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Got PMS? Why changing your diet may be better than taking Midol

PMSMany women assume that the awful PMS they endure—complete with cramping, headaches, lower back pain, and breakouts—is just par for the course.

But Meg Richichi, MS, LAc, an integrative women’s health practitioner, says that it doesn’t have to be that way. While out-of-wack hormones account for PMS symptoms, the cause of their wackiness could be your diet.

New York women’s hormones are constantly under attack, says Richichi, by a combination of culprits—stress, lack of sleep, and especially unbalanced diets.

Why is diet such a big deal? “Eighty percent of who we are comes through our gut,” says Richichi. “The building blocks of our hormones are what we eat, assimilate, and eliminate.”

Instead of masking the symptoms with Midol, Richichi recommends getting your hormones under control. Here’s where you should start:

Meg Richichi
Meg Richichi

1. Stress less.
When you’re super stressed, the nutrients in your body that create healthy levels of estrogen and progesterone are are busy just keeping your body in survival mode. “The signal that tells you to stress is the same one that tells you to ovulate,” says Richichi. If it’s all tied up, you’re going to have issues.

2. Sleep more.
A good night’s sleep will help with stress. But more importantly, sleep is a crucial time for hormone regulation. The longer and sounder you sleep, the more time your hormones will have to reset. And close the blinds—the light from a street lamp can disrupt the process.

3. Eat whole foods.
A diet based on nutrient-rich whole foods is the most important factor, says Richichi. Hormones fed to animals can affect your hormones, so buy organic and free-range when you can.

Some foods are especially helpful. “Cruciferous vegetables are filled with nutrients that contribute to hormonal balance,” explains Richichi.

4. Consider supplements. Low levels of magnesium and B6 can cause menstrual cramps, so you may want to take these supplements if you think you’re not getting enough through your diet.

5. Eat regularly, and empty often.
Pay attention to when you’re scheduling meals. Going too long without eating can cause fluctuating blood sugar, which affects hormones. And give some thought to your digestion. If you’re not getting enough fiber and are constipated, you can get a build up of estrogen, which will recirculate throughout your body. —Lisa Elaine Held

For more information or to book an appointment with Richichi, visit

Notice anything that’s helped your PMS or cramps? Tell us in the Comments, below!