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The PMS plate, fighting back with nutrition

The PMS plate, fighting back with nutrition

Alright, let’s talk about PMS and nutrition. All teenage girls know that time of the month can be a real struggle, both physically and emotionally. But what they might not know is that what they eat can actually play a big role in managing their PMS symptoms? That’s right, their diet can be their secret weapon against bloating, mood swings, and cramps. 

 

Let’s have a look at my top 3 tips on how your teen can manage their PMS symptoms through nutrition:

 

Tip 1: Focus on fibre

 

Fibre is a nutrient that many are lacking in their diet. In fact, in one study (1) teen’s were consuming an average of 10.9 g fibre per day, when their needs are closer to 25-30 g/ day. That’s like ⅓ of what they should have. 

 

Why does eating more fibre help? Well, the most obvious reason is that it promotes good bowel movements. Just before a woman has her period, progesterone levels are high and unfortunately this hormone relaxes the gut, making it a bit sluggish which means there is a bigger chance of being constipated. It’s not something pretty to talk about, but we all know that having a regular movement can be the difference between a great day and one where you feel super bloated and uncomfortable. Constipation leads to bloating because the longer the stool stays in the colon, the more time bacteria have to ferment what’s there, and as a by-product they produce gas which will cause bloating. On top of this, when the period starts, the drop in sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone makes the body retain water and salt making this bloating feeling twice as bad (2). 

 

There are two types of fibre, insoluble fibre helps to clear out the bowels (almost like a broom that sweeps out dirt) and viscous fibre sucks up water meaning that what comes out is soft and easy to pass. To meet these needs, everyone needs to eat a variety of plant based foods everyday to, with insoluble fibre often being found in the skin of fruits and vegetables as well as wheat bran and viscous fibre is found in the flesh of fruits and vegetables, oats and legumes (like chickpeas or beans). However, when fibre intake is increased, it should be done SLOWLY. Otherwise there may be more bloated than before as those gut bacteria feast on the extra fibre and produce more and more gas. It’s also important to remember that increasing fibre goes hand in hand with increasing water. If there isn’t an increase in hydration at the same time, your teen may feel more constipated than before!

Tip 2: Don’t omit omega 3 fats

 

Being constipated can also increase feeling crampy, which adds to the general crampiness that many get when aunt flo visits, another double whammy. 

 

One of the reasons some get cramps is because after ovulation there is a build up of omega 6 fatty acids which are released just before the period starts (3). This release triggers an inflammatory response which leads to cramping and other symptoms like, you guessed it, more bloating, headaches and feeling moody. 

 

One of the ways that this inflammatory response can be counteracted is to increase intake of omega 3 fats, which are known to be anti-inflammatory. Omega 3 fats are found in fish like sardines, mackerel and salmon and also in nuts like walnuts and chia seeds or flaxseeds. 

Tip 3: Maximise your minerals

 

On top of this, including minerals like magnesium can also help to manage this inflammatory response helping to reduce cramps and pain (3). Coincidently, foods that are rich in magnesium are also usually rich in fibre! Like whole grains, legumes and dark green leafy vegetables. This is definitely mother nature’s way of trying to look after us when we’re not feeling our best, double up on the good stuff! Swapping out lettuce for kale, adding some chickpeas to your favourite stew or swapping to wholegrain bread (instead of white or brown bread) are great places to start!

 

Another star mineral to include is calcium. Gone are the days where we thought calcium was only good for bone health. When her period starts, your teen isn’t the only one feeling irritable. The muscle lining of the uterus feels it too! Calcium (and magnesium) helps to relax these muscles meaning less forceful cramps and potentially less pain. Calcium supplementation has also been linked to a huge reduction (of up to 50%) in other PMS symptoms, like mood swings making this mineral one that you really want to include in your teen’s daily diet (4). Calcium is abundant in dairy foods like milk, yoghurt and cheese as well as sardines (with bones) and dark green leafy vegetables (these little buggers keep cropping up, they must be good for us!)

Plan your PMS plate

 

So, how’re you going to help your teen include these in your daily diet? It doesn’t have to be super complicated, just follow the PMS plate mode! It suggests that at each meal you fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, ¼ of your plate with wholegrains/ high fibre starches and the remaining ¼ with protein rich foods. To all of this you’ll add some healthy plant fats to keep you feeling full and make the whole dish much tastier. 

 

 

Some examples to include:

 

  • Fruits and vegetables: 

 

Salads, roast/ steamed veggies, soup (try to include more dark green veg like rocket, kale or spinach and orange veg like orange sweet potatoes, butternut/ pumpkin and carrots).

 

  • Whole grains and high fibre starches: 

 

Whole grain bread, brown rice, legumes* (like beans, lentils or chickpeas), corn, quinoa and even oats.

 

  • Proteins: 

 

Legumes*, tofu, dairy products like cheese, milk, yoghurt and fish/ seafood, chicken or beef. 

 

*Legumes are considered to be both high fibre starches and proteins (they’re the double whammy of the plate model world). 

 

  • Healthy fats:

 

Avo, olive oil, nuts and seeds. 

 

The PMS plate in action:

 

For example, you could make an IG worthy healthy bowl by adding the following together:

 

Ingredients:

 

  • Kale* (or baby spinach)
  • Roasted cubed butternut and broccoli florets (roast with some olive oil and your favourite spices, I like a combo of paprika, chilli, gaelic and a little salt and pepper)
  • Chickpeas (tinned are fine, just drain and rinse them before eating)
  • Cooked chicken breast (use the same spice mix as the veggies, or use rotisserie chicken for convenience)
  • Olive oil vinaigrette (2 parts olive oil mixed with 1 part rice vinegar mixed together with a squeeze of Dijon mustard, crushed garlic and dried Italian herbs)

 

*Tip: massage your kale! Trust me, this brings out some moisture making it much tastier and easier to chew.

 

This is one of many bowls you can make, mix and match until you find the combo that you love the most!

 

Tell us in the comments which one is your favourite (and if your teen makes herself a PMS bowl, we’d love it if you both tag us on a photo of the creation!)

 

References

 

  1. Dong Y, Chen L, Gutin B, Zhu H. Total, insoluble, and soluble dietary fiber intake and insulin resistance and blood pressure in adolescents. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2018;73(8):1172–8.  

 

  1. Stachenfeld NS. Sex hormone effects on Body Fluid Regulation. Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews. 2008;36(3):152–9.  

 

  1. Parazzini F, Di Martino M, Pellegrino P. Magnesium in the gynecological practice: a literature review. Magnesium Research. 2017;30(1):1-7.

 

  1. Taghiabadi M, Arab A, Rafie N, Askari G. Beneficial role of calcium in premenstrual syndrome: A systematic review of current literature. International Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2020;11(1):156.

 

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