Facebook & Instagram Live Replay Apr 27 2021:
Welcome friends to our live session talking about good mood food and practices to support better balance throughout the cycle. I’m Sara Galipeau, nutritionist-owner of Love Plants for Life, and I wanted to talk about this since it’s PMDD Awareness Month. So first, what’s PMDD?
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder affects an estimated 1 in 20 menstruators worldwide. It’s typically described as a more severe form of PMS, with some similar symptoms and some more severe, such as physical symptoms like cramps, bloating, IBS-like GI distress, and breakouts, alongside intense mood and energy fluctuations – we’re talking anxiety, depression, fatigue, sleep problems, anger/rage, and even suicidality.
Where PMS typically starts a few days to a week before a period, with PMDD these symptoms can also come on as early as 2 weeks before the period begins, as soon as right after ovulation, when the luteal phase begins.
And from my own experience, it can feel quite literally like a switch gets flipped. I’ve had ovulatory days where I felt focused, energetic, creative, and happy, and suddenly day 14, 15, 16 rolls around and I would barely have the spell slots to make myself a decent lunch and check emails, let alone deal with people or organize anything, whether that meant my schedule or my house.
Now, fortunately, I can say that I do have a better handle on managing my cycle, and that includes pre-empting and downgrading the luteal phase crash. I do still get cramps and a day or two of feeling foggy, but in relative terms it’s much better for me than a full 2 weeks of feeling shitty.
I do want to stress that the information in this session is for information only and not to take the place of the medical advice of your primary care practitioner. I’ll talk about supplements in a bit, so I also want to remind you to check in with your practitioner prior to introducing new supps in case of contraindications with any of your other meds or conditions. Okay, so let’s dive in!
One potential cause or trigger for PMDD is low serotonin, so here are 4 ways to support your body’s own serotonin supply and general mood balance.
Take care of your gut health.
A large percentage of your body’s serotonin is produced in the intestines! There’s actually some question about how much of that gut-made serotonin translates into the stuff used by our brains, if any. But that being said, supporting the health of your gut tissues is still a great idea to help ensure absorption of the nutrients that comprise the raw materials for things like neurotransmitters (which includes serotonin). We take care of gut tissues by giving it amino acids like glutamine, probiotics, fiber, magnesium, and anti-inflammatory fats.
Provide the raw materials.
That’s the nutrients – vitamins, minerals, macros, enzymes, antioxidants, etc. – that your body needs to make and signal neurotransmitters. A little more specifically, sources of B vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, and amino acids like tryptophan and theanine are among the nutrients to zoom in on.
This is where I’ll get to the core of our good mood foods list. In one of my posts recently I posted a top food list for supporting serotonin:
- green tea
- pineapple, and
- pumpkin seeds
… among other foods.
These each are good sources of at least one of the nutrients I just outlined. For more of the gut health nutrients as well, we’re looking at:
- fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi (bonus that they’re also cruciferous veggies, important for hormone health at large!)
- whole minimally processed grains (as noted, oats; as well as rice, buckwheat, and quinoa)
- legumes/pulses, and
- nuts and seeds – particularly high zinc and healthy fat ones like pumpkin seeds as well as chia, hemp, flax, and walnuts.
Now to come back to our remaining 2 strategies…
Take care of your blood sugar.
I’m going to be real with you – a lot of clients that first come to me with symptoms like low energy, feeling anxious, not being able to handle stress… are skipping breakfast, not eating things that will sustain energy, and generally eating too little throughout the day.
One of the major strategies to implement is making sure that meals and snacks are mostly balanced and nutrient-dense, and since we’re trying to get hormones on track, making sure that we start eating within max 2 hours of waking up. I do like to see sooner, but for peeps that are used to skipping breakfast it can take some time to bring that habit back along with their morning appetites.
The reason is that your main stress hormones start a cascade when you wake up and eating something signals that cascade to calm the eff back down. Typically as the cascade mounts, your energy dips. And with energy lows tend to come mood lows. So if nothing else, starting to shift breakfast habits is a key strategy for hormone-related mood balancing.
Reduce physical stress (with a caveat for appropriate movement).
One way to reduce physical stress is to work on sources of inflammation. Avoiding and eliminating food and environmental allergens; incorporating more nutrient-dense colourful whole plant foods to counter inflammation; and examining your workout habits.
We know that exercise can be a potent mood booster; there’s the classic “runner’s high”, endorphins produced when we sweat, even the fabled coregasm. But exercise is also a physical stress that inflames our muscle tissues and taxes our stress response system – the nervous and adrenal systems.
So while working out can boost moods, working out too much can further tax an already-stressed-out system. So if you’re finding you’re working out intensely and frequently, and not seeing results you want, feeling drained, having mood or sleep problems, that’s a sign to dial it back and reduce frequency and intensity of your workouts for a while.
And since I mentioned sleep a second ago, though it may be easier said than done to start, working toward getting yourself on a regular sleep schedule and aiming for at least 7 hours a night also helps reduce that physical stress.
Now, that covers the strategies I wanted to share with you tonight. Along with posting the video here, you can find them up on my socials under Videos on FB, and IGTV on IG. Below you’ll also find a free good mood food recipe to download – one of my favourites, a classic LPFL recipe: Good Mood Food Fudge Brownies!
If you have questions, please feel free to post them in the comments, or you can send me a message via my pages, or through the contact form on this site’s Services tab. I know that low energy and high anxiety make it really hard to get a good meal in sometimes, and when you’re dealing with it for at least half your cycle… that’s why I have a free Easy Vegan Comfort Meals List for Stress & Anxiety available at the link in my Instagram bio. I hope you grab it and enjoy the minimal prep, minimal time ideas there!
I hope you take what you learned here tonight and start adding more of these good mood foods and practices this week. Thanks for watching! Until next time, keep calm and cook on!