbs: basil, sage and rosemary, in particular, provide phytoestrogens, polyphenols with an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action, as well as calcium, which is very useful for preventing osteoporosis», explains the expert.
Menus to rebalance hormones
They have been studied to counteract premenstrual syndrome, but they are also excellent for those who are entering menopause and helplessly witness hormonal tantrums and weight gain. Here is the weekly scheme suggested by Dr. Laura Coluccio.
1 cup oat milk, 1 slice of toasted whole grain bread with peanut spread, 1 cup blueberries
6 unpeeled almonds, 1 bag of extra dark chocolate
Cream of leeks fillet of sea bass or sea bream in a pan seasoned with extra virgin olive oil and lemon, 1 slice of
toasted wholemeal bread
1 slice of fresh pineapple with a sprinkle of cinnamon
80 g of wholemeal rigatoni with courgette flowers and saffron
1 low-fat plain yogurt with a teaspoon of honey, 3 walnuts, 1 mallow herbal tea or 1 cup of green tea
40 g of wholemeal bread or crackers 30 g of Parmesan cheese
Veal stew with peas, 2 sautéed courgettes, 1 sliced cucumber
1 grapefruit juice, 3 dry wholemeal biscuits
2 poached eggs, savoy cabbage in…
Choose foods that provide calcium, such as low-fat milk or yogurt, almonds, kale, beans or fortified foods, such as soymilk and tofu. Include sources of vitamin B6, which can be found in pistachios, turkey, garbanzo beans, bananas, potatoes and fortified cereals.What foods reduce PMS symptoms? ›
Do include whole grains, lean protein, fruits, and vegetables. Eating well all month long is a better approach to PMS than tweaking your diet when you have symptoms. So enjoy plenty of colorful, fiber-packed fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, such as brown rice, oatmeal, and rye bread.How do you counteract PMS? ›
- Eat a diet rich in complex carbohydrates. ...
- Add calcium-rich foods, like yogurt and leafy green vegetables, to your diet.
- Reduce your intake of fat, salt, and sugar.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Change your eating schedule.
- Salt. Consuming lots of salt leads to water retention, which can result in bloating. ...
- Sugar. ...
- Coffee. ...
- Alcohol. ...
- Spicy foods. ...
- Red meat. ...
- Foods you don't tolerate well.
Several vitamins and minerals including vitamin B, vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium are essential for neurotransmitter synthesis and hormonal balance, both of which are potentially involved in the underlying pathogenesis of PMS.What vitamins are good for PMS mood swings? ›
These supplements may also help: A multivitamin daily, containing the antioxidant vitamins A, C, E, the B-complex vitamins and trace minerals such as magnesium, calcium, zinc, and selenium. Calcium citrate, 500 to 1,000 mg daily, and vitamin D, 400 IU daily. Several studies suggest that calcium may reduce PMS symptoms.Can magnesium help PMS? ›
Magnesium may help to prevent period pain
Taken daily, magnesium may prevent dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps) in some people (1). It works by relaxing the smooth muscle of the uterus and by reducing the prostaglandins that cause period pain (1,8).
- Best Food: Chickpeas. Research has found that women who have PMS also tend to have lower zinc levels. ...
- Worst Food: Alcohol. ...
- Best Food: Greek Yogurt. ...
- Worst Food: Salty Foods. ...
- Best Food: Salmon. ...
- Worst Food: Coffee. ...
- Best Food: Turkey. ...
- Worst Food: Added Sugar.
Eat anti-inflammatory foods to relax menstrual cramps
Anti-inflammatory foods can help promote blood flow and relax your uterus. Try eating berries, tomatoes, pineapples and spices like turmeric, ginger or garlic. Leafy green vegetables, almonds, walnuts and fatty fish, like salmon, can also help reduce inflammation.
- Eat smaller, more-frequent meals to reduce bloating and the sensation of fullness.
- Limit salt and salty foods to reduce bloating and fluid retention.
- Choose foods high in complex carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Choose foods rich in calcium. ...
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Eggs. ...
- Fatty Fish. ...
- Chicken Breast. ...
- Leafy Greens. ...
- Cruciferous Vegetables. ...
- Quinoa. ...
- Pomegranates. ...
If you're approaching menopause, fluctuating hormone levels may be responsible for worsening PMS symptoms. Research shows that women who suffer from PMS earlier in life tend to have a rockier transition to menopause later in life. These hormonal changes can cause PMS to flare up more noticeably every month.Do probiotics help with PMS symptoms? ›
Taking probiotics during your period may help to reduce bloating and ease digestive discomfort, rebalancing the microbiome and helping to normalize stools, so reducing constipation and diarrhea.Why do I get so angry before my period? ›
It is thought that hormonal changes in the menstrual cycle (fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone levels) affect the mood of women and trigger negative emotions such as anger and irritability.How much magnesium should I take for PMS? ›
Magnesium doses of 200–250 mg daily have been shown to improve PMS symptoms, including mood and water retention.What are the symptoms of low magnesium in PMS? ›
Increased bloating, fatigue, irritability, soreness, and sleep disturbances in and around a women's menstrual cycle could be caused by a magnesium deficiency.How do you know if your magnesium is low? ›
Magnesium deficiency is diagnosed via a blood test and sometimes a urine test. Your doctor may order the blood test if you have symptoms such as weakness, irritability, abnormal heart rhythm, nausea and/or diarrhoea, or if you have abnormal calcium or potassium levels.What time of day should I take magnesium? ›
Magnesium can be taken at any time of the day. Many people prefer to take supplements earlier in the day, such as with breakfast or lunch. Taking your magnesium supplement with a meal can also help prevent any stomach upset.What causes PMS to get worse? ›
If you're approaching menopause, fluctuating hormone levels may be responsible for worsening PMS symptoms. Research shows that women who suffer from PMS earlier in life tend to have a rockier transition to menopause later in life. These hormonal changes can cause PMS to flare up more noticeably every month.What increases PMS symptoms? ›
Fluctuations of serotonin, a brain chemical (neurotransmitter) that's thought to play a crucial role in mood states, could trigger PMS symptoms. Insufficient amounts of serotonin may contribute to premenstrual depression, as well as to fatigue, food cravings and sleep problems.
Trauma and stress.
Other research has shown that in some cases PMDD may be linked to stressful and traumatic past events, such as emotional or physical abuse. Stress may also make your PMDD symptoms worse.