A few years ago, everyone’s favorite go-to source of both guilty pleasures and highbrow cinema (Netflix), ruffled some feathers by playing into a tired female stereotype. In 2013, the streaming service announced its first-ever Flixies awards, giving users the chance to vote on specific categories of TV and movies. But while “Best Marathon TV Show” was a harmless race, “Best PMS Movie” wasn’t received quite so well.
As Madeleine Davies wrote in her perfectly-titled Jezebel piece, “Netflix to Award 'Best PMS Drama' Because Ladies Be Sappy,” “Let the boys enjoy their Gossip Girl! Let the ladies like their Guy Ritchie movies. In other words, leave gender out of it…” I couldn’t agree more—and yet, the stereotype persists that once a month, every month, women are supposed to become hysterical, emotional messes.
Are mood swings and PMS real? Of course they are. But are they inevitable parts of being female? No way. The truth is, if you’re having serious mood changes that turn you into a puddle of tears or cause you to snap at every comment, then a hormonal imbalance is most certainly to blame. It doesn’t mean it’s your destiny to collapse into a pile of tissues and rom-coms every month; it means you need to combat your symptoms by tackling the parts of your life that are throwing your hormones off balance: your diet, gut, and lifestyle.
Here's why mood swings strike, and how you can strike back.
If you’re riding an intense emotional rollercoaster every month, then it’s time to get to the root of your problem. Food and lifestyle play a huge role in keeping your moods on track. But one of the biggest, most overlooked contributors to your bad moods is your gut. That’s because how you feel emotionally is actually hugely influenced by the neurotransmitters and hormones manufactured from your food and the bacteria in your intestines. Eating in a way that keeps your gut happy and healthy can significantly impact your ability to be happy and healthy.
Here are three of the main reasons your diet and lifestyle may be damaging your moods, and the solutions for striking back.
Mood: brain fog, difficulty focusing, unproductive.
You’re probably intimately familiar with how skimping on sleep can mess up your mood. But do you know why? Chronic lack of sleep causes your stress hormone cortisol to go through the roof. And according to researchers, sleep deprivation has an even bigger effect on women than men. If you’re not getting enough good quality sleep, you’re putting stress on your adrenals, which leads to lowered serotonin, aka the happy hormone. Trying to get by on too little sleep will leave you feeling fuzzy, unfocused, and yep, you guessed it, off-the-charts moody.
The solution: Drink up. Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum), also known as Tulsi tea in the Ayurvedic tradition, has been shown to possess powerful anti-stress properties. Drink a cup of it every day to help soothe your stressed out adrenal glands and bring your cortisol levels back down to a healthy level.
Mood: hangry, irritable, cravings.
Look, everyone knows what it’s like to feel hangry. Male, female, menstruating, menopausal — no one feels good when their blood sugar is bouncing all over the place! If you’re trying to lose weight by skipping meals or going long stretches without food, then it’s time to rethink your strategy. Likewise, subsisting almost entirely on coffee and carbs is going to set you up for failure.
Your blood sugar likes to stay even; when you send it soaring with sugary snacks, it inevitably comes crashing down, leaving you feeling irritable, exhausted, and downright bitchy. If you don’t keep your blood sugar up by regularly feeding your body nutritious foods, you’re destined for the same crash and burn. Plus, when your liver is working overtime to cope with intense blood sugar shifts, it doesn’t have time to detox your body and eliminate excess hormones. Guess what that leads to? More hormonal imbalance and more PMS symptoms.
The solution: You can nip blood sugar spikes and crashes in the bud by feeding your body the right things. One amazing ingredient for staying satisfied and stable is sweet potato. It’s packed with nutrients, but gives you that sweet, carby flavor you might be searching for in far less nutritious options. Cinnamon is another wonderful tool for keeping your blood sugar stable and some studies have found it can even be helpful for people with diabetes. Experts recommend adding it to wholesome foods like oatmeal.
Mood: deflated, tired, sluggish.
Believe it or not, one in five women have a thyroid disorder, and yet it's often misdiagnosed. Your thyroid is responsible for regulating your metabolism, sleep, digestion, mood, and more, and if it’s underperforming, it can lead to major mood trouble. The genetic factors, diet, and lifestyle choices that can lead to a sluggish thyroid may be responsible for your deflated mood and flagging energy.
The solution: Sea veggies like seaweed are rich in iodine, which your thyroid needs to function optimally. Brown algae like kelp, kombu, wakame, and arame have been found to be especially concentrated sources of iodine, and the variety of minerals in sea vegetables can’t be found in other kinds of veggies.
Need to know if your period needs a makeover? Discover your hormonal imbalance with the Period-Type™ Quiz.