How to reduce mood swings and unhealthy cravings during your menstrual cycle

How to reduce mood swings and unhealthy cravings during your menstrual cycle

At PNI Active we want to help women better understand their bodies. You know when it’s THAT time of the month and all you want to do is cry, eat chocolate and hug cute puppies? That’s totally normal. Or whether you’re sweating profusely, bloated and constantly angry, that’s totally normal too. We want to help you understand why a few of these things happen to us every month. 

Cravings, mood swings and tiredness 

So, we’ve all been there, you’re feeling on top of the world, you’ve been sleeping well, you’re energetic, your hair looks great then BOOM… it hits you. 

Bring on the night sweats, bad dreams, our crazy irrational alter-ego, and if you’re anything like me, a bloated, self-loathing mess. You’ve guessed it, it’s your T.O.M.

So, why do we become a different person during this time and what can we do to prevent and suppress these symptoms? 

Why do you crave sugary foods?

Hormones are to blame, not you! Stop blaming yourself or feeling guilty for reaching for the Mars Bars and chocolate biscuits. The desire to eat chocolate, fatty or sugary foods is due to the stress hormone cortisol spiking, and your feel-good hormone, serotonin dipping. IT’S NORMAL AND NATURAL! The fluctuation between the two hormones makes your body crave foods that contain lots of sugar and fats. This is because they boost serotonin levels and combat the production of cortisol which makes you feel happier and more relaxed. 

The sugar intake makes your insulin levels spike and gives you a temporary boost in energy, then comes the insulin crash. This increases stress levels on your body (cortisol) and here we have a never-ending cycle of cravings.

Bare in mind that our hormones are in a constant state of imbalance during this time, putting our bodies under huge strain, so no wonder we feel tired and emotional! Essential fatty acids are being used up faster than ever to try to alleviate your body of the stress it is under.

How can you reduce your T.O.M cravings? 

  1. Cut out processed foods, caffeine, refined carbs and alcohol 

You've probably heard plenty of nutrition talk about eating "whole" or "clean," while avoiding highly processed foods. But what exactly is a processed food? "Any food that has been altered in some way during preparation is technically processed," says Mara Weber, a clinical inpatient dietitian. "Most of the time when we talk about processed foods, we're referring to those packaged items found in the freezer aisle, or those junk foods that sit on the shelves for months at a time." (1)

Cutting out these foods will help you feel more energized, more focused, improve your mood, maintain a healthy weight and even sleep better." 

  1. Try and reduce alcohol 

Alcohol can stop or cause irregular menstrual cycles because it increases levels of hormones like estrogen and testosterone, and sometimes the luteinizing hormone. This causes a hormonal imbalance, which in turn can affect whether your period occurs, how long it lasts, and how heavy it is.

Drinking alcohol can also increase androgen levels during the follicular phase and estrogen in the ovulation phase. This effect showed to be most apparent in women who engaged in drinking a lot of alcohol. Drinking alcohol during your period can also worsen common menstrual symptoms, including moodiness, trouble sleeping, bloating, and cramps (2). Alcohol is notorious for dehydrating people, especially when it’s heavily consumed and the only thing the person has had to drink. As a result, drinking heavily can worsen period cramps by thickening menstrual fluids and blood, making it more difficult for them to pass through the uterus, through the cervix, and out of the body.

  1. Eating unroasted, unsalted nuts 

They are rich in magnesium, potassium and essential fatty acids.  Instead of reaching for a bag of crisps or a Snickers, snack on unsalted, raw nuts (3). Nuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and help you feel full longer, not to mention they have a plethora of heart benefits (4).

  1. Up your intake of protein

Upping your protein whilst you’re on your menstrual cycle can help with weight loss in general as it keeps you fuller for longer, but it will also help your blood sugar levels to stay stable. This means it will keep those unhealthy cravings at bay. Why not get the best of both worlds and try the PNI Active Chocolate Caramel Lean Shake Plus? This protein powder packs a punch with 24g protein per 30g and only 106 calories. You can blend it with a banana and some milk to make a super sweet chocolate milkshake or bake it in the microwave for a healthy mug cake. 

  1. Increase your intake of fibre 

Most of us don't come close to the recommended 25g to 38g of fibre a day. "Eating a high-fibre diet can help alleviate pain and cramping and moodiness around your period," says Dandrea-Russert (5). How? these symptoms can be caused by excess estrogen, which triggers the release of compounds called prostaglandins. When researchers asked women in Japan what foods they ate most often and how they would rate their menstrual pain, they found that eating high amounts of fibre was significantly related to having less pain. By blocking the reabsorption of estrogen, fibre helps to reduce estrogen levels and subsequent menstrual cramps. 

To put it into perspective, you can get 8 extra grams of fibre from 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, 1 cup of raspberries, 1/2 cup of black beans or 1/2 of an avocado.

  1. Ensure that you are taking 6000mg of vitamin C daily 

It’s thought that vitamin C can elevate your estrogen levels and lower progesterone levels. This causes the uterus to contract and the lining of the uterus to break down, leading to the onset of menstruation.

To try this method, you can take vitamin supplements or simply eat lots of foods that contain vitamin C. No, don’t worry, we aren’t saying eat three oranges a day. Vitamin C can also be found in citrus fruits like kiwis and grapefruits, or cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage and cauliflower (6)

Vitamin C also battles the stress hormone, cortisol. So, if you’re struggling to eat enough vitamin C, why not try PNI Active’s Vitamin C Capsules. We  recommend having 2000mg of vitamin C with breakfast, 2000mg with lunch and 2000mg with dinner. 

  1. Take fish oil supplements 6000mg daily 

Why is that important? Because these fats affect the body's production of chemicals called prostaglandins. Prostaglandins can cause inflammation and also affect uterine contractions and blood flow, both of which are involved in cramps (7). Omega-3 fatty acids decrease inflammation, and as we know ladies, there’s a lot of inflammation and bloating going on during our menstruation cycle. You can get a supplement called Super Fish Oils which will massively help with getting your 6000mg daily dose. Take one in the morning and one in the evening for maximum benefit. 

  1. Exercise 

No ladies, this is not a myth. It’s science! Exercise increases our serotonin levels naturally! So, come on ladies, our bodies and mood will thank us for it later. I don’t mean a run. I don’t mean lifting heavy weights (you can, if you feel up to it obviously!), but I mean have a dance, go to Zumba, go bouldering, go for a leisurely stroll, walk a dog! It doesn’t have to be strenuous, but any form of exercise will help boost your mood! 

  1. Chromium, magnesium and zinc

If you suffer badly from food cravings and have tried all of the above consistently and to no avail, you can take a daily stack of the following vitamins: Chromium, magnesium and Zinc. 

Please note that it can take approximately 4 to 6 weeks of taking these supplements together for your body to absorb these vitamins and be rid of any deficiency.

  1. Eat more complex carbohydrates 

Foods that have complex carbohydrates consist of three or more natural sugars and are rich in fibre. These foods enter the bloodstream gradually, causing only a moderate rise in insulin levels, which can help stabilize your mood and keep your cravings under control. Try sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkin, lentils, potatoes and unprocessed oats (8)

Team PNI x