PMS Decoded!

— — Mugdha Bansal, Healers at Home

“I love you” — three words that warm a woman’s heart. “Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS)” — three words that make her gut wrench! I know. I feel you, dear fellow sufferers!

I, like most women, constantly think of ways to cope with those dreaded days of every month, and I think of food. Greasy, fat-dripping, carb-loaded food. But don’t blame yourself for it!

According to an astoundingly revealing research study conducted on “Menstrual Cycle and Appetite Control” by L. Dye and J.E. Blundell, PMS renders our digestive system to be strongly defended against under-eating but only weakly protected against overconsumption. The study further establishes a statistically backed relationship between PMS, Appetite, Depression, Eating habits and SEROTONIN. The logic of this relationship is that women crave those particular foods whose consumption would ameliorate the depression experienced due to PMS, and serotonin has been implicated as the mediating factor in the relationship between mood and appetite. Though, there does not seem to be a difference in the foods which are craved for (as opposed to frequency or severity), it is argued that craving for carb-rich foods occurs in order to raise the levels of serotonin in the brain as an adaptive mechanism to compensate for a relative lack of serotonin pre-menstrual. (You can read the entire research here: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/13997586_fig3_Figure-3-Relationship-between-the-incidence-of-food-cravings-and-three-phases-of-the)

So, fear PMS no more as I present this “what to have and do list” of non-fattening, low-carb, high-protein, serotonin-releasing foods for all of womankind to embrace as guilt-free comfort food. It is important here to note that instead of serotonin-rich foods, serotonin-releasing foods, that require to be tryptophan-rich, are helpful. Also, the basic principle of consuming a serotonin-releasing diet lies not in what you eat, but how you eat it.

What-to-Have:

1. Dark Chocolate

Because it can increase serotonin levels in the brain, dark chocolate also may increase serotonin production in the gut, and thus help our immune system. This earns us some (Dark Chocolate) Brownie Points!

A warning though — drinking milk with dark chocolate negates all the good doing!

2. Fermented Foods and Drinks

Fermented foods and drinks, such as Yogurt, South Indian food, chhach (buttermilk), dhokhla, and the like, greatly assist in digestion and assimilation of all the important nutrients you need for serotonin. Additionally, they boost the nutrients in our food a hundred fold.

3. Foods rich in Vitamin B complex

Cereals, whole grains, potatoes, kidney beans, mushrooms, watermelon, grapefruit, dairy products are all excellent sources of B vitamins.

4. Nuts and Seeds

Pick and choose your favourites, because all nuts and seeds contain tryptophan. So, grab a handful of mixed nuts, or eat that peanut butter brownie without guilt looming on your mind!

5. Eggs:

The protein in eggs can significantly boost our blood plasma levels of tryptophan, according to recent research. A tip here: don’t leave out the yolks! They’re extremely rich in both tryptophan and tyrosine, which are major contributors to the antioxidant properties of eggs. Find an easy recipe in the GIF here:

6. Popcorn

Settle down to watch your favourite movies with a bowl of crunchy popcorn, and enjoy a guilt-free, filling snack to satiate your cravings.

7. Chickpeas

Soak some chickpeas overnight to throw into a yummy gravy vegetable, or make yourself some hummus and enjoy with lavache or pita bread sticks for some yummy-in-your-tummy! Or maybe something like this:

What-to-Do:

1. Minimize Caffeinated and Aerated Drinks:

The artificial sweetener aspartame found in diet drinks reduces serotonin levels by inhibiting the brain’s uptake and conversion of tryptophan. There’s evidence that when consumed over time, excessive caffeine eventually leads to brain cells becoming desensitized to serotonin or to serotonin suppression. So say no to coffee.

2. Minimize Sugar

While simple carbohydrates like sugar and white flour boost serotonin and mood the fastest, the effect lasts only an hour or two. This results in extreme high for a little amount of time, only to throw you back down a hole! You don’t want this:

3. Eating Carbs in Isolation

Occasionally, eating carbohydrates on their own — with no protein — can help avoid the problem of protein blocking serotonin synthesis. This is a bit of a shock when you consider how often we’ve been told that carbohydrates are bad for us and make us fat and unhealthy. But timing is of the essence here!

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