Solutions for PMS (And What Gut Health Has to Do with It!) Part Two
By Selin Bilgin
I hope you found value and are already feeling better from following the recommendations I gave in my last blog post on Solutions for PMS. I’m thrilled to share with you even more steps for you to implement to have a better menstrual cycle. The impact of targeted nutrition and lifestyle has on our body and mood is truly amazing!
In this article I will cover:
- Managing Constipation
- Increasing Joy (And Reducing Stress)
- Increase Magnesium and Vitamin B6 Intake
“Chronic constipation is a common complaint in perimenstrual symptoms.”
Constipation is a common complaint I hear in my nutrition practice, and as much as it can be uncomfortable to talk about – it is so important to address, in particular in context with menstrual symptoms! Ideally, you should have a bowel movement at least once per day, as chronic constipation over time has been associated with hormone imbalance (Andrews, C. N., & Storr, M. 2011). It can become a vicious cycle if we do not take the measures to balance estrogen, as studies show that excess estrogen can actually increase constipation (Oh, J. E., Kim, Y. W., Park, S. Y., & Kim, J. Y. 2013)
Here is what I suggest easing symptoms of constipation related to the menstrual cycle:
- Add fermented foods into your diet. Establishing friendly bacteria from probiotic rich foods may add to a healthy gut microbiome, and may improve transit time, stool frequency, and stool consistency (Dimidi, E., et al. 2014). Probiotic rich foods also help keep estrogen in balance and may flush out xenoestrogens and thyroid disruptors such as bisphenol A (Oishi, K., et al. 2008). You can easily obtain fermented foods from sources such as sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, kombucha, yakult, apple cider vinegar (with the mother) and pickles.
- 2. Increase your high-quality water intake. Low fluid intake can attribute to constipation (Arnaud, M.J. 2003). According to the Institute of Medicine, the recommended daily intake of water for adult women is 2.7 liters (and ½ liter can come from water in foods, such as fruits and vegetables – watermelon, cucumbers, and oranges as ideas!)
- 3. Look up the Bristol Stool Chart and be sure that you are familiar with what a healthy bowel movement looks like so that you can assess what adjustments you need to make. A less than optimal rating on the stool chart may indicate a lack of fibre, water, or food triggers.
“Bringing more joy and less stress into your life is important.”
This can look different for everyone; however, we must learn to embrace the power of rest and positive emotions into our lives, especially with how busy we are. Why? Resting and refueling can help counter the stress we experience on daily basis and help us do even better in our day – it will even help with Point #1 about constipation! Studies show that excess cortisol (our main stress and survival hormone) may weaken our ability to absorb the micronutrient in the gut, namely copper, zinc, and selenium, molecules which are all required to create thyroid hormones (Mertz, H. 2011).
A few ideas that may help bring more joy and reducing stress:
Buying yourself flowers, having a 15-minute yoga practice, getting a fascial, going to the spa, baking healthy cookies, hiring cleaning staff for your home, journaling, watching a favorite movie with a cup of herbal tea, or salsa dancing. You pick your favorite(s)!
“Magnesium may prevent menstrual cramps in some women.”
Craving chocolate around that time of month? There’s a good reason. Many people find chocolate improves their mood and offers emotional comfort. Chocolate is found to promote positive feelings in a person, as it helps in the release of multiple signaling molecules in the brain and gut. High quality chocolate is also rich in magnesium. When ingested daily, magnesium may prevent dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps) in some women. One of the underlying mechanisms may be relaxation of the smooth muscle of the uterus. If not only for cramps, another reason why many of us need to add magnesium into our diets is because we aren’t getting enough of it through food alone (Wanli Guo, Hussain Nazim, Zongsuo Liang, Dongfeng Yang, 2016). Some research suggests that by supporting the COMT enzyme (catechol-o-methyltransferase) in the liver, magnesium helps to promote the healthy excretion of estrogen (Seifert, B., Wagler, P., Dartsch, S., Schmidt, U., & Nieder, J. 1989), which is important as you learned in the first blog post, as this may reduce the risk of the estrogen excess conditions (such as fibroids).
