Ask a health coach: Eating Primal during your period

Hi folks, Chloe Maleski, Certified Health Coach, is here to answer your questions about what to eat during PMS or during your period. Are you struggling with cravings at that time of the month? We are here with guidance and support! Do you have a question you would like to ask our health coaches? Leave it below in the comments or in Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook group.

Daniella asked:
“Any advice for eating Primal during my period or PMS? The rest of the month I’m fine, but the week before my period I get starved and hungry and crave all the carbs. Then, during the first two days of my period, I just want to comfort myself with junk food.

Woman with hot water bottle on belly

Good question, Daniella. The female reproductive cycle has a huge impact on our hormonal system, metabolism and nutritional needs. This is another reason why there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to healthy eating and living. The optimal nutrition differs not only from person to person, but also for each individual, depending on the circumstances and well-being goals. Factors such as time of month, time of year, stage of life, health status, and activities all affect appetite, cravings, and nutritional needs.

As women, our monthly cycle provides a wonderful barometer and starting point for tapping into those needs and how they are shifting. While this is most apparent for women with regular menstrual cycles, it is also true for those who have entered perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause.

Good news for all those stages of life: Eating primal makes you thrive and goes a long way to eliminating or reducing unwanted changes, such as a slower metabolism, extra weight gain, and sugar and carbohydrate cravings. Indeed, many of the symptoms commonly considered “just PMS”, “just genetics” or “just part of aging” are not predetermined at all! Of course, the hormonal and other changes that come with our reproductive cycle are very real. The same goes for changes in that cycle over a lifetime and the impact of genetics on that process.

However, all symptoms are a sign of an underlying imbalance in our mind-body ecology. Such imbalances are not just the result of genetics or “what happens to us.” Our food and lifestyle choices are an important contributing factor. This does not mean that we can solve everything by eating and living Primal. It does mean that we have far more power and agency than many realize. Choices and habits over time either match our biology and allow us to thrive… or work against it, and against ourselves.

PMS, Menstrual Symptoms and Diet

What does this have to do with PMS and menstrual symptoms? A lot! I suspect you already know this, which is why you’re here: Eating Primal, asking questions, wondering how you might refine the “self-experiment” that you are.

As your question implies, we don’t have to simply accept sugar cravings or other PMS and menstrual symptoms as “as is”. Indeed, as a Primal Health Coach, many of my female clients report success in reducing or eliminating PMS and menstrual symptoms after consistently following a Primal diet for 21 days. Consistency is key here, especially when it comes to seeing the most significant, most lasting results.

This does not necessarily mean that you never eat food outside of Primal parameters. But to see the best results, it’s critical to stick to the true spirit of the 80-20 rule. In other words, aim to eat real, whole Primal foods 100 percent of the time, while recognizing that sometimes living conditions get in the way. Occasional off-roading won’t derail your wider efforts (as long as it’s really occasional); easy reset 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 stay 100 percent Primal and still experience intense hunger, sugar and carbohydrate cravings, moodiness and other symptoms before and during their periods.

One reason for this is the impact of changing hormones. During menstruation, a woman’s serotonin levels are lowest. Carbohydrates increase the availability of the primary amino acid precursor of serotonin: tryptophan. In simple terms, this means that carb cravings during your period are completely natural! It could also indicate that you are low on serotonin and your body wants more of it.

However, this does not mean that eating all carbohydrates will help, but ingesting grains and sugars will likely make symptoms worse.

Still, the days leading up to menstruation can be the perfect time to increase consumption of healthy Primal carbohydrate sources. Think: yams, pumpkin, potatoes, fruit and moderate amounts of dark chocolate.

It turns out that our bodies are ready to do just that during the mid-luteal phase of our cycle, two weeks before menstruation. Estrogen dominates at that point and we are optimized for glycogen storage.

Again, our body’s innate intelligence for the win! Our job is to listen and, as far as possible, adjust eating and lifestyle patterns to support and align biology.

Of course, if your symptoms are particularly intense or even debilitating, you should contact your doctor or other licensed physician to troubleshoot other potential causes or underlying conditions. This doesn’t mean they will find anything wrong, but getting as much information as possible will help you make the most informed decisions.

You are not (only) what you eat

If you do the above and are still experiencing PMS and menstrual symptoms, remember that Primal eating is just one aspect of the 10 Primal Blueprint Rules. Other important ones here are:

I realize that the latter in particular is not the most popular advice. But before you rule it out, read this and know that “sprinting” doesn’t look the same to everyone and is much 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 sprinting sessions during times of the month when your strength and energy are highest. Then come on your period, switch to regular, daily exercise that doesn’t make you tired.

More generally, the above “rules” have a huge impact on our hormonal ecology, as does the level of stress. If you eat Primal and still get PMS or menstrual symptoms, look there. Problems with PMS and cravings can be as simple as switching to a Primal diet and increasing your Primal carbs, getting enough sleep and sun, and exercising your body in a healthy way.

That said, everyone is unique and your perfect protocol won’t look like anyone else’s. For customized support, consider working with a Primal Health Coach one-on-one! We can help you clarify which nutritional approach and lifestyle suit you best. Visit myprimalcoach.com to learn more and get started!

Do you crave certain foods during PMS or during your period? Has this changed since Primal? Let us know and ask any other questions for me in the comments!

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About the author

Chloe Maleski is a board-certified Primal Health Coach and personal trainer with a bachelor’s degree from Duke University and a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Pepperdine University. She is also a Head Coach at myPrimalCoach, the premier online health coaching service designed to help you lose weight and take control of your health for life.

If you want to lose weight, gain strength and energy, sleep better, reduce stress or manage chronic health problems, myPrimalCoach can help you. Complete the myPrimalCoach health questionnaire to take the first step towards lasting health and well-being.

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