Do You Have Premenstrual Meltdowns?
You’ve heard of PMS and PMDD – but what about PMM? PMM refers to premenstrual meltdowns. Okay. So that’s my own made-up term but for those of you who have severe PMS mood swings – you know they’re real.
You might be having a premenstrual meltdown if:
- You pick fights with your partner and feel completely irrational (but you JUST. CAN’T. STOP.).
- You go off the rails at your children.
- All of a sudden everything and everyone irritates you.
- You burst out in uncontrollable tears in response to something someone says to you.
- You feel extremely sad.
- You question your life, career, and/or relationship.
- You’re unable to think positively and may be overwhelmed completely by a sense of hopelessness.
Many women’s health experts will tell you PMS and these types of behaviours aren’t normal. I think this makes us feel even worse about ourselves.
Reality is, our hormones are changing after ovulation and we should expect to feel different. Post-ovulation our motivation takes a dive, we feel more introverted and reflective, and less energetic and motivated.
The change in mood you feel premenstrually is due to changing hormone levels and it’s perfectly normal.
However, I think we can do something to level out the extremes – minimize the irrationality, sadness and anger we feel at this time of the month and hopefully prevent the premenstrual meltdowns that threaten our relationships and make us feel terrible about ourselves.
Nutrition, sleep and stress are all key factors in managing PMS but, in my experience, sometimes you need even more help. In this article we’ll look at a few key nutrients and supplements that have been shown to help
Managing Mood Swings With Diet
Nutrition is key to managing premenstrual mood swings, hunger and energy. I’ve written numerous other blog posts about eating for hormone balance and better periods, and I’ll link to them at the end of this article, but here’s a recap of the basic things you need to remember:
- Eat a nutritionally dense diet so you get all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients your body and mind needs to feel good.
- Make sure you eat regularly and you eat enough. Chronic dieting and undereating will lead to mood swings at the best of times.
- Follow an anti-inflammatory diet to help balance your hormones and for better energy. This may include eating less dairy, meat and fat particularly if you suffer with heavy or painful periods.
- Studies of women with PMS have shown that mood improves after the consumption of carbohydrate-rich meals. Controlled intake of low sugar, complex carbohydrates during this time can help a lot. (We’re talking things like wholegrains, beans and starchy vegetables like potatoes, not cookies and cakes).
Unfortunately, even women who follow the right dietary practices to counteract PMS can still experience premenstrual mood swings. For example, I eat pretty well compared to most women and I’m always working on optimizing my nutrient intake, but some months I just can’t get a grip on my mood in the lead up to my period. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to write this blog post. I wanted to do some investigating – there’s got to be something else going on. There’s got to be something that will help.
Supplements For Mood Swings
Getting enough calcium could be one of the best things you do to prevent monthly meltdowns.
Studies suggest a higher dietary intake of calcium of approximately 1200mg per day may lower the risk of PMS, particularly the emotional symptoms.
However, you might find it difficult to get that much calcium from food, especially if you avoid dairy. The good news is studies show that calcium supplements can similarly reduce your monthly mood swings.
Getting enough calcium:
- If you can’t be bothered reading labels and adding up how much calcium you get, use an app like MyFitnessPal which tracks nutrient intake.
- Try to get as much calcium as you can from food and then top up with a supplement if needed so your total intake is 1200mg.
- Dairy is one of the best sources of calcium but many women find dairy actually makes their periods worse. If you aren’t drinking dairy or using beverages fortified with calcium (ie. some nut milks and orange juices have added calcium), it will be challenging to get enough from your diet.
- Vegetables have some calcium but the amount of vegetables you’d need to eat to hit your calcium requirements is impractical and the calcium in many vegetables isn’t absorbed very well because of other things in the plants that inhibit uptake by your body.
- Whey protein powders are a good source of calcium and some vegan protein powders are formulated with stuff like greens and marine calcium to help you meet your calcium requirements.
- Certain mineral waters are good sources of calcium. For example, a bottle of Gerolsteiner mineral water has 348 mg of calcium per L. Perrier and San Pelligrino also have some calcium.
- Since you need vitamin D to absorb calcium, you need to also make sure you are getting enough sunshine on your skin everyday or take a vitamin D supplement.
- To further complicate things, when taking calcium you not only need vitamin D but magnesium as well. Turns out magnesium is the other supplement that can help with mood swings, so you need to make sure you are getting enough of both calcium and magnesium.
Magnesium is a powerful mineral for boosting your premenstrual mood but also helps relieve bloating, migraines, cramps, stress, and anxiety. It also helps you sleep better – which will, in turn, help your mood.
I almost always recommend magnesium supplements to my clients given it’s many benefits. It’s one of the minerals that is most commonly deficient in women and most women notice a big difference in how they feel when they start using a good quality supplement.
If you supplement with calcium, it’s important that you also get enough magnesium. If you consume too much calcium (whether from diet or supplements) without enough magnesium, the excess calcium can cause problems. For example, it can be deposited in the wrong places like your kidneys and joints (potentially contributing to problems like arthritis). That’s why you see some recommendations for a 2:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium (although some experts recommend a 1:1 ratio).
I’m including vitex in this article not necessarily because I recommend it but because it’s a herb that many women use when dealing with period problems and it has been shown to be helpful for PMS and a variety of female problems. Studies have shown that it is effective at reducing headache, nervousness, restlessness, depression and bloating. It’s even been approved in Germany as a treatment for PMS.
The reason I am cautious about vitex is that it is a very strong herb and it’s not suitable for everyone. There are more side effects associated with vitex as compared to minerals like calcium and magnesium, which your body actually needs anyway.
Other Lifestyle Hacks For Mood Swings
There are many things you can do that will help you reduce monthly mental meltdowns. Studies have found a relationship between stress levels and PMS severity so it’s important to manage your stress during the month. Exercise and exposure to bright light or sunlight as also been shown to help PMS. So, even if you’d prefer to binge watch Netflix in bed, it would help to get outside for a long walk in the sun when the mood swings start setting in.
I also think cycle tracking is one of the most powerful things you can do to get your mood swings under control. Cycle tracking is an excellent preventative strategy because you can warn others before your meltdowns happen.
Since I’ve tracked my cycle for so long, I can pretty much pinpoint the day I will have my worse mood swings and I definitely know which week of the month I can expect to feel crappy. I’ve taught my partner about how it all works so he is much more understanding when I do start acting irrational because he knows 1. it’s not about him/us/or any major problem and 2. it will pass as quickly as it came. Sometimes we even just agree to steer clear of each other for 24 hours, giving me quiet time and protecting him from my negative mood.
My favourite app for cycle tracking is Clue and it’s available for both iPhones and Androids.
Remember, you are probably going to feel more tired, introverted and possibly even sad during this time. It’s perfectly normal given the hormonal changes that are happening. The strategies in this blog post are meant to help prevent those big blow outs that take a toll on our relationships and make us feel terrible about ourselves, but you are still going to need some quiet, recharge time for yourself this time of the month. It’s hard enough being a girl, so try not to be too hard on yourself during this time.
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