Another wonderful reason to consume more magnesium is that we see that magnesium may be effective treatment of premenstrual symptoms related to mood changes as well (Facchinetti, F., Borella, P., Sances, G., Fioroni, L., Nappi, R. E., & Genazzani, A. R. (1991). Some research supports that taking B6 along with magnesium had the best effect on pain management for PMS pain (Fathizadeh, N., Ebrahimi, E., Valiani, M., Tavakoli, N., & Yar, M. H. 2010).
You can increase magnesium levels by eating more leafy greens like kale, spinach, and arugula, as well as through pumpkin seeds, almonds, avocados, chia seeds, walnuts, black beans, potatoes, peanut butter, and halibut, to name a few. Foods that are high in B6 include chickpeas, beef liver, tuna, banana, chicken breast, salmon, cottage cheese, rice, raisins and onion.
So, meet your pain free and happiest self this upcoming period! Let us know! Tag @emeranmayer and @_lusciousliving_ with the food that helps you balance your hormones!
Andrews, C. N., & Storr, M. (2011). The pathophysiology of chronic constipation. Canadian journal of gastroenterology = Journal canadien de gastroenterologie, 25 Suppl B(Suppl B), 16B–21B.
Oh, J. E., Kim, Y. W., Park, S. Y., & Kim, J. Y. (2013). Estrogen rather than progesterone cause constipation in both female and male mice. The Korean journal of physiology & pharmacology : official journal of the Korean Physiological Society and the Korean Society of Pharmacology, 17(5), 423–426. https://doi.org/10.4196/kjpp.2013.17.5.423
Dimidi, E., et al. “The effect of probiotics on functional constipation in adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, July 3, 2014.
Oishi, K., et al. “Effect of probiotics, Bifidobacterium breve and Lactobacillus casei, on bisphenol A exposure in rats.” Bioscience, biotechnology, and biochemistry 72, no. 6 (2008): 1409-15.
Arnaud, M.J. “Mild hydration: A risk factor of constipation?” European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 57, no. 2 (2003): S88-S95
Mertz, H. “Stress and the Gut.” UNC Center for Functional GI and Motility Disorders, 2011.
Oh, J. E., Kim, Y. W., Park, S. Y., & Kim, J. Y. (2013). Estrogen rather than progesterone cause constipation in both female and male mice. The Korean journal of physiology & pharmacology: official journal of the Korean Physiological Society and the Korean Society of Pharmacology, 17(5), 423–426.
Seifert, B., Wagler, P., Dartsch, S., Schmidt, U., & Nieder, J. (1989). Magnesium–eine therapeutische Alternative bei der primären Dysmenorrhoe [Magnesium–a new therapeutic alternative in primary dysmenorrhea]. Zentralblatt fur Gynaekologie, 111(11), 755–760.
Wanli Guo, Hussain Nazim, Zongsuo Liang, Dongfeng Yang, Magnesium deficiency in plants: An urgent problem, The Crop Journal, Volume 4, Issue 2, 2016, Pages 83-91, ISSN 2214-5141, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cj.2015.11.003.
Facchinetti, F., Borella, P., Sances, G., Fioroni, L., Nappi, R. E., & Genazzani, A. R. (1991). Oral magnesium successfully relieves premenstrual mood changes. Obstetrics and gynecology, 78(2), 177–181.
de Oliveira, E., de Aquino Castro, R., Gomes, M. T., da Silva, I. D., Baracat, E. C., de Lima, G. R., Sartori, M. G., & Girão, M. J. (2008). The catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) gene polymorphism and prevalence of uterine fibroids. Maturitas, 60(3-4), 235–238. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.maturitas.2008.07.001
Fathizadeh, N., Ebrahimi, E., Valiani, M., Tavakoli, N., & Yar, M. H. (2010). Evaluating the effect of magnesium and magnesium plus vitamin B6 supplement on the severity of premenstrual syndrome. Iranian journal of nursing and midwifery research, 15(Suppl 1), 401–405.
Ebrahimi, E., Khayati Motlagh, S., Nemati, S., & Tavakoli, Z. (2012). Effects of magnesium and vitamin b6 on the severity of premenstrual syndrome symptoms. Journal of caring sciences, 1(4), 183–189. https://doi.org/10.5681/jcs.2012.026
Selin Bilgin is a speaker, podcast host, author, and the founder of Luscious Living: Where Personal Growth Meets Wellness.