Ask a Health Coach: Eating Primal on Your Period
Hey folks, Board-Certified Health Coach Chloe Maleski is here to answer your questions about what to eat when PMS’ing or on your period. Struggle with cravings during that time of month? We’re here with guidance and support! Have a question you’d like to ask our health coaches? Leave it below in the comments or over in the Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook group.
“Any advice for eating Primal when I’m on my period or PMS’ing? I do fine the rest of the month but get ravenous and hangry the week before my period and crave all the carbs. Then, during the first two days of my period, I just want to comfort myself with junk food.”
Great question, Daniella. The female reproductive cycle has a huge impact on our hormonal system, metabolism, and nutritional needs. This is yet another reason why there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to healthy eating and living. The optimal diet not only differs from person to person, but also for each individual depending on circumstances and wellness goals. Factors such as time of month, time of year, phase of life, health conditions, and activities all have an impact on appetite, cravings, and nutritional needs.
As women, our monthly cycle offers a wonderful barometer and starting place for touching into those needs and how they shift. While this may be most obvious for women who have a regular menstrual cycle, it’s also true for those who have entered perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause.
Some great news for all those phases of life: Primal eating sets you up to thrive and goes far to eliminate or reduce unwelcome changes such as slower metabolism, extra weight gain, and sugar and carb cravings. Indeed, many symptoms widely considered to be “just PMS,” “just genetics,” or “just part of aging,” are not predetermined at all! Sure, the hormonal and other changes that accompany our reproductive cycle are very real. Same goes for changes in that cycle over a lifespan and the impact of genetics on that process.
Thing is though, any symptoms are a sign of underlying imbalance in our body-mind ecology. Such imbalances are not simply the result of genetics or “what happens to us.” Our eating and lifestyle choices are a major contributing factor. This doesn’t mean we can fix everything through Primal eating and living. It does mean that we have way more power and agency than many realize. Choices and habits, over time, either align with our biology and allow us to thrive…or work against it, and against ourselves.
PMS, Period Symptoms & Diet
What’s this have to do with PMS and period symptoms? A lot! I suspect you already know this, which is why you’re here: Eating Primal, asking questions, wondering how you might fine-tune the “self-experiment” that is you.
As your question implies, we do not need to simply accept sweet cravings or other PMS and period symptoms as “the way it is.” Indeed, as a Primal Health Coach, many of my female clients report success in reduction or elimination of PMS and period symptoms after sticking with a Primal diet consistently for 21 days. Consistency is key here—particularly when it comes to seeing the most significant, most sustained outcomes.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you never eat food outside of Primal parameters. But to see the biggest results, sticking with the true spirit of the 80-20 rule is pivotal. In other words: Aim to eat real, whole Primal food 100 percent of the time while recognizing that life circumstances sometimes get in the way. Occasional off-roading won’t derail your wider efforts (so long as it truly is occasional); simply re-set and recalibrate by returning to Primal meals.
Eating Primal and still feeling PMS’y? You’re not alone and that doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong. Some women do stay 100 percent Primal and still experience intense hunger, sugar and carb cravings, moodiness, and other symptoms before and during their period.
One reason for this is the impact of changing hormones. During menstruation, a woman’s serotonin levels are at their lowest.1 Carbohydrates increase the availability of the primary amino acid precursor to serotonin: tryptophan.2 In simple terms, this means craving carbs during your period is totally natural! It may also indicate that you are low in serotonin, and your body wants more of it.
This does not mean eating all the carbs will help, however—loading up on grains and sugars will likely make symptoms worse.
Still, the days leading up to menstruation may be the perfect time to increase consumption of healthy Primal carb sources. Think: yams, squash, potatoes, fruit, and moderate amounts of dark chocolate.
Turns out, our body is primed to do exactly that during the mid-luteal phase of our cycle, two weeks before menstruation. Estrogen dominates at that time, and we are optimized for glycogen storage.3
Yet again, our body’s innate intelligence for the win! Our job is to listen and, to the extent possible, adjust eating and lifestyle patterns to support and align with biology.
Of course, if your symptoms are particularly intense or even debilitating, you’ll want to check with your doctor or another licensed medical practitioner to troubleshoot other potential causes or underlying conditions. This doesn’t mean they’ll find anything wrong—but getting as much information as possible allows you to make the best-informed decisions.
You’re Not (Only) What You Eat
If you’re doing the above and still experiencing PMS and period symptoms, remember that Primal eating is only one aspect of the 10 Primal Blueprint Rules. Other key ones here include:
- Get plenty of sunlight.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Move frequently.
- Sprint once in a while (probably outside of period time, when your energy isn’t lagging).
I realize the last one, in particular, isn’t the most popular advice. But before you rule it out, give this a read and know that “sprinting” doesn’t look the same for everyone and is way easier and more accessible than you might think!
It also tends to move the needle when it comes to overcoming stubborn plateaus in hormonal and metabolic symptoms. Consider sprint sessions during times of the month when your strength and energy are at their highest. Then, come period time, shift into regular, daily movement that doesn’t leave you fatigued.
More generally, the above “rules” have a huge impact on our hormonal ecology, as do stress levels. If you’re eating Primal and still getting PMS or period symptoms, look there. Troubleshooting PMS and period cravings can be as simple as shifting to a Primal diet and upping your Primal carbs, getting enough sleep and sun, and moving your body in healthy ways.
That said, everyone is unique and your perfect protocol won’t look like everyone else’s. For custom-made support, consider working with a Primal Health Coach one-on-one! We can help you get clear on what diet approach and lifestyle practices are best for you. Visit myprimalcoach.com to learn more and get started!
Do you crave certain foods when PMS’ing or on your period? Has this changed since going Primal? Let us know and drop other questions for me in the comments!
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