PMS and HormonesDuring the premenstrual period, extending from about two weeks before menstruation to the first day of the menses, hormones are in constant flux. Not only the sex hormones estrogen and progesterone are affected, but also the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is involved in regulating many functions such as mood, sleep, and appetite. Unbalanced serotonin levels may be to blame for many of the symptoms of PMS.
Symptoms of PMSThe symptoms of PMS include irritability, depression, trouble sleeping, fatigue, bloating, breast tenderness, and food cravings to name but a few. One of the most bothersome symptoms for many women is weight gain.
How Does PMS Cause Weight Gain?The relationship between PMS and weight gain is multifactorial. Many women feel tired and achy during the premenstrual period. This may make them less likely to follow their regular exercise regimen. Bloating and water retention can also result in a significant, albeit temporary, weight gain. However, the most important factor in causing premenstrual weight gain is food cravings and changes in appetite.
During the premenstrual period, many women find that they are hungrier more often and crave certain foods, usually unhealthy foods such as chocolate and chips. The reason for this is an imbalance in the brain chemical serotonin. Sugary foods and simple carbohydrates raise serotonin levels quickly, so these are usually the foods that women reach for during this time.
Unfortunately, eating unhealthy foods regularly during the premenstrual period of every month will eventually cause weight gain, and unlike the added weight from water, these pounds won't come off so easily.
What to Do to Combat Weight GainMaintaining an exercise regimen even during the premenstrual weeks will help keep the pounds from piling on. Getting adequate sleep improves mood and gives you more energy for your workout. Eating less of foods high in salt during the last few days before menstruation will reduce bloating and water retention. Finally, eating a healthy, balanced diet will help you avoid not only weight gain but also many of the other unpleasant effects of PMS.
Foods to Curb CravingsSugary foods aren't the only foods that will boost serotonin levels. Complex carbohydrates do just as good a job, and unlike foods high in sugar that help temporarily and then make you crash, complex carbohydrates keep you supplied with a steady stream of energy and continuously boost serotonin levels. So instead of reaching for chocolate or chips, try some multigrain rice cakes, unbuttered popcorn, or whole-wheat toast. Also, make sure to eat several small meals throughout the day. This way, you keep your body constantly supplied with energy without overeating.
Finally, including enough calcium and magnesium in the diet has been shown to drastically reduce PMS symptoms. Magnesium promotes sleep and helps regulate blood sugar levels, as well as increasing calcium absorption. If you are unable to incorporate these minerals through your food, nutritional supplements are a good option.