Joy Bauer Life is hard, food should be easy Tue, 23 Feb 2016 17:37:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Eat Amaranth to Help Ease the Symptoms of PMS Wed, 10 Feb 2016 19:14:25 +0000 It's true — magnesium does combat symptoms of PMS. How can you get more in your diet?

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Magnesium can help ease the pain of PMS symptoms, and amaranth is an excellent way to up your intake.

Q: I’ve heard that magnesium can help to ease the symptoms of PMS. What can I eat to boost the magnesium in my diet?

A: This is true! It’s been proven that women with PMS seem to have lower blood levels of magnesium compared with women who did not have symptoms. Women with PMS who took magnesium supplements enjoyed better moods and less water retention than women who did not get enough of this mineral. (And really, doesn’t less water retention sound good for everybody?). Foods rich in magnesium include nuts and seeds, (such as pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds and cashews), beans, lentils, spinach, and potatoes (sweet and white).

I also want to take this opportunity to introduce you to a standout magnesium–rich food that you may not be familiar with: amaranth (pronounced AM-uh-ranth). Amaranth provides a powerful duo of magnesium and manganese, both of which are shown to reduce the irritability and water retention common to PMS sufferers. Although amaranth is touted as a “super grain,” it is actually not a grain at all. It is a plant related to the common garden weed called pigweed. Its leaves cook and taste much like spinach, but amaranth is mostly prized for its abundance of tiny, high–protein seeds, or grains. The whole seeds, when simmered, produce a thick, oatmeal–like porridge that has a gelatinous texture (translation: it’s not for everyone!). To make amaranth more appetizing, mix it with a grain such as brown rice or buckwheat (amaranth should make up no more than 15 percent of the total mixture), then follow the cooking instructions for the predominant grain. Amaranth can be found in many health food stores, as well as the natural foods aisle of some supermarkets alongside rice, barley, and other grains. Just a heads up: because harvesting amaranth is labor intensive, it is relatively expensive.

To cook amaranth: Simmer 1 1⁄2 cups liquid (such as broth, apple juice, or water) and 1⁄2 cup amaranth seeds for about 30 minutes, or until the seeds are tender. Add fresh herbs or gingerroot to the cooking liquid to make it tastier, or mix with beans for a main dish. For a breakfast cereal, increase the amount of cooking liquid and sweeten with a bit of sugar, honey or maple syrup, and add 1 to 2 tablespoons raisins, dried cranberries, and/or chopped nuts.

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What is PMS? Wed, 10 Feb 2016 19:11:15 +0000 What's causing your PMS? More importantly, what can you do to help combat it?

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You can’t stop PMS from paying you a visit every month. But you can ease the pain by eating the right foods — and avoiding the ones that make symptoms worse.

PMS is estimated to affect about 40 percent of American women of childbearing age. Between 3 and 9 percent of women have a more extreme form of PMS called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). PMS and PMDD cause physical and emotional symptoms — including irritability, sadness, mood swings, low self–esteem, difficulty concentrating, bloating, water retention, lack of energy, and breast tenderness — for some portion of each month, triggered by normal hormonal changes associated with the menstrual cycle.

PMDD is casually defined as PMS that is so severe that it significantly decreases a woman’s quality of life. PMS feels uncomfortable and unpleasant, but PMDD can turn social lives, work lives, families, and marriages upside–down.

Regardless of whether you experience a little extra moodiness near your period, or full–on emotional breakdowns, good nutrition can help alleviate some of your premenstrual symptoms.


No one knows exactly why some women experience symptoms while others do not. One leading theory is that some women have a greater sensitivity to the effects the female hormones estrogen and progesterone have on their serotonin levels. Serotonin is a brain chemical that plays a key role in mood regulation and sensitivity to pain, and research and clinical results seem to confirm that it significantly influences the onset of PMS. When women with the most severe premenstrual symptoms are treated with a serotonin–enhancing antidepressant (similar to Prozac), about 70 percent get substantial relief.

What we do know is that for many women, PMS is an uncomfortable fact of life. The exact severity and cluster of symptoms will differ from woman to woman. Some will have fatigue, bloating, and depression; others will have breast tenderness and irritability, or any combination of any of the symptoms. Most typically, symptoms begin the week before a woman is due to get her period, peak the day before the start of her period, and then disappear within a day after her period starts. The vast majority of women with PMS have symptoms for five to seven days each month. But some women can have symptoms that last two, or even three, weeks each month.

