PMS and Your Diet: Food Cravings & Weight Loss (cont.)

Avoid processed sugar
Simple sugars increase insulin secretion, which lowers blood sugar, Lark explains. And if insulin levels shoot up enough, your appetite for carbs and fats increases.

Try foods high in essential fatty acids
Food high in essential fatty acids, such as salmon or safflower or canola oil mayonnaise, "slow absorption of carbs, stabilize the blood sugar, and stop cravings in their tracks," Lark says. Try tuna with a little low-fat canola-oil mayo on a rice cake, she says, or a couple of tablespoons of flax meal in a protein shake.

Drink plenty of water
Eight or so glasses of water a day help to flush the body out and reduce bloating, Peeke says.

Shun salt
Not only will a diet low in salt reduce bloating and fluid retention, but it also can help reduce your risk of high blood pressure, Wurtman says.

Avoid fat
"Fat slows down digestion and absorption of carbohydrates. And you won't feel better until your body absorbs the carbs and turns them into serotonin," Wurtman explains.

Limit coffee and cola
Reduce caffeine intake to feel less tense and irritable and to ease breast soreness, advises the American Association of Family Physicians (AAFP).

Cut meals in half
Eating up to six small meals a day instead of three larger ones can help keep blood sugar more stable, which will cut back on carvings, Lark says. This strategy can help you lose weight even when you don't have PMS, adds Goldstein, noting that Americans tend to continue eating until their plates are clean, long after they are full.

Avoid stress
"Figure out about when you'll be premenstrual and avoid scheduling any stressful obligations, such as a speech or dinner with the in-laws," Wurtman advises. Anything that exacerbates stress fuels yearnings for high-calorie comfort foods, such as mashed potatoes smothered in butter.

Abstain from alcohol
Drinking before your period can make you feel more depressed, according to the AAFP. Plus, alcohol can deplete the body of PMS-thwarting vitamin B and disrupt the metabolism of carbohydrates.

Get plenty of sleep
Noting that lack of sleep makes you more irritable and even less likely to exercise control over your diet, experts recommend eight hours a night. Plus, studies have shown that people who sleep through the night live longer.

Have a routine
Keeping to a regular schedule of meals, bedtime, and exercise will help alleviate systems of PMS, according to the AAFP.

Tackle Food Cravings With Exercise

Any physical activity, from swimming to running, that gets the heart going will raise serotonin and lower cortisol levels, Peeke says. Though most experts recommend working out for 30 minutes, four to six times a week, even a 10-minute walk will put a serious dent in your cravings, she says.

Plus, if you sweat a lot, you'll get rid of water and feel less bloated, Wurtman says. And once you get going, anger dissipates, "so you may not feel like murdering your colleagues."

Some studies suggest that mind-body activities such as yoga and tai chi can help calm a woman while lowering cortisol and increasing serotonin levels, Peeke says. And a massage by an experienced therapist evokes the same benefits. "That's also why a good massage makes you so sleepy."

Supplements Combat Food Cravings, Too

While there's no proof that taking supplements can help curb food craving per se, studies have shown that certain vitamins and minerals can help improve your mood and make you more amenable to a healthy diet, Peeke notes. All Weight Loss Clinic members are encouraged to take a daily multivitamin/mineral in addition to eating their nutrient-dense diets.

Published July 11, 2003


SOURCES: American College of Ostetrics and Gynecology web site. Judith Wurtman, PhD, director of the women's health program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. Stephen Goldstein, MD, obstetrician-gynecologist , New York University. Pamela Peeke, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore. Susan M. Lark, MD, clinician, Los Altos, Calif. American Association of Family Practitioners web site. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, August 1998. Journal of Women's Health, November 1998. Darlene Parks, Ohio.





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