Tired and Cranky — It May Not Be PMS
It Could Be that You Just Need to Energize Your Diet
Our eating habits play a powerful role in how well we function on every level.
Fatigue-Fighting Nutrition Strategies
Your Mother Was Right — Eat Your breakfast… even if you don’t feel hungry. British researchers at Cardiff University even found that eating a bowl of breakfast cereal every morning is associated with lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. That is the nasty hormone that causes the belly fat that has been related to heart attacks and some types of stoke.
Studies show that people who eat breakfast feel better both mentally and physically than those who skip their morning meal. BTW, a Danish at the office does not qualify as a morning meal. I’m pretty sure an Egg McMuffin isn’t the answer either.
Eat every three to four hours. My husband calls this eating style “grazing”. He is a natural-born grazer and at 50, can still wear his high-school fencing uniform. Roberta Anding, R.D., American Dietetic Association (ADA) reported that having three smallish meals and two snacks throughout the day can keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable all day long, “Smallish, not Supersized. Big meals demand more of your energy to digest, which can leave you feeling lethargic. At each mini-meal, get a mix of carbohydrates (which the body uses for energy), protein (which helps sustain energy if needed), and healthy fats like those found in fish, nuts, and olives — these fats and protein contribute to meal satisfaction, so you don’t go hunting for sweets an hour later and wind up with a short-lived sugar high and subsequent crash. I found the South Beach, low glycemic approach to eating easy to follow. But like exercise you have to follow the muse that moves you.
Fill up on more fiber. Fiber has a time-releasing effect on carbs, so they enter your bloodstream at a slow and steady pace, giving your energy staying power. When choosing your mini-meals, include fiber-filled options that add up to the daily recommended 25 to 30 grams of fiber (the average person gets only between 10 and 15 grams). Some suggestions: a bowl of raisin bran (5 grams of fiber per cup); black beans and cheese wrapped in a multigrain tortilla (beans have 7.5 grams per 1/2 cup; one tortilla has 5 grams); air-popped popcorn (3.6 grams per 3 cups); and an apple with the skin (3.3 grams
Fuel your brain with omega-3s. Found in fatty fish (such as tuna and salmon), walnuts, and canola oil, these essential fatty acids play a role in keeping brain cells healthy and helping you feel mentally alert. Another potential bonus: Omega-3s encourage the body to store carbs as glycogen — the storage form of glucose (blood sugar) and the body’s main source of stored fuel — rather than as fat.
Stay hydrated. Studies show that most American women are running on empty. We are dehydrated and that is not a good thing. Water makes up the majority of your blood and other body fluids, and even mild dehydration can cause blood to thicken, forcing the heart to pump harder to carry blood to your cells and organs and resulting in fatigue. Also, ample fluids keep energy-fueling nutrients flowing throughout the body, says Nancy Clark, R.D., author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook. To gauge your hydration, Clark recommends monitoring how often you urinate. You should be going every two to four hours, and your urine should be clear or pale yellow in color. Tip: Besides drinking more, you can also consume foods that naturally contain water, such as yogurt, broccoli, carrots, and juicy fruits, like watermelons, oranges, and grapefruits.
As long as we are talking about liquid intake, think twice before drinking caffeinated drinks after noon. Typically, consuming a moderate amount of caffeine — 200 to 300 mg, the amount found in two to three cups of coffee — can make you more energetic and alert in the hours following, says Anthony L. Komaroff, M.D., a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. But when caffeine is consumed in large quantities — or anytime in the afternoon or evening — the quality of your sleep that night can take a nosedive, leaving you with heavy eyelids the next day. One caution for those who are highly sensitive to caffeine: Although switching to a decaf latte in the afternoon sounds like the answer, researchers at the University of Florida found that out of 22 decaffeinated coffee beverages tested, all but one contained some caffeine.
The AMA says is not clear how dietary changes affect PMS. Some studies show that drinking tea and increasing carbohydrates during the weeks preceding menstruation is helpful. Carbohydrates increase the level of the neurotransmitter serotonin (the low level of serotonin has been linked to PMS-related depression). Some nutritionists recommend vitamins, especially vitamin B6. Chinese medicine recommends reducing or eliminating alcohol, caffeine, refined sugar, chocolate salt, dairy products, and some animal fats. It’s your body and the best study is one you conduct your self. Chart your periods, make incremental changes in your diet and see if you get relief from your symptoms. Eating well and carefully can’t hurt and most likely will help. Personally, I’d rather support my local Farmers’ Market that BIG PHARMA’s income statement.