If you are a woman of childbearing age experiencing mood issues, I recommend keeping a PMS diary. On a regular calendar, write down your primary moods, emotions, and unusual physical symptoms each day. On the same calendar, keep track of your menstrual cycle. If your troubling moods or other symptoms occur primarily within the two weeks prior to the start of your period, you may have PMS (in addition to all the regular aggravations of life). However, if the days you experience irritability or depression are evenly spaced throughout the month, PMS probably isn’t the culprit, and you may be experiencing another mood issue or disorder.

It is important to note all your physical symptoms in your PMS diary. For reasons that aren’t exactly clear, many the symptoms of many diseases or disorders get worse premenstrually, a phenomenon known as premenstrual exacerbation. Depression and anxiety are prone to this exacerbation, as are migraines, epilepsy, asthma, allergies, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, and many autoimmune disorders. Just because your symptoms aren’t generally included in a list of the symptoms of PMS doesn’t mean that they aren’t related to your menstrual cycle. If your worst symptoms seem to occur the week before your period, talk with your doctor about whether there are things you can do to better control your particular disorder.


NEXT: How Food Affects PMS

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How Food Affects PMS Wed, 10 Feb 2016 19:05:36 +0000 Find out how to make healthy food choices that can help manage and reduce the symptoms of PMS.

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Find out how to make healthy food choices that can help manage and reduce the symptoms of PMS.

Many women with PMS define their monthly nutrition needs in terms of their cravings for anything salty or chocolate. Although indulging in chocolate-dipped pretzels might seem like a fantasy–come–true, they won’t provide lasting mood enhancement or reduce the bloat. There are many better Food Cures to help you get your symptoms under better control:


Calcium deficiency and PMS share many symptoms, which led researchers to test to see if they might be related. The results suggest that they very well might be. Compared with women who don’t have premenstrual symptoms, women with PMS have lower blood levels of calcium around their time of ovulation. And when PMS sufferers take 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium supplements daily, their mood and bloating improve after just a few months. I consider calcium–rich foods an absolute must for women with PMS.

BEST FOODS FOR CALCIUM: Yogurt (fat–free, low–fat), milk (fat–free, 1% low–fat), soy milk, cheese (reduced–fat), tofu with calcium, wild salmon (with bones), soybeans (edamame), frozen yogurt (fat–free, low–fat), low–fat ice cream, bok choy, kale, collard greens, white beans, broccoli, almonds and almond butter


Our bodies can’t absorb or use calcium without vitamin D. That’s why the two are so often mentioned together, and why some high–calcium foods (such as milk) are often fortified with vitamin D. In addition, research suggests that vitamin D may act on its own to prevent PMS. In a study that followed more than 3,000 women for more than 10 years, women who ate a diet high in vitamin D reduced their risk of PMS by about 40 percent.

BEST FOODS FOR VITAMIN D: Wild salmon (fresh, canned), mackerel (not king), sardines, herring, milk (fat–free, 1% low–fat), soy milk, fortified non–fat or low–fat yogurt, egg yolks, UV–treated mushrooms


Just as was found with calcium, women with PMS seem to have lower blood levels of magnesium compared with women who did not have PMS symptoms. Women with PMS who took magnesium supplements had better mood and less water retention than women who did not get enough magnesium. (And really, doesn’t less water retention sound good for everybody?) It’s possible that magnesium might help regulate the activity of serotonin, the so–called feel–good neurotransmitter. Magnesium–rich foods are second only to calcium foods for improving your chances for symptom reduction.

BEST FOODS FOR MAGNESIUM: Pumpkin seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, amaranth, sunflower seeds, cashews, almonds, quinoa, tempeh, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, soybeans (edamame), millet, starchy beans (such as black, navy, pinto, garbanzo, kidney), artichoke hearts, peanuts, peanut butter, brown rice, whole–grain bread, sesame seeds, wheat germ, ground flaxseed


Your body can’t make dopamine — one of the mood neurotransmitters — without vitamin B6. Research studies into the effects of vitamin B6 on PMS have been mixed — some show that taking supplements reduces irritability, depression, and breast tenderness, while others don’t find any effect at all. There’s no need to take a supplement (beyond what you’re getting in your multivitamin, if you take one), but I highly recommend eating vitamin B6–rich foods because they seem to have helped many of my clients with PMS.

BEST FOODS FOR VITAMIN B6:Chickpeas (garbanzo beans), wild salmon (fresh, canned), lean beef, pork tenderloin, skinless chicken breast, white and sweet potatoes (with skin), oats, bananas, pistachio nuts, lentils, tomato paste, barley, rice (brown, wild), bell peppers, winter squash (acorn, butternut), broccoli, broccoli raab, carrots, Brussels sprouts, peanut butter, eggs, shrimp, tofu, apricots, watermelon, avocado, strawberries, whole–grain bread


Manganese is found in very small quantities in foods, but that’s okay because we don’t need a lot to stay healthy. If you eat a relatively balanced diet, you’re probably getting enough manganese. But blood levels of manganese vary throughout the menstrual cycle, so it is not surprising that this mineral might be involved in PMS. A handful of studies have suggested that manganese, in combination with calcium, may reduce the irritability, depression, and tension associated with PMS. One study found that women who did not get enough manganese in their diets had more pain and worse moods premenstrually. Therefore, I encourage you to go out of your way to incorporate manganese–rich foods, specifically around the time of PMS.

BEST FOODS FOR MANGANESE:Pineapple, wheat germ, spinach, collard greens, pecans, amaranth, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, oats, tempeh, quinoa, brown rice, flaxseed, raspberries, chickpeas (garbanzo beans), sunflower seeds, peanuts, tofu, soybeans (edamame), soy nuts, lentils

Here are some of my other food fixes for PMS:

  • Avoid salt and salty foods. PMS causes bloating and water retention. Salt can cause bloating and water retention. Ergo, salt can make those problems of PMS worse.
  • Avoid caffeine. Some research suggests that the effects of caffeine are magnified premenstrually, leading to greater breast tenderness, more nervousness, and potentially more irritability. Instead of coffee, tea, or caffeinated soft drinks, try herbal teas and other decaffeinated or naturally caffeine–free beverages.
  • Drink chamomile tea. Premenstrually, chamomile tea may be particularly helpful because it contains properties that relieve muscle spasms, and may therefore help reduce the severity of menstrual cramps. In addition, chamomile seems to reduce tension that may lead to anxiety and irritability. Chamomile tea is naturally caffeine–free, so it’s an ideal choice to replace some of your favorite caffeinated beverages when your period is approaching.

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Supplements and Herbal Cures for PMS Wed, 10 Feb 2016 19:02:21 +0000 If you suffer from severe PMS, you may be looking for relief beyond food fixes.

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Will supplements and herbal cures help ease my PMS symptoms?

Q: Will taking supplements help my PMS? What about the herbal cures I’ve heard about?

A: When it comes to herbal cures, remedies come in and out of fashion just like hemlines. You may have heard that black cohosh, wild yam root, dong quai, and evening primrose oil can help relieve your symptoms. The only problem is there’s no scientific evidence that shows any of them relieve PMS symptoms. Not only are they ineffective, some of them can be downright dangerous for some women so I cannot recommend any of them. St. John’s wort and SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) may be beneficial, but they are too potent to take without a doctor’s guidance. If you want to try them, talk with your physician.

Some supplements, however, have been shown to help some women. If you experience PMS and are looking for fixes beyond my food suggestions, there are a few supplements I recommend trying:

  • Multivitamin. In order to assure that you get all the nutrients important for mood and physical symptoms of PMS, look for a multivitamin that contains 100% DV manganese (2 milligrams), at least 25% DV of magnesium (100 milligrams or more), 100% DV of vitamin B6, and at least 800 IU vitamin D, all of which may help improve mood and reduce bloating. (The vitamin D is necessary to help the body absorb calcium.)


Calcium plus vitamin D3 (and optional magnesium). I always prefer that women get their calcium from food, but if you’re not consistently consuming at least 3 daily servings of calcium-rich foods or beverages, you may want to consider taking a separate supplement. When buying supplements, remember that calcium is worthless without vitamin D3, so make sure you’re getting a total of at least 800 IU vitamin D3 through your multi and/or calcium supplement. Also consider buying a brand with additional magnesium, especially if you’re not regularly eating magnesium-rich foods.

Chasteberry extract. If the food and nutritional supplements aren’t enough to calm your premenstrual symptoms, scientists have found that chasteberry extract may also help. Preliminary studies have found that this extract can help relieve mood swings, irritability, headache, and breast tenderness in some women. Scientists believe that the benefits of chasteberry are due to flavonoids and other phytochemicals that seem to relieve stress and reduce inflammation. While the current research looks promising, it’s still in the early stages, so we aren’t yet able to draw firm conclusions about chasteberry for premenstrual syndrome. If you do decide to give chasteberry a try (with your physician’s consent), typical dosage is a 20 milligram tablet, one to two times a day. Important note: If you experience headaches, gastrointestinal distress, or rashes while taking chasteberry extract, discontinue using it. Chasteberry lowers prolactin levels, so it should not be used by women who are pregnant or nursing. Because of possible interactions, do not use chasteberry if you are also taking drugs or hormones that affect the pituitary, such as bromocriptine or a birth control pill.